13 Bible Verses About Self-Care – Indulge vs Neglect

Self-care has become a hot topic. As of this writing, Google searches alone on this topic are 60+ thousand a month. That isn’t counting other search engines. 

You might be asking, “Is self-care good or bad?” It depends. Many people carry it to extremes, either indulging or neglecting themselves. Does God’s word address this topic? 

Yes, it does so let’s look at some Bible verses about self-care, and the lies that some people believe about it. 

What is self-care?

In the simplest terms. the topic of self-care can be defined as

“The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health …  the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being … in particular during periods of stress.”  (Oxford Languages Dictionary).

Since human beings are multidimensional, improving and protecting one’s health would include: 

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Emotional health
  • Spiritual health

All four of these are important for overall good health. They are all interconnected. When we neglect one, it affects the rest in one way or another.

Elijah, the great prophet of God became fearful and exhausted, slipping into depression. He then questioned his spiritual value to God here on earth. He was almost suicidal. God had to feed him and help him rest. (1 Kings 19)

Today long work hours and anxious thoughts about what we still need to do can create the same feelings.

Is self-care a new concept?

The idea of self-care is not new. It dates back to Socrates or earlier. However, it has gained momentum in the last few years.

As a result, self-care has become a giant industry. Merchandisers have sold it, hook, line, and sinker, to crowds of people as one of the most important preventative healthcare issues of our time and they may be right.

Unfortunately, many people carry it to an extreme

  • Just say “no” and put yourself first
  • Delve deep into yourself and find your inner strength
  • Become the best version of yourself that you can be. 
  • Life should revolve around me. 

Don’t get me wrong. There are a few pieces of truth here. That is the way the evil one packages his lies. He gives us just enough truth so we won’t question the rest.

Examples of self-care 

Self-care is a BIG buzzword these days. But women seem to join this bandwagon more willingly. Let me assure you, though, that there are many self-care practices that raise no questions or red flags.

“Generic” means things that benefit all genders, ages, races, economic classes, and religions. It does not exclude anyone.

  • Eating healthy
  • Exercising regularly
  • Learning how to cope with stress
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Drinking enough water
  • Breathing clean air
  • Getting an annual physical
  • Brushing your teeth regularly
  • Washing your hands frequently
Photo of a woman running and "exercise" marked as done on her self-care list. She is following Bible verses about self-care that is healthy - to worship God in everyday life.
Partial checklist of healthy self-care
  • Getting an annual mammogram
  • Having an annual pap test
  • Receiving prenatal care

Lies people believe about self-care

  • It is selfish
  • It is not putting God first
  • It is only about our bodies
  • I have little time for it
  • I can’t afford it 

While God calls us to deny ourselves to take up our cross and follow Jesus, it does not mean to stop being a good steward of our physical body, mind, emotions, possessions, and all the good gifts He has entrusted to us. 

Yes, there are examples of when God has called some individuals to give up everything, including their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Jim Elliot is an example from the past. (1)

Today around the world many individuals have to choose between their comfort and their physical lives. The persecution of Christians is real, sending many to the eternal life they have been promised on the other side. 

But under normal circumstances and everyday life, God calls us to not cling tightly to what He has entrusted to us. The point is that our self-care should be to honor God, not ourselves. 

What does God say about self-care?

You will not find the words “self-care” in the Bible. None-the-less, the concept is there. Jesus Himself modeled and taught about self-care. 

  • He told us to lay down our heavy burdens and find rest. (Matthew 11) 
  • He fed people when they were tired and hungry. (Matthew 14)
  • He isolated Himself when He needed quiet time to talk with His Heavenly Father. (Luke 5:16)

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” I Corinthians 3:16-17 ESV

“And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Mark 6:31

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31b

These are some of my favorite Bible verses about self-care. It is clear that God expects us to take care of ourselves.

Photo of a dinner table place setting and the quote from Mark 6:31, one of the Bible verses about self-care.
Bible verses about self-care – taking care of our basic needs
so we can then in turn serve others.

