Christian self-care can be a tricky topic since it’s not a phrase used in the Scriptures. In today’s post, Gina M Poirier and Mary Harp answer the question, “What does the Bible say about self-care?” and explore and what that means for us today.
For a long time, I’ve struggled with how to view self-care as a Christian.
It can be a difficult concept to approach if you’re feeling burned out by life’s demands and know you need to take better care of yourself, but you still want to stay true to God’s call for Christians to deny themselves.
On the one hand, there is a lot of secular self-help information out there. Self-care is a sensationalized trend in today’s culture, propelled on social media with manicures, yoga, and fancy coffees with the hashtag #selfcare or #selflove.
On the other hand, Christians can go to the opposite extreme. Sometimes, we are so afraid of being “selfish” that we neglect ourselves entirely. We think that self-care = narcissism and wear exhaustion like it’s a badge of honor.
Is there a middle ground? What does the Bible say about self-care (if anything)? Are there any Bible verses about self-care to help us practice Christian self-care appropriately?
After years of wrestling with this (and still continuing to wrestle!), here is some of the wisdom I’ve discovered about Christian self-care.
Related Reading: How to Practice Christian Mindfulness: 3 Easy Tips for Moms
What Does the Bible Say About Self-Care?
If you do a word search for Bible verses about self-care, you’re going to be disappointed because that phrase comes up exactly zero times. There are no scriptures on “self-care” that you can conveniently add to your phone’s lock screen.
But just because what the Bible says about self-care isn’t evident at first doesn’t mean the Bible doesn’t have truth and wisdom that we can apply to this topic.
Good Bible study goes beyond just finding singular Bible verses about self-care to digging deeper into bigger themes and principles that hold true in every time, place, and culture.
So what does the Bible say about self-care? Nothing directly. But there are many Bible verses on concepts like rest, stewardship, and God’s love for us that can give us the practical wisdom we need.
Understanding Self-Care from a Christian Perspective
While what the Bible says about self-care isn’t explicitly outlined, we can answer the question “What does the Bible say about self-care” by looking at three closely related concepts: Rest, Stewardship, and God’s love for us. Let’s look at each of these individually.
1. God Created Humans to Need Rest
When it comes to exploring what the Bible says about self-care, one way I like to look at it is through the lens of rest because this concept is so prevalent throughout the Scriptures.
From the creation account in Genesis, through the Old Testament, and into the New Testament, rest is part of the rhythm of life. God concludes his creative masterpiece with a day of rest, and invites his image-bearers to do the same.
God crafted humans (and all of creation) with the requirement of rest. This includes eating, sleeping, celebrating, and ultimately being refreshed.
It is a practice, which was codified into law for his chosen people in the Old Covenant. But it is also a posture.
A person at rest is a person who chooses to walk faithfully and obediently with the Lord. We can choose to take a break weekly, but we can also choose other restful activities daily, monthly, or whenever it’s suitable.
While what the Bible says about self-care isn’t explicitly outlined, it’s not difficult to see how you can understand it through this lens of rest.
2. Christian Self-Care is a Form of Stewardship
Closely related to rest is stewardship.
Again, starting in Genesis, we see that God’s plan for humanity is to rule over all of creation—and care for it.
That includes care for our own bodies.
3. We Can Rest in God’s Love for Us
Finally, you can see what the Bible says about self-care if you consider God’s love for all of us.
While there is a call for self-sacrifice as we follow in Christ’s footsteps, that doesn’t nullify the call to care for our dearly loved bodies, minds, and souls, in ourselves and others.
The following Scriptures on self-care illustrate these points further.
Related Reading: Are You at Risk for Christian Burnout?
Scriptures on Self-Care
With the understanding that concepts like rest, stewardship, and God’s love are woven throughout the Scriptures, there are a few self-care Bible verses that can be helpful as you seek to answer the question, “What does the Bible say about self-care?”
1. Genesis 2:2–3
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
God set everything in motion with creation, setting up the pattern of work followed by rest. He invites humans, who bear his image and rule over/steward creation, to follow his example in this introduction to what the Bible says about self-care.
2. Exodus 20:8–11
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Keeping the Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments given at Sinai under the Old Covenant, and you can see here how connected it is to what God set in motion in Genesis. It’s important to note that it wasn’t just about individuals stopping work; the command extended to every person and animal. It was intrinsically linked with stewardship.
The same principles can apply to our observation of rest under the New Covenant.
When we practice self-care, it’s important to recognize that what we do isn’t just for our own benefit. It should serve as a blessing to others and to the creation itself.
3. Mark 12:30-31
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.
You may have heard these verses a million times, but have you noticed these two important words: As yourself.
These Bible verses about self-care don’t just tell us to love others. They tell us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
That means you have permission to love yourself, as God loves you.
