How does the Bible teach us to love ourselves? Here is an interesting question because there are some who think that before we can ever love someone else, we have to love ourselves. Personally, I find that kind of teaching to be contrary to sound wisdom. The reason I feel this way is because those who are taught such things spend all their time going deeper inward to determine if they love themselves enough. The problem with this kind of psycho-babble is that happiness comes when we are no longer consumed with ourselves and learn to give our lives for others and for the glory of God. A person who constantly goes inward to determine if they love themselves properly will have precious little time to love others. It is usually a downward spiral that can lead to a person being consumed by a desire for their own happiness. Jesus said that if we love our lives we will lose them - but if we lose our lives for Him and for His kingdom's sake, we will gain them for all eternity. But this passage in Proverbs genuinely speaks of loving our own soul. So what exactly is God teaching us here?
The translation here reads, "He who gets wisdom . . . " yet the actual word translated wisdom is the Hebrew word, "leb" which refers to the heart. What Solomon was seeking to say is that the one who gets a heart - the right kind of heart - loves his own soul. Here is where we need to grasp what the Bible says about our hearts. We learn from the whole counsel of Scripture some very interesting things about the human heart.
First, we learn that our hearts are messed up due to the fall of man into sin. Jeremiah tells us that the heart is wicked and desperately evil, and is impossible to understand with our own wisdom. (Jeremiah 17:9) To plumb the depths of our hearts - without grasping the wickedness of sinful man - will get you no where. That is why secular psychology will yield very little in dealing with the true human condition. None of the major psychological constructs admits that man is a sinner - and that the real problem with humanity is a sin problem - a rebellion against God. The next thing we learn is that God Almighty can understand the heart - and has done what is necessary to change it and transform it. The change for the heart is available by faith in Jesus Christ. God takes out of us our heart of stone, that does not respond to God's Word or commandments. In its place God miraculously puts a heart of flesh that has the very commandments of God written upon it. Thus we are regenerated in Christ with a new heart and a desire to do what He commands. The other lesson that God teaches us in His Word is that once we are saved, our hearts and minds need to be renewed by the Word and the work of His Spirit. While we are here on earth, we will face temptation and a constant battle with the three enemies of our soul, the world-system, the flesh, and the devil. Because of the way that these three things want to influence our minds toward sin, it is imperative that we renew our minds with the truth - which is God's Word. Actually, this is the way we "get heart."
We "get heart" when we begin to understand God's wisdom and God's ways. We no longer try in our own strength to deal with the myriad of temptations and trials that come to our hearts. We know that such an endeavor is doomed to be fruitless. Instead, we embrace what God has done in Jesus Christ. We embrace godly wisdom and understanding. As we do this we are actively loving our own soul! Remember that Jesus said that if we want to save our "fleshly" lives in this world - we will lose them. But the one who chooses to lose his soul - who dies to self - and who embraces a regenerated heart - that man loves himself in the end. He embraces an understanding of life that has conversion and regeneration at its core. As he does this - he finds good! He learns to die to himself - and die to the desires of the flesh. He learns that when his heart is drawn by temptation to a worldly point of view that he needs to reject it. He chooses instead to "not love the world or the things of the world." He goes to the Word of God to renew his mind so that he proves that the will of God is good, acceptable, and perfect. He faces the lies and deceit of the devil and learns to expose them for what they are. He chooses instead a life instructed by the Scriptures. He spends time in the Word so that he is walking with "understanding" at all times.
The two words "keeps understanding" are very beneficial to know here. He "keeps" understanding points to the fact that he watches over it - guards it - and is constantly on the lookout for anything that would detract from God's ways and will in his life. He keeps "understanding" points to the fact that he desires a discernment from God on all things. The word "understanding" is the Hebrew "tebunah" which means to discern or understand how things differ. He looks at every choice wanting to discern the difference between his flesh and the Spirit of God. He wants to discern the difference between the kingdoms of this world vs. the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. He longs to discern the difference between his own desires and those given by the Lord. He yearns to grasp the difference between sin and righteousness - between glorifying self and glorifying God.
This is the way to love yourself. You love your own soul by protecting and guarding it from the tyranny of self. You choose instead to embrace God's wisdom in the heart. You decide that you will guard and protect yourself from anything that turns you even slightly from a life lived for the glory of God - from a life lived for the kingdom of God - and a life lived by the Spirit of God as He teaches and leads you by the Word of God. Want to love yourself? That is the way to do it!