Shame: A Biblical Perspective

Shame: A Biblical PerspectiveText: 2 Thessalonians 3:14

Shame is “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” One can also be shamed or put to shame by others, causing him to feel ashamed. Shame has a very negative connotation in our society. But what does the Bible have to say about this?

What Is Shame?

  • Greek word entrepo – (1) to shame one, (2) to be ashamed, (3) to reverence a person (Thayer); one person is placed in a lower position/class/standing than others; how does this happen?
  • One IS compelled to lower himself by others – by ridicule, abuse, ostracizing, discipline, rebuke; sometimes this is done wrongly/unnecessarily; sometimes it is to help (with the right attitude)
  • One FEELS compelled to lower himself – by guilt, embarrassment, low self-esteem; could be due to past sins/mistakes; could be a lack of confidence or understanding
  • One WILLINGLY lowers himself out of respect for another – done out of submission, respecting authority, humility; not because of external/internal pressure (shaming or being ashamed)
  • The Bible has some things to say about SHAME – there are some instances when it is good and necessary; there are other times when it keeps us from pleasing God

When Shame Is Good

  • When a child is receiving needed discipline (Hebrews 12:9-11) – not a justification for verbal or physical abuse, but corporal punishment can be helpful (Proverbs 22:15; 19:18)
  • When we feel guilt for our sin (Jeremiah 6:15) – this is evidence of a working conscience (1 Timothy 4:2); encourages repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8-10) and is the purpose of church discipline (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15)
  • When we are motivated to dress and act modestly (1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:2)
  • When we are encouraged to grow in our faith (2 Timothy 2:15)
  • When we show respect for one in authority (cf. Matthew 21:37) – humbly submit to parents (Hebrews 12:9), elders (Hebrews 13:17), and civil authorities (Romans 13:1)
  • When we are suffering for the cause of Christ (Acts 5:40-41) – shamed NOT ashamed [more on this later]
  • However, feeling shame when one needs to feel shame does not automatically produce faithfulness – one may feel shame for sin and not repent (Matthew 27:3-5) or repent and turn back to sin (2 Corinthians 2:7-8)

When Shame Is Bad

  • When we are ashamed of Christ (Mark 8:38) – reluctant to affirm Jesus for who He is
  • When we are ashamed to be identified as a Christian (1 Peter 4:16) – often happens in the face of persecution; we must expect this and be willing to endure it (2 Timothy 3:13; Revelation 2:10)
  • When we are ashamed of the gospel (2 Timothy 1:8) – refuse to teach or defend it (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3)
  • When we are ashamed to be identified with our brethren (2 Timothy 1:16)
  • When we are discouraged from trying to be faithful (1 Corinthians 4:14)
  • When we are ashamed to stand before the Lord in judgment (1 John 2:28)

Conclusion

  • Shame is never pleasant to experience – but there are times when it is helpful and necessary
  • We must allow it to motivate us to do good – never allow it to hinder us from faithful service to God

When you subscribe, you’ll also receive 3 free PDF’s: Plain Bible Teaching on Government, the latest issue of Plain Bible Teaching Quarterly Review, and Social Issues.