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In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a paradigm of human needs that persists in its popularity to today. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” depicts the roots of human motivation. Man does not pursue his ultimate needs until his most basic needs are met.
The hierarchy goes like this, in order from most basic to most ultimate: 1) physiological, 2) safety, 3) love/belonging, 4) esteem, 5) self-actualization. 
For example, one (usually) does not care how much he feels loved if he is starving in the middle of the woods and fears for his safety as he is encircled by a pack of wolves.
The higher up on the hierarchy one goes, the more “fulfilled” one feels, but the most basic of needs must be met first. Such a hierarchy is not inherently sinful; however, problems arise when that which humans pursue in an effort to be self-actualized is a counterfeit glory supplied by the serpent that tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden.
For decades, centuries, and perhaps even millennia, the perceived pinnacle of human existence has been “self-actualization.” Maslow recognized this, and self-actualization as man’s ultimate fulfillment is not inherently sinful. However, the Christian must reject any form of self-actualization that deviates what Scripture has made clear is true self-actualization: the glorious experience of eternal rest in the fullness of God.
The most common false self-actualization pursued in 21st century Western culture is a form of “authenticity” that does not go beyond the self. This “authenticity” is found in the fulfillment of sexual preferences, career success, or some sort of other self-focused pursuit.
Millennials value “authenticity” and “being true to oneself” more than any generation to come before them (generally speaking). Just look at the current debates surrounding the most controversial issues we talk about: homosexuality and abortion. Anything that gets in the way of fully expressing oneself via his or her sexuality is offensive and must be destroyed.
Charles Taylor, well-known and well-respected Professor of Philosophy at McGill University, writes of this shortsighted self-fulfillment, “It seems true that the culture of self-fulfillment has led many people to lose sight of concerns that transcend them.”
This is why sinful, fallen humanity is vulnerable to find a sense of purpose in a myriad of pleasantries that fall short of the fullness of God. Humans, in their sinfulness, have a difficult time finding self-fulfillment in that which exists outside of themselves. Love is not self-actualization; sexual freedom is not self-actualization; happiness is not self-actualization. Only experiencing the fullness of God in glory is self-actualization.
All of these things: love, sex, happiness, success, and more, are not bad things at all. But to settle for them as the pinnacle of “self-actualization” is isn’t only objectively wrong, it’s also terribly sad. There’s so much more to live for than these things.
Christians must know and remember that there is more to the natural desire for self-fulfillment than what our broken five senses can observe and feel.
We pursue self-actualization as human beings because it’s natural—Maslow’s hierarchy and general psychology show us this. True self-actualization though, leads to a re-birth that restarts our pursuit for self-actualization all over again. For the Christian, self-actualization restarts at repentance and only ends in glory.
When the sinner truly reaches “self-actualization” as described in Maslow’s Hierarchy, he is reborn into a new creation and must re-self-actualize himself, a pursuit that does not end until he is restored to a right relationship with God in glory.
As hell-bound sinners, the pinnacle of our existence is salvation found in repentance. Following this repentance, we’re reborn, and thus, we must rediscover self-actualization. Self-actualization for the reborn sinner is found in the glory of God in eternity.
When God created Adam and Eve, they were purposed to live and work in the presence of God. No separation existed between God and man.
Adam and Eve, woman, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, live in harmony with God for an undisclosed period of time. They experience the fullness of God and his majesty in an uncorrupt way only rivaled by the ways in which humans will experience it in eternity future. This is but a preview of what is to come. Adam and Eve do not experience God’s glory in a way that seems particularly supernatural to humans today. There are no bursts of light or pillars of fire in the Garden. God walks among them “in the cool of the day,” (Gen 3:8) as if God living among his creation is nothing out of the ordinary.
The personal experience of the fullness of God experienced by Adam and Eve in the beginning is truly unique. When sin enters into this relationship, it is corrupted in such a way to rob the human of the ability to experience the fullness of God in relationship with him. Christ fulfills this void.
God originally purposed man to live in harmony with him. Now, the people of God are tasked with the Great Commission in an effort to restore as many as possible to this right relationship with God. Christians, the people of God in Christ, must live their present lives with eternal motivations.
When the Christian goes through life with an eternal perspective, the things of earth, as the classic song says, “grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” The fact that the pinnacle of human existence is experiencing the fullness of God must cause Christians to pursue the Great Commission and resist the temptation of the evil one to settle for anything less than the fullness of God.
The pinnacle of human existence is experiencing the fullness of God—might this cause the Christian to carry his cross, stomping on the serpent along the way, and sharing with the nations how to do the same.
Self-fulfillment is meant to be anything but selfish.
If we continue to put the burden of self-actualization on love, sex, money, and a host of other perishable things, everything we’ve lived for will die with us.
When we find true authenticity in eternity, we find true self-fulfillment.
 Abraham Maslow, ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’, Psychological Review, 1943, accessed May 7, 2015, http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Maslow/motivation.htm.
 Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), 15.