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Self-Pity is Idolatry


Idolatry: Definitions

Idolatry is the worship of anything that is not the living God. It is the worship of something or someone in the place of God. Idolatry is a sin because the very first of the Ten Commandments says:

"Thy shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus )

There is more to idolatry than carving an object and praying to it. There is more to idolatry than worshipping material things such as a big house, an expensive car, a lot of land, popular heroes, fame, fortune, reputation, hobbies, pride, soap operas, playing the lottery, money, sex, and other things you love more than God. Idolatry is dangerous, overlooked, and a deceitful sin that leads to other sins.

That might be easy for people to understand. However, it is more challenging for people to believe that self-pity is idolatry.

Self-Pity: Definitions

Self-pity is an emotion in which one feels pity toward the self in regard to one's own internal and external experiences of suffering. Self-pity is also an excessive, self-absorbed focus over one's own troubles.

Self-pity is a way for a person to own pain. Sadly, some people are addicted to self-pity. They feel sorry for themselves because they think no one cares. Too often, many of them have their very own pity party.

Why Self-Pity is Idolatry

Self-pity is idolatry. Therefore, is a sin. Pity is akin to having compassion for someone else. Self-pity is having pity for one's self.

Pity on someone else is outward. Having pity on yourself is inward.

When you feel sorry for yourself, you turn inward and idolize yourself and everything becomes about "me, my, I, myself, and mine." Your entire world is consumed in you and you become self-centered. You idolize yourself and that is not something that pleases God. It is a sin when you spend most of your time and energy by turning inward with your mind on yourself instead of on God.

The Gospels in the Bible have many illustrations about Jesus being moved with compassion on people and helping them. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus had pity on Himself.

We should be like Jesus by spending less time on inward emotions that result in self-pity and more time on helping others which is an outward activity.

Paul lists a lot of sins in Galatians 5:19. Idolatry is included. Since self-pity is idolatry, then it is sin.

How Self-Pity is a Sin

Self-pity is a sin for two big reasons. First, because it’s saying something about the character of God. When you are immersed in self-pity, you believe God is not good, loving, or kind, and He must be withholding blessings from you. Therefore, self-pity is your unbelief toward God.

Secondly, self-pity is a sin because of your unbelief toward yourself. You do not believe what the Bible says about you. You do not acknowledge that you were made in God's own image, that you are the apple of His eye, and that you belong to Him.

Because you do not believe these truths, you stay absorbed in self-pity.

Problems with Self-Pity

  1. The first problem with self-pity is that the focus is on you and not God. Therefore, self-pity is idolatry.
  2. The second problem is that people rarely acknowledge self-pity as idolatry.
  3. The third problem is that idolatry is a subtle sin.
  4. The fourth problem is that idolatry leads to other sins.

When people turn inward and idolize themselves, all their thoughts are centered on themselves so their whole world becomes about them and not about others as God commands.

God has called us to outreach, not to in-reach. People who are in self-pity are focused on themselves and all their problems and misfortunes. They don't see what they can and should be doing for others. The only way to atone for that sin is to realize it is sin, repent, and stop focusing so much on yourself that you neglect to be a blessing to others.

People who spend most of their time indulging in self-pity don't focus as much on God as they should. They do not trust God to take care of them. They spend more time than they should by indulging in self-pity because of the wrongs people around them have done to them. Instead of self-pity, people should give themselves to God and trust Him to take care of them.

Also, people who spend a good deal of time indulging in self-pity are not a blessing to others. They don't help others by giving to them, encouraging them, or serving them in some way.

Opened Doors for Self-Pity

There are some opened doors for self-pity. When you wallow in self-pity, you feel like God is withholding good things from you. You can begin to feel a sense of entitlement and that you deserve more. You start looking for comforts to touch your sorrow. You find avenues of escape that allow you to feel better if only for a little while.

Self-pity causes some people to have bad habits such as greedy self-indulgence to make themselves happy. They say they deserve it. Therefore, they buy stuff they can’t afford. They overeat. They drink excessively.

Biblical Examples of Self-Pity

Self-pity causes a person to miss out on good things. There are two clear examples of that in the Bible.

In the Old Testament in 1 Kings 19:9-18, we see that Elijah had been victorious on many occasions, including being a bold spokesman for God on Mount Carmel.n When he was threatened by Ahab and Jezebel, he runs away to Beersheba, sits down under a broom tree, and wants to die. He engages in self-pity and despair. He says:

“I have been very zealous for the LORD God almighty. The Israelites have rejected Your covenant, broken down Your altars, and put Your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1 Kings 19:10)

God helped Elijah. Instead of reinforcing Elijah's self-pity, God takes him to the holy mount and speaks to him with “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). God restores Elijah and assures him that he is not alone. God gives Elijah instruction to continue his ministry without self-pity.

God also helps us. He doesn’t encourage our self-pitying. He speaks also to us through His Word. He assures us that we are not alone. Then He sends us to serve Him each day.

In the New Testament, there was a man that had been crippled for 38 years laying by the pool at Bethesda waiting for a once-a-year miracle when an angel would come and stir up the waters. Whoever got in the pool first would receive a healing miracle. Because the man felt sorry for himself, he tells Jesus:

“Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” (John 5:7)

Jesus did not acknowledge the man's self-pity. Instead, He only tells him to pick up his bed and walk, and immediately the man was healed.

The life application here is that self-pity will often keep us down. It prevents us from being healed. It also keeps us from enjoying life.


Remember these things:

  • Self-pity is idolatry.
  • Idolatry is a sin.
  • To be in the right relationship with God, repent of all sin (1 John 1:9).

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.