Yes, we are taught to look out for other people. When asked which commandment was the greatest in the law, Jesus said to love God with all of one’s heart, soul, and strength. Then He added a second command—to love one’s neighbor as himself. Based on this, we often say the best way to have true J.O.Y. is to put Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. But that does not mean that we should never take care of ourselves.
Yes, we are told to practice self-denial. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23).” But this self-denial is not an ascetic lifestyle where we give up food, electricity, or even talking. This means we deny the body’s natural tendency to find enjoyment in sin. When the flesh craves that which is off limits, the believer practicing self-denial will say no to the temptation. This self-denial is spiritual.
We need to take good care of ourselves, and not feel guilty when we do. Paul wrote that no one has ever hated his own flesh, but takes care of it (Ephesians 5:29). When we are hungry, we eat; when we are tired, we sleep. We go to the doctor and take our medicine. This isn’t wrong, and there is nothing extra holy about denying ourselves (periodic fasting is a different issue).
If you have ever flown in an airplane, during the preflight instructions passengers are told that, in the event that oxygen masks are needed, to always secure their own mask before helping other passengers. This may sound selfish, especially to a mother whose first instinct is to help her children. But think about it: if the mother passes out while securing the child’s mask, will that child be able to put the mother’s mask on her? Once the mother has secured her own mask, she will be able to help as many people as she wants.
In the same way, if you think taking care of yourself is selfish, understand that you can do much more for other people when you are at full strength. So eat healthy. Exercise. Get a good night’s sleep. Have annual checkups. Reduce your stress. Take a day off work (and a weekly Sabbath). Say no sometimes. Spend time with family. Never feel guilty about taking care of yourself, because you are of much better use to us when you are well.
Taking care of ourselves is also worship. I Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” We can glorify God by taking care of the bodies He has given us.