What does the Bible say about self-care?
You might be surprised to know that the Scriptures encourage self-care. In fact…
It’s REALLY important!
When you value self-care, everyone benefits. Learn why (and how to change your thinking) in this article.
In This Article
About the Author
Melissa Abello, MA, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in Marriage Counseling, Sex Therapy, Anxiety and Depression in Women. You can schedule an appointment with Melissa for online counseling or in-person at our Columbia, Missouri counseling center.
Why God Cares about How You Care For Yourself
I write this article because I have encountered many faithful, inspiring, powerful men and woman of the Lord who for some reason do not believe that caring for themselves matters to God. For years, they have functioned under the belief that they were last on the list of people to care for because this what was righteous or godly. Unintentionally, often times, the church sends a message through its preaching and by the example of others that caring for yourself is ungodly and selfish. When carried out this common belief can lead to health issues, anxiety, depression, job burn out, relational distress, and much more.
Now do not get me wrong. I am not preaching to be selfish and that you are all that matters in this world. What I am trying to communicate is the idea that it is important that we understand and know that God desires for us to care for ourselves physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.
There is a difference in the Bible between selfishness and caring for self.
It is possible to be selfless and care for oneself at the same time. I think we throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to this concept as Christians. Since we do not want to be selfish and want to be selfless, we end up not caring for ourselves at all. The enemy has been twisting scripture (which is nothing new) to defile this idea of selflessness. Which has led to Christians not caring for themselves at all. Which results in us being ineffective for God and His Kingdom.
It is important for us to understand why God wants us to do good self care.
When we read God’s Word, we have to look at it as a whole: we must grasp the text in Biblical time period it was written, measure how different it is from our current time, find the meaning in the text, grasp the text in our own time, and then apply it to our current life situation. I think often times we only do the last part. We attempt to apply a biblical concept to our life without doing the grunt work previously.
This abbreviated attempt therefore disables Christians from reading the Bible’s authentic meaning into their life. Because we as Christians have not done the grunt work on this concept in the Scriptures, it has lead to a lot of misinterpretation of the Bible as a whole on the topic of self care. Nowhere in the Bible does it command you “DO GOOD SELF CARE” in those exact words, BUT this concept is laced throughout the Old and New Testament.
It is important for us to understand how the Enemy uses Scripture against us. I hope to address both parts within this article. I hope this can aid you in your own journey with the Lord and His desire for you to care for yourself.
What Does The Bible Say About Caring For Yourself?
The Bible itself is loaded with direction and command to care for ourselves. “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life,” (The Bible, Proverbs 4:23). This scripture is stating that ABOVE ALL ELSE, we must guard ourselves. We must guard, nourish, and care for our heart because it matters to Him. He believes it is so valuable that it should be guarded above everything else.
Therefore, knowing what our heart needs and how to protect it is essential in following this Scripture. The Bible also implies that we already care for ourselves. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Luke 10:27). God implies in this verse that we care for ourselves already. The second commandment is built on the foundational principle that we already care for ourselves. It is out of our own abundance that we should love others as we love ourselves.
Can you imagine if we cared for others the way we care for ourselves?
For some, this may challenge our selfish sinful nature. For those who do not take time to eat well, take time to process their emotions, or to do something they enjoy, this would mean that they would not care for others very well at all. They would, in fact, neglect others as they themselves neglect their own physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. “…for each one should carry his own load,” (Galatians 6:5). The Lord calls us to carry others burdens, but calls us each first to carry our own load.
Respectfully, it is important that we are caring for ourselves and carrying our own burdens and our own weight. God command that we should carry our own load. Meaning caring for ourselves would be honoring to Him since it would follow His command.
There are also many examples in the Bible of times of rest that can be followed:
- The Lord Himself rested although He did not need too (Exodus 31:17)
- Jesus Himself told them to come with him to a quiet place and to get some rest (Mark 6:30-45).
- Moses father-in-law instructs him that he is wearing himself out and that he should not do the work alone (Exodus 18:14-27).
- Jesus himself took time to rest even when those around him were feeling like they needed him to do something (Mark 4:35-41).
The Lord makes it so evident throughout His word that His desire is for us to care for ourselves. The principle itself is foundational to us being able to serve Him in the ways that honor Him. Without us caring for ourselves, we will be lackluster in our care for others and will be ineffective at serving God with all that we are.
Lies From the Enemy
It has become clear to me that so many Christians believe that they should not care for themselves because of “what the Bible says.” It is not a new trick that Satan is pulling. He even tried to uses God’s word against Jesus when He was in the desert. Jesus knew what God said so well He was able to refute it with what was true, but not many Christians know their Bible well enough to do the same. This then leaves a lot of Christians ill-equipped to fight off Satan in their battle for self care.