We can’t fulfill God’s commands to love, comfort, encourage, and spur each other on to good works if we neglect ourselves and fall apart in one of these dimensions.

Biblical self-care is not being self-centered. It is quite the opposite. For example, it is recognizing that we are not finite and can’t burn the candle at both ends without negative consequences. 

There is more to self-care than having fun and relaxation. It requires discipline. Healthy self-care realizes that we need God and the care that He gives.

God wrote the owner’s manual for humans. He designed us and knows exactly what we need.

We might have to say “no” to some good things to have the better things God wants for us. Biblical Self-care is God-focused. It looks to Jesus to meet our needs.

Just about anything can become questionable. It all has to do with our attitudes and intent. So here are some answers from the Word of God about questionable self-care.

Being self-focussed

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” James 3:16

“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

So these are the people who feel entitled to have and do what they want in the name of self care. Their goal is not to serve God or others but to serve themselves.

In contrast, we can take care of ourselves while at the same time doing it for the glory of God.

Self-insulgence

” But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

“But she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.” 1 Timothy 5:6

To indulge means, “to do something even though it may not be proper, healthy, appropriate, etc.” (Mirriam Webster Dictionary)

These are people who think things like, 

  • “I should be able to sleep until noon whenever I want” (even when they know they have responsibilities.) 
  • “I want this new outfit because it will make me feel beautiful” (even when they don’t have the finances to pay for it.)

So is there something wrong with sleep or a new outfit? Absolutely not. It is the fact that these things are in control. These people demonstrate what taking self love to an extreme looks like. 

The Apostle Paul addressed this when he wrote:

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 NKJV

Trying to find strength from within ourselves

“Do you see a man (or woman) who is wise in his (her) own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him (her).” Proverbs 26:12 (explanation added)

“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” Proverbs 28:26

“Vain is the salvation of man (woman)!” Psalm 108:12b (explanation added)

These are the people who delve deep into themselves to find their inner strength. They seek inner peace but not the peace of God. 

The problem with this is that the Bible says apart from God we are nothing. We were created to need Him. The Apostle Paul said this about his weakness:

“But he (Jesus) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in (your) weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (explanation added)

How to honor God in our self-care

You are not likely to read about testing your routines in most self-care articles. However, this is what will prevent your activities from crossing the line of caring for the temple of the Holy Spirit and moving on to indulgence of our physical bodies, minds, or emotions. 

Testing your self-care

There are a few questions that we should ask ourselves about our self care routines.

  • Am I trying to find my answers to life from within myself or from God?
  • Do I have any hesitancy about this activity? Why?
  • Is there any Scripture that forbids this activity?
  • Will I be indulging myself at the expense of others?
  • Am I so self-focused that I am not aware of those around me?

Biblical self-care

We need to take care of our bodies, minds, emotions, and spirits so that we can effectively serve God and serve others. Biblical self-care is God-centered, not me-centered. With that in mind, here is self-care that will never cross the line. 

  1. Love God with all our hearts, which is the first commandment. In doing so our spiritual needs will be met automatically.
  2. Love others as we love ourselves, which is the second commandment. In the care of others we will find our God-given purposes and feel fulfilled.
  3. Read the scriptures daily for the renewing of your mind and gaining wisdom.
  4. Pray often and our emotions will be protected as well as gaining inner strength.
  5. Take care of our physical bodies because they are the temples of the Holy Spirit.

Final thoughts

Self-care in and of itself is not evil.

“Caring for our bodies and minds should not come from a pursuit of our own comfort and pleasure, but from an act of worship and submission to God.” (2) 

There is nothing wrong with comfort and pleasure, but it should not be our ultimate goal.

The first step in healthy self-care is to know Jesus Christ personally. If you have questions, the people at Chat About Jesus have answers.

They are available any time of the night or day from anywhere in the world if you have internet access. If you live in the United States, you can call or text with them. 

You might also like to read:

References:

  1. The Story of Jim Elliot
  2. What does the Bible say about the self-care movement?
  3. Many thanks to Open Bible and Bible Gateway for the Scripture references used today. 

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