“He must increase, but I must decrease” – John 3:30
Have you ever dealt with someone who is never wrong, or at least they never admit to being wrong? Maybe you met them and were attracted to their winsomeness and charisma only to find you were viewed by them more as an object, a tool or steppingstone to their own desires? Chances are you’re dealing with a narcissist, someone who loves themselves above all.
Knowing about narcissism and how to deal with it is important because it tops the list of perilous problems in the last days. You can spare yourself a lot of heartache, heartbreak, and frustration by being able to identify and deal with people given over to self-love. This is a teaching on what the Bible says about narcissism and narcissists and how to deal with them. I invite you to read on. If you’re open to the Spirit and His word, perhaps you’ll find some answers and solutions related to narcissism. Perhaps you’ll discover you yourself are a narcissist. My prayer for this study is that contrary to the narcissist who lives for self, we would be more like John the Baptist who when asked about his relationship to Jesus responded, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
A Prevailing Spirit in the Last Days
There is a condition or spiritual heart condition that tops the list of last days problems. That condition is self-love or narcissism:
2 Timothy 3:1–2 (NKJV) – But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Paul warns that in the Last Days there would be “perilous times.” The word “perilous” (Greek chalepos) means strength sapping stress, dangerous, fierce, perilous, hard to take, hard to bear, troublesome, harsh. Paul then goes on to describe and substantiate his warning by describing these perilous times. At the top of the list of perilous conditions are the words, “For me will be lovers of themselves. . ..” Self-love tops the list of causes of fierce dangerous perilous times. As we proceed with our study you will see why that is the case.
A promise from Jesus. Before we proceed it would be a good idea to remember what Jesus said to those “who believed Him:
John 8:31–36 (NKJV) – 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
Jesus’ truth always has a freeing or liberating effect on those who accept it. But not everyone does accept Jesus’ truth, e.g. Those who trusted in their Jewish heritage instead of the life changing truths of Jesus.
You may be too proud to submit yourself to the appraisal of God’s word. In that case you are doomed. But if you repent and seek the Lord there is hope. First let’s see the origins of the term “narcissism.”
The Story of Narcissus
In Greek mythology there is a story of a beautiful young man named narcissus and an admiring nymph named Echo. It is from this story that we draw the term narcissism. The story is as follows:
When Zeus came to the mountains, the wood nymphs rushed to embrace the jovial god. They played with him in icy waterfalls and laughed with him in lush green glades.
Zeus’ wife, Hera, was very jealous, and often she searched the mountainside, trying to catch her husband with the nymphs. But whenever Hera came close to finding
Zeus, a charming nymph named Echo stepped across her path. Echo chatted with Hera in a lively fashion and did whatever she could to stall the goddess until Zeus and the other nymphs had escaped.
Eventually Hera discovered that Echo had been tricking her, and she flew into a rage. “Your tongue has made a fool of me!” she shouted at Echo. “Henceforth, your voice will be more brief, my dear! You will always have the last word – but never the first.
From that day on, poor Echo could only repeat the last words of what others said.
One day Echo spied a golden-haired youth hunting deer in the woods. The boy’s name was Narcissus, and he was the most beautiful young man in the forest. All who looked upon Narcissus fell in love with him immediately. But he would have nothing to do with anyone, for he was very conceited.
When Echo first laid eyes upon Narcissus, her heart burned like the flame of a torch. She secretly followed him through the woods, loving him more with each step. She got closer and closer until finally Narcissus heard the leaves rustling. He whirled around and cried out, “Who’s here?”
From behind a tree, Echo repeated his last word, “Here!”
Narcissus looked about in wonder, “Who are you? Come to me!” he said.
Narcissus searched the woods, but could not find the nymph. “Stop hiding! Let us meet!” he shouted.
“Let us meet!” Echo cried. Then she stepped from behind the tree and rushed to embrace Narcissus.
But the youth panicked when the nymph flung her arms around his neck. He pushed her away and shouted, “Leave me alone! I’d rather die than let you love me!”