It doesn’t say love your neighbor and belittle or neglect yourself. Sometimes we mistakenly believe that self-degradation is synonymous with “showing humility.” Jesus wants you to love and value yourself as his beloved child and a part of creation.
4. Ephesians 5:29
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church…
God built the mechanism of self-care into us. We have an innate desire to “nourish and cherish” ourselves.
God made us this way because he knows that when we are at our best, we are also equipped to serve in the Kingdom.
You can’t serve others very well when you are lying in bed sick or exhausted. You can’t study and pray effectively when your brain power is shot due to lack of sleep and nourishment. Humans need downtime, food, sleep, and more to function, thrive, and to love God and others well.
5. Matthew 11:28
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
These are Jesus’ well-known words: an invitation to rest. This Bible verse about taking care of yourself is a reminder that true rest comes through knowing Christ and walking with him. All other self-care practices build from there.
There are many other Bible verses and stories that are relevant when studying what the Bible says about self-care, but these are a great starting point.
How to Practice Christian Self-Care
With a better grasp on what the Bible says about self-care, let’s turn to the more practical questions, like:
- Is it okay for me to be on my phone when I’m with my kids?
- Do I have to get up early to read my Bible?
- Whose needs come first: Mine, my husband’s, or my kids’?
- Do I really need to suck it up and go to church when I’m feeling so exhausted I can barely move?
- Is it okay to set Christian boundaries when someone asks for my help? (Really, not just in theory?)
- Can I spend money on something frivolous or indulgent and not feel guilty?
These types of questions are deeply personal, and you can explore them using some of the principles already discussed.
Remember Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
But also realize that as you put this plan into practice, you will have more energy to spend on others because your own cup is full!
While it may not be practical for you to set aside hours out of your day to focus on only yourself, there are a lot of small steps you can start taking as you have the time as you implement what the Bible says about self-care.
Remember, you can’t keep pouring out all your energy and resources without taking the time to refill them!
For you, this may mean:
- Getting enough sleep every night. If this feels like a chore, remember the rewards. You’ll be more productive (not to mention happier) the next day!
- Eating a good balance of protein, complex carbs, fiber, and healthy fats at each meal. Fad diets aren’t sustainable long-term, so focus on eating real food in a balanced way.
- Moving your body in some way on a daily basis, even if it’s just walking a few blocks or taking the stairs.
- Making alone time non-negotiable each day. Block out a period of uninterrupted time to recharge. Do your favorite things, no guilt allowed. Remember, this time is crucial for your mental health.
- Getting regular checkups with your doctor, even if you think you “can’t afford it.” Don’t allow health issues to fester and get worse. Investing in your health is investing in your energy, your future, your family, and your service to God!
- Spending time in daily prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual disciplines.
- Making time to fellowship with Christian friends who encourage you.
While it can be helpful to search for Bible verses about self-care or related concepts, we aren’t limited to only the Bible. God also gave us common sense. Sometimes the best way to practice Christian self-care is simply to do the things we know are good for us – whether physically, mentally, spiritually, or socially.
Related Reading: How to Set Biblical Boundaries as a Christian
What Christian Self-Care is NOT
When exploring what the Bible says about self-care and how to practice it, it’s important to differentiate Christian self-care from other approaches to self-care.
There are a few practices that people turn to when they desperately need a break, which are important to recognize because they can be sinful and selfish:
- Escape: Running from or avoiding stressors in your life rather than confronting them. Getting away isn’t bad in itself, but if your only objective is to escape, rather than purposefully recharge yourself, then you’re only going to want more escape.
- Self-medicating: Finding healing from sources that will never fill you up. This is taking escape to the next level, trying to find joy in whatever your weakness is—your phone, shopping, food, or other substances.
- Addiction: What happens when you get short highs from escaping and self-medicating. You keep coming back for more…and more…and more…and you keep coming out empty.
We’re all susceptible to these things.
Personally, when I’m not mindful, I drift into selfish ambition, jealousy, and idolatry. We all have our weaknesses and should be mindful of them when exploring our Christian self-care practices and what the Bible says about self-care.
In addition to asking yourself, “What does the bible say about self-care?” it can also be helpful to ask the advice of friends and family who know you well, who can help you decide when you’re practicing healthy Christian self-care and when you’re sliding into laziness, apathy, or even idolatry. (All of which can be real risks of Christian self-care when we get off balance!)
Related Reading: 10 Bible Verses About Anger and How to Deal with It
Dig Deeper into What the Bible Says About Self-Care and More
We’ve really just scratched the surface about Christian self-care and all the angles that can be explored. If you’re serious about putting into practice the Scriptures on self-care, I hope you study the Bible for yourself and come up with a self-care plan that works for you.
The Take a Deep Breath Toolkit is also a great free resource that can help you identify and implement the Christian self-care practices you need most.
Do you wrestle with understanding what the Bible says about self-care? What’s difficult for you?