Below are some of the comments and Scriptures I have encountered:
1.) The Bible says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility value others above yourself,” (Philippians 2:3).
I find this one to be the most popular verse that convinces Christians that caring for others at the expense of themselves is what God is saying. I think this is not true. Again, Paul is not implying that we do not care for ourselves at all. He says to value others more than yourself. I do not see him saying care for others at the expense of yourself. I see him implying once again that you are to care for yourself, but should care for others even more. Again, not a verse saying you shouldn’t care for yourself, but that you should value others more than yourself.
2.) Also, because of Scriptures like this, I think people confuse selfishness with self care, and mistakenly loop the two very different things into one and the same.
Again, this would only be true if you did not care for others and only cared about yourself. People think, “I cannot be selfish, which means I cannot care about myself at all.” This is contrary to what God wants. He just does not want us to be consumed with only self, but nowhere does it say that He does not want you to think about or care for yourself at all.
Furthermore, I think we consider it selfless when we do not care for ourselves at all. Again, this is not what God desires. The word SELFLESS when broken down just means to think of yourself less. Not to not think of yourself at all, which is how a lot of people interpret this idea. Yet another concept Satan has twisted to get thousands of Christians to burn out.
3.) Oftentimes those that we praise in the church are those who run themselves ragged.
I have been one of them who was praised. I would run on the littlest of sleep and would be ministering to so many. This often resulted in praise and encouragement from others. It landed me in the hospital twice in college where I had to learn the lesson the hard way that not caring for myself doesn’t help me serve God in the long run.
Since people get lifted up like this in the church, we can often times think that we need to follow their example.
I do believe those who are selfless and servant-like need to be praised and lifted up, so we can imitate their Christ like hearts. I do not think we should be attempting to do that though with those who are doing this at the expense of their own emotional, spiritual, and physical health.
If we follow their example we all may have a few good years, but not lifetime of effective spiritual growth in ourselves and in those around us. I believe this is also how the enemy can confuse God’s kids about self care. He uses God’s kingdom. There are so many more attacks from Satan, but those are a few I encounter and have had to work through myself. And God has used that to equip me both as a minister and as a therapist to help others also struggling.
When We Don’t Care About Ourselves
There are a series of issues people develop when they choose to neglect their value.
I see this in marriages. One spouse neglects their desires and needs for so long that they lose who they are as human beings. They do not know or recognize themselves anymore. They live to please their spouse. This eventually causes them to grow bitter towards their spouse and their marriage. It leaves their spouse confused about what is going on. I see this happen in friendships. In ministry. It’s rampant. People who tend to others’ needs or wants at the expense of themselves will eventually find themselves feeling angry and sad. They will struggle with what is real and what is not. They will question who they are and what they want in life.
2.) Burn out
I have seen people serve others at the expense of their own well being and then burn out. They eventually end up in the hospital, have chronic depression, anxiety, fatigue, etc. They emotionally do not have much to give others since their well is dry. This eventually causes them to burn out all together in their marriage, at their job, or in their position at church.
I often find that when we do not care for ourselves and take that ownership, we try to make others responsible for it. We want them to mind read. For some reason we think they should know when we need to rest or when we need a little extra help. Someone needs to make us happy. So we just throw this unattainable expectation on others. Which makes your relationships about others meeting your emotional needs verses about enjoying and supporting one another. Not taking care of ourselves is a trap a lot of people fall into in their marriages. Their spouse then feels like nothing they do is ever good enough or right because they are being expected to do what only someone can do for oneself.
These are just three of the many that lack of self care can create. Caring for ourselves has a ripple effect on the ones that we want to love and serve.
How to Change?
It is imperative that we change the way we think about self care. If your self care theology is off, I would ask you to take a step back. Evaluate your beliefs and thoughts and the ways that you can change your thinking.
- Where did my beliefs about not caring for myself come from?
- Do I consider myself to have value? Do I believe I am of value to the Lord?
- Is how I am living my life right now working for me? How is it working and how is it not working?
- How can self care help me be more effective in these areas:
- How can I go after caring for myself everyday?
- Who in my life that I respect cares for his or herself well and also for others well? How can imitate them?
My hope and prayer is that you will begin to see that you are so precious to the Lord. He deeply desires for you to be the best version of you that He created you to be.
Furthermore, I hope that with this knowledge you will learn what you need to do to care for yourself. Then you can serve Him with all that you are. If you need help navigating this, feel free to give us a call and set up an appointment with a therapist. We are here to help those who desire to see their value and worth and to protect it.
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