"And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:39)

One of the most prevalent interpretations of this statement, as prognosticated by many ecclesiastical sectarian teachers as well as many self-help gurus, interprets this to mean we "have to love ourselves before we can love others." So they teach we must 'learn to love ourselves.' But is this correct? Is Jesus teaching us to love ourselves first? Let's review his statement carefully:

"And the second is like it ..."

This indicates that Jesus' statement is connected to his previous statement, namely the the first and greatest commandment:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)
So this second commandment (or instruction) is "like it." What does 'like it' mean? The phrase, "like it" is being translated from the Greek phrase, ὁμοία αὐτῇ (homoios autos). The word ὅμοιος (homoios) means "like, similar or resembling" and "corresponding to a thing." And the word αὐτός (autos) means "itself" "it" or "the same." Thus we find the phrase means the two instructions are related: One is coming from the other.

What is this second statement have in common with the greatest commandment? In the greatest commandment, Jesus instructs us to love the Supreme Being with all our heart, soul and mind. This means Jesus wants us to put all of our focus upon God and loving God. How can we do this if we are loving ourselves first?

"'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Therefore, loving others must be connected to loving the Supreme Being. If we are loving God with all our hearts, souls and minds, then our loving others must be part of loving God. In other words, we are loving others in connection with our love for God.

The word "neighbor" is being translated from the Greek word πλησίον (plēsion), which means "any other person, and where two are concerned, the other" according to the lexicon. This means someone other than ourselves. It relates to all of the Supreme Being's children - and thus it relates directly to loving the Supreme Being.

The philosophy that "we must love ourselves first" contradicts this concept completely. To love God with all our heart, soul and mind means putting God before ourselves. Is this not the definition of love? To care for someone more than we care for ourselves?

Yes, this is the definition of love. This means to love ourselves and focus upon ourselves is exactly the opposite: In a word, it is self-centeredness.

Self-centeredness and loving God are polar opposites.

This means this statement cannot be construed that "we have to love ourselves before we can love others," as these teachers are misleading us. By this second statement following and being like the first, we have to love God before we can truly love others.

The reason Jesus is saying "as yourself" is to communicate that we are all God's children. He is our Creator and we must accept each other - including ourselves - as His children. This distinction between myself and other children of God acknowledges that He is our Superior. He is our Creator.

Now if Jesus had instructed his students to love God and then love their neighbor, would this not be confusing? Who should they love more?

Rather, he indicated that all their love should be put upon the Supreme Being, and if this is done, then loving God's children will be automatic - because God's children are related to Him - just as we are.

Within this statement, Jesus is also assuming that we already love ourselves.

Jesus is quoting part of God's conversation with Moses as God gave Moses instructions for the Israelites in the desert that were following Moses:

"'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." (Lev. 19:18)

The "Do not seek revenge...." part of God's statement means that the instruction was to those who were already prone to self-centeredness. He wanted them to consider others' welfare as they already considered their own.

It is a very practical statement. God's statement to Moses, which is quoted by Jesus, assumes that the Israelites already love themselves.

The situation is no different today. Just look around. What is driving all the activity in this world? Greed. Self-centeredness. Loving ourselves. We are all focused upon what is best for me. What will make me happy. What will give me pleasure. And even among the ecclesiastical sectarian teachings, we find that the focus is upon how Jesus can save me. How can Jesus give me wealth and business success. How Jesus can heal me, or help me get along with my family. On and on it goes, ad nauseum. Nearly everyone in this world is focused upon our own welfare, just as were the Israelites, and those Jesus was speaking to.

In other words, there is no lack of people loving themselves. Even most of those who give to others ultimately are looking out for their own happiness. They simply want to feel good or get some attention by giving. Again, we are putting ourselves first and foremost, because ultimately, we want to be happy.

But the first and greatest commandment is the opposite of this. The first and greatest commandment is to care about God's happiness. The first and greatest commandment says to take our focus and attention away from our own pleasure, and try to please God. This is the meaning of love.

Now an interesting thing takes place when a person begins to try to please God. They realize God's intense love for everyone. God is intensely focused on wanting each of us, and all of us, to be happy. This is because God has the perfect love for us.

A person who is truly wanting to please God also realizes that this consciousness: Loving God and wanting to please God; gives us complete fulfillment. This is the consciousness that makes us completely happy. Just as we get a small glimpse of happiness when we love and serve the temporary family of our body, we get complete satisfaction from loving and wanting to please God.

So the two are connected: It gives pleasure to God when we care about His other children. When we want God to be pleased, we naturally want others to be happy, because this too, is what God wants.

This means we are also related to the Supreme Being and thus our love and care for God must also connect with caring for ourselves. After all, the Supreme Being loves us and wants us to be happy. should we disappoint Him and do something that will only bring us emptiness? Certainly not.

We might compare this to a teenager who knows that his parents want him to graduate from high school and go on to lead a productive life. If the teenager cares about his parents, he will do well in school in order to please his parents.

This is why Jesus said the second instruction is like the first: The two are connected. When we begin to love God we automatically begin loving others, because we are all God's children.

We don't have to manufacture some psycho-babble process of "learning to love ourselves." Some say that people who do things that have bad consequences are doing those things because they have a deep underlying need to hurt themselves, so they do these things they know are wrong. They say the fix is that they have to "learn to love themselves first."

This psycho-babble comes from those who have no idea who we are and what the mind is. The mind and physical body are simply vehicles: They are temporary coverings, much like a car is a vehicle and outer cover for the driver. When the driver is driving the car weird, it means the driver is confused and not knowing where he is going. In the case of the living individual driving the physical body and mind, if we are focused upon our own happiness, yet cannot find happiness in the physical world, after awhile we become confused. We become disoriented, due to our emptiness. This results in correspondingly obtuse activities.

The solution is being delivered by Jesus: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the answer to emptiness and confusion. This instruction will give us guidance and fulfillment. This will give us inner peace. This will give us direction in life. We do not need the psycho-babble about loving ourselves. We can simply rely upon God, and give our hearts to God, and we will never have to worry about anything again, because He will protect us.

And should we follow Jesus' instruction we will become spiritually satisfied, to the point that we now simply want to please God, and "like it," want others to become spiritually fulfilled as well.