“Love me!” was all poor Echo could say as she watched Narcissus run from her through the woods. “Love me! Love me! Love me!”
Humiliated and filled with sorrow, Echo wandered the mountains until she found a lonely cave to live in.
Meanwhile Narcissus hunted in the woods, tending only to himself, until one day he discovered a hidden pool of water. The pool had a silvery-smooth surface. No shepherds ever disturbed its waters – no goats or cattle, no birds or fallen leaves. Only the sun danced upon the still pond.
Tired from hunting and eager to quench his thirst, Narcissus lay on his stomach and leaned over the water. But when he looked at the glassy surface, he saw someone staring back at him.
Narcissus was spellbound. Gazing up at him from the pool were eyes like twin stars, framed by hair as golden as Apollo’s and cheeks as smooth as ivory. But when he leaned down and tried to kiss the perfect lips, he kissed only spring water. When he reached out and tried to embrace this vision of beauty, he found no one there.
“What love could be more cruel than this?” he cried. “When my lips kiss the beloved, they touch only water! When I reach for my beloved, I hold only water!”
Narcissus began to weep. When he wiped away his tears, the person in the water also wiped away tears. “Oh, no,” sobbed Narcissus. “I see the truth now; It is myself I weep for! I yearn for my own reflection!”
As Narcissus cried harder, the tears broke the glassy surface of the pool and caused his reflection to disappear. “Come back! Where did you go?” the youth cried. “I love you so much! At least stay and let me look upon you!”
Day after day, Narcissus stared at the water, in love with his own reflection. He began to waste away from grief, until one sad morning, he felt himself dying. “Goodbye, my love!” he shouted to his reflection.
“Good-bye, my love!” Echo cried to Narcissus from her cave deep in the woods.
Then Narcissus took his last breath.
After he died, the water nymphs and wood nymphs searched for his body. But all they found was a magnificently beautiful flower beside the hidden pool where the youth had once yearned for his own reflection. The flower had white petals and a yellow center, and from that time on, it was called Narcissus.
And alas, poor Echo, desolate after Narcissus’s death, did not eat or sleep. AS she lay forlornly in her cave, all her beauty faded away, and she became very thin until her voice was all that was left. Thereafter, the lonely voice of Echo was heard in the mountains, repeating the last words anyone said. 
This is the story which is the basis of the term narcissism, or obsession with self, self-love. From a cursory reading of this great myth we glean the following:
- Narcissism is birthed out of unfaithfulness and deceit.
- Those attracted to narcissists are flawed themselves.
- Narcissists are obsessed with outward appearance.
- Narcissists are consumed by themselves and their own perceived beauty.
- Narcissists prioritize an infatuation with themselves above everything else, even eating.
- Narcissists consume themselves and die alone, as do those infatuated with them. Narcissists go down in self-glorying and take those attracted to them down too.
- Narcissism is self-destructive and destructive to others.
There’s truth in much of what we see from this original Greek myth. Myths may not be true historically, but they certainly can provide insight into human relationships. Myths can provide us with insight into personality and behavior. Greek myth isn’t inspired like God’s word is, and like all other uninspired material we must keep it in its place. “Test all things; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). Having said that, there’s good reason why the word “Narcissism” is a word used to describe people obsessed with self in our day.
But what does the Bible say about narcissism?
What Does the Bible Say About Narcissism?
Healthy self-love. As we begin our consideration of narcissism or excessive self-love, it’s important to recognize that there is a good level of self-love. The Old Testament and Jesus tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19). This presupposes human beings love themselves. We should love ourselves in that we are created in the image of God. Such truth is ingrained in us in documents like the Declaration of Independence which states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Even traditional secular documents realize happiness and love of self, in its proper proportion, is good.
But in our day and age our nation, and the world, have been infiltrated by a worldview that is godless and promotes through such things as Critical Race Theory, to loathe ourselves, dependent of course on what race you belong to. Others living by feelings, deny their created gender trying to find happiness and fulfillment in gender alteration. Sadly, many who have gone that route have only found disappointment and an even deeper depression, and, based on the percentages of suicide among those caught up in gender confusion, death.
