God Esteem Versus Self-Esteem

Reading: 2 Corinthians 10-13

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30, NIV).

You have got to be kidding? Who does THAT?

Current thinking says we must build ourselves up, bolster our self-esteem, look good, be strong, promote our pluses and downplay our minuses.

Paul had different ideas.

Why would anyone allow himself to be so vulnerable, especially someone so much in the public eye and so eager to show how “cool” the Gospel was? After all, people jump on bandwagons that make them feel good about themselves.

As Paul continues his letter he tells his readers why boasting about weakness rather than exalting strengths is the right thing to do.

Paul had a problem, the nature of which we are not told, though the general thought is that it was a physical problem of some kind. He asked God to heal him and after the third time God delivered a definite “no” as the answer to the apostle’s request. “…he said to me,” writes Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9a (NIV), “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Paul wanted to exalt Christ through his life more than anything else. So he was actually enthusiastic about putting his worst foot forward. Often when we talk about our minuses, our expressions and speech patterns take on a distinct whine and are covered by a “poor me” cloud. That wasn’t how Paul dealt with his weakness.

It’s more like “Don’t trip over my white cane, but let me tell you how God is working in spite of my limitations” or “Hey, I was in jail last week for preaching the Gospel, but let me tell you about the cool people I met there that God put there so that I could witness to them.” He writes: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10, NIV).

We want so desperately to escape or downplay the negatives in ourselves or in our lives. But it is in those negatives that God does His best work. Perhaps the lesson is to embrace our weaknesses and ask God to use them for His glory.


  1. This runs SO counter to the world's way of thinking, and, unfortunately, of that of some of the church. Thank you for the reminder!

  2. Beautiful post and I think you address a concept that is really hard for us ultra-independent Americans to grasp. Oh, how we like to think we are helping God or making a difference, or doing this or that, but truly, God could can and will use whomever He chooses when He chooses how He chooses. In fact, (in my opinion) it is when we're more reliant on Him that He works best, because then we don't get in His way so much!


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