To esteem means regard with respect, prize. One of its synonyms is “value.”
When thinking about esteem, we should ask ourselves the questions, “Prized, esteemed, valued by whom?” Although we can lose our sense of value and esteem in our own eyes, my experience is that we don’t usually have a problem with this. We usually value ourselves very highly, caring for ourselves, thinking about ourselves, protecting ourselves, loving ourselves quite well and persistently.
The more difficult and frightening question is “does anyone else value me, prize me, love me, esteem me?” This is something beyond our direct control, yet something that we desperately need. As hugely dependant creatures, all of us need to be valued by others for our very survival. None of us would survive long if everyone around us rejected us, abandoned us, opposed us, etc. We need to be valued by others simply to survive. In addition, we have a God-given soul desire and need to be loved and appreciated and valued. Without these, we will experience the terrible pain of loneliness and worthlessness. Yet this pain is a form of suffering that can result in good by driving us toward seeking a relationship with God.
Probably the greatest question is “Am I valued by God? Does He care for me, protect me, love me, think I’m worth helping, protecting, saving, etc.?” These are the deeper and more terrifying questions than how I esteem or value myself.
Of course, we can place a higher value on ourselves than is warranted. We often do this, placing our immediate well-being and self-centered interests about that of others and even above the well being and interests of God. So we tend to value ourselves more highly than what is warranted by reality. We are essentially saying that we are more important, more valuable, weightier than these others, who we tend not to value as much as ourselves.
Also, our value is not absolute. If we hate others, murder, lie, steal, and rape indiscriminately, society will either throw us in prison or execute us. We will lose our value to society.
The same is true with God. If we rebel against Him, hate Him, ignore Him, and despise Him and refuse to repent of these, He will be enraged and torture us in hell. This will not be without some sense of sorrow on His part at what we could have been. But we will have lost our value to Him, other than as an example of what happens to those who disdain Him.
God’s love is not unconditional. Unconditional love is a concept not found in the Bible. His love is incredibly persistent and His tolerance is often beyond our capacity to understand. Yet, in the end, He will judge and condemn those who refuse to repent and believe in His Son.