The underlying worldview of recent movements to change society is socialism and communism which are inherently godless systems. This has not only infiltrated our educational institutions, but it has grown into an infestation. The consequence a trend for people (especially young people) to throw off what they see as shackles of their Creator (who they fashionably deny exists) and exalt themselves as their own god. Much the same as experienced by Israel at her low point, everyone is doing what they think is right in their own mind (cf. Judges 21:25). We see this played out in the recent proliferation of gender classifications and the attached “freedom” to mutilate even the youngest of people to re-create their felt alternate gender. All of this is rooted in self-rule, a spirit of excessive self-love, and in many cases, the consequent mutilation of the image of God in humanity.
To be self-loathing can be just as wrong as excessively self-loving. There needs to be a balance. We need the power of God, love and sound mind God offers to us (2 Timothy 1:7). We are complete in Christ and should accept who we are in Christ (Colossians 2:10). The Old Testament and Jesus speak of loving others as they love themselves assuming people love themselves. The problem is not merely self-love, but excessive self-love that is narcissism and sinful.
Narcissism. Narcissism, or excessive self-love, is a condition of the heart that is only repaired by a heart transplant from God. It is only cured by radical heaven-sent change. The gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful, “it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). And that gospel changes our lives. “If anyone is in Christ [i.e. has turned from their sins, through faith in Jesus has received forgiveness for their sins and been born again, indwelled by the Holy Spirit] he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The gospel can bring people to a point where whatever state of sin they have experienced, in Christ, it can now be said, “but such were some of you” (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-20). But narcissism, as we will see, is a particularly entrenched sin because it ensnares the heart. The prospects are not the best for a narcissist to reform or change. While there is always hope in the Lord, the narcissist is caught up in the same damning self-inflicted web of self that brought Satan down. It’s the most dangerous of conditions. God help us to root it out!
Biblical Examples of Narcissists
There are a number of people in the Bible who seem to have been narcissists.
- King Saul who thought he knew better than God and disregarded His word (1 Samuel 15).
- Judas who thought he knew better than Jesus and betrayed Jesus (Matthew 26:24).
- Herod who accepted praise that he was a god and then was struck by an angel and eaten by worms (Acts 12:21-23).
- Diotrephes who loved the preeminence and rejected the Apostle John and his authority (3 John 9).
- The devil who was proud and lusted after authority and rebelled against God. “For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’” (Isaiah 14:13-14). “you were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. . . Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you” (Ezekiel 28:15 and 17).
What all these examples have in common is the belief that I/me/myself know better than God. This makes narcissism and excessive self-love blasphemous. Someone has said, “Love is blind.” We might add that, “Love blinds those who excessively love themselves.”
What are Narcissists like According to the Bible?
There are a lot of connections we can make with sinful conditions found in the Bible and an excessive self-love that rebels against God to enthrone self. Here are some verses that can logically be connected to excessive self-love and narcissism.
- Self-lovers – 2 Timothy 3:2 – “For men will be lovers of themselves”
- Excessively proud in one’s position – Obadiah 1:3 – of the Edomites it was declared – “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; you who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’”
- Serve their own appetites and are divisive – Romans 16:17–19 (NKJV) – 17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.
- Perverse covenant breakers – The immoral woman who forsakes her marriage covenant as well as her covenant with God to fulfill her lusts (Proverbs 2:16-22). Israel was disciplined and went into captivity in part because she had forsaken her marriage to God to play the harlot and to indulge adultery (Hosea 2:1-13). That this was endemic and pervasive in Israel shows us how such a spirit of excessive self-love can pervade the land.
- Proud – 1 Peter 5:5-6 – “’God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”
- Selfish ambition – Philippians 2:3–11 (NKJV) – 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. “(Philippians 2:1-30).
