What does it mean to be a “lover of themselves”?
To be “lovers of themselves” in II Timothy 3 means to be selfish, and elevating self above all others.
Paul said in Romans 12:3: “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” We must see ourselves as we really are – both the bad of what we are in the flesh and the glory of what we are in Jesus Christ.
John Calvin states: “But readers should note that lovers of themselves, which comes first, can be regarded as the source from which all the others that follow spring.”
William Barclay in his commentary states: “It is no accident that the first of these qualities will be a life that is centred in self. The adjective used is philautos, which means self-loving. Love of self is the basic sin, from with all others flow. The moment a man makes his own will the centre of life, divine and human relationships are destroyed, obedience to God and charity to men both become impossible. The essence of Christianity is not the enthronement but the obliteration of self.”
And D. Edmond Herbert states: “‘Lovers of self’ aptly heads the list since it is the essence of all sin and the root from which all the other characteristics spring. The word is literally ‘self-lovers’ and points to the fact that the center of gravity of the natural man is self rather than God.”