I was asked this question by a blog reader that wanted to know if loving other people first is the natural order of things when the bible says we should focus our love on others. Yes, there is an order or hierarchy of values but it probably is not what you think.
The bible says Love Your Neighbor “as yourself” not more than yourself. This also has the assumption that you know how to first love yourself. Not knowing how to love yourself negates the whole premise. Does one not rely in fact on the other? Then we must ask ourselves, how can one love his neighbor as himself if he does not first love himself?
Regarding parents, should we love them more than ourselves if the bible says to honor thy mother and father? Webster defines honor as the words “high respect”. Note that Respect is defined as “High Esteem” and Esteem is defined as “High Worth or value”. Again we ask can we love another without holding that person higher than yourself which puts them in the place God should singularly own? Does this makes them an idol? Of course we know God highly frowns upon that.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs goes further into this.
Notice the needs go from bottom to top with the bottom being the foundation for building the others. The first level is breathing eating sleeping ? these are requirements for your own survival. You cannot survive for your neighbor? Or can you? Can you breathe for your neighbor (maybe for a little while with CPR). But all jokes aside. On an airline they tell you in case of an emergency ? first put on your oxygen mask ? then “help” your neighbor. Is it selfish to first put on your mask and then begin to assist your neighbor? How could this be selfish and yet be physiological?
In this circumstance can you live and your neighbor live as well? If you switch this around and do the opposite of directed you both may die or maybe just your neighbor will live. But God may in fact have a greater work for you but does he wish that your neighbor live and you die or worse you both die? Maybe you both should live? What do you think?