- Deceivers – The wicked “flatters himself in his own eyes” and speaks deceit (Psalm 36:1-3). James said, For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16).
- Hopeless – In Proverbs it states, “do you see a man wise in his own eyes? [like narcissists inherently do] There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12).
- Not of God – The things of this world that the narcissist makes such a high priority, are not of God. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16).
- Narcissists need a new heart – The heart of the narcissist is stone cold. Only through a heavenly heart transplant can the excessive self-lover have a hope to be cured. “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:24-27).
The narcissist may attend church, but in their state of excessive self-love, they bear rotten fruit and show they are more a tare than a genuine kernel of gospel wheat (cf. Matthew 13:24-30).
Living for Self is Contrary to Christ’s Call on Our Lives
Excessive self-love and narcissism are diametrically opposed to the call of Christ on the Christian’s life. You simply can’t fulfill Christ’s calling on you when your self is on the throne of your heart. This reality is seen with summary consideration of the following verses.
Luke 9:23–25 (NKJV) – 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?
Matthew 22:37–40 (NKJV) – 37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
John 13:33–35 (NKJV) – 33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Romans 12:1–3 (NKJV) – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
2 Corinthians 5:14–16 (NKJV) – 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.
These inspired words direct the follower of Jesus in the opposite direction to which the narcissist has given themselves over to. Remember, like John the Baptist, our hearts desire and lifestyle should breathe and be, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Narcissistic Self-Love is Contrary to – the Opposite of – True Biblical Love:
A detailed definition of the “love” that is scripturally true is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. In these verses love is defined in the following way: “4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.” These inspired words are beautiful. Truly no one can love like this unless enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so. God pours out such love into the heart of the one who has been saved fro sin and born again of the Spirit (Romand 5:5). Only the Holy Spirit can bear such spiritual fruit in us (Galatians 5:22-24). Such love attaches us to God in a life changing way (cf. Romans 8). Such love is a miracle of God in the Christian. Truly a loveless “Christian” is an oxymoron. With such love as central to our relationship with God in Christ, the seriousness of the condition of the narcissist is exposed. The narcissist’s “love” is diseased and rotten. Consider the facets of the jewel of God’s love contrasted with the narcissist’s nature of excessive self-love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NKJV) –
4 Love suffers long – The narcissist has little patience for anyone who gets in the way of their ambitions
and is kind; – The narcissist is only kind when it serves their purposes.
love does not envy; – The narcissist is driven by envy and jealousy constantly wondering why they aren’t the beneficiaries of the blessing’s others receive.
love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; – The narcissist is all about parading themselves on center stage and being the center of attention.
5 does not behave rudely, – The narcissist rudely looks down on those they see as lesser than themselves. They are prone to gossip and hyper critical. Any good or blessing they see in others is rudely criticized.
does not seek its own, – Even the “good” a narcissist may have, has ulterior motives to reach their personal self-centered goals.
is not provoked, – All you have to do to provoke a narcissist is say “no” to them. Those who deal with narcissists know this to be true. Challenge a narcissist and you will be met with rejection, argument, hatred, even violence.
thinks no evil; – The narcissist is always conniving evil ways to exalt themselves above others.
6 does not rejoice in iniquity, – A narcissist will rejoice in “iniquity” if it serves their purposes.
but rejoices in the truth; – A narcissist seldom rejoices in the truth because truth exposes their sinful condition.
7 bears all things, – The narcissist bears little and habitually is looking for the quick fix.
believes all things, – The narcissist only believes what they think will serve their purposes.
hopes all things, – The narcissist’s hope is to elevate themselves and reach their goals. They are obsessed with achieving their own self-centered objectives.
endures all things. – The narcissist only endures that which serves their purposes.
8 Love never fails. – The narcissist is in reality incapable of Biblical Christlike love. Their “love” always fails.
The narcissist’s love is a poor depraved counterfeit of the authentic selfless, sacrificial, Christlike agape love of God.
The Book on Narcissistic Self Love
Finally, let’s take a look at Paul’s statement about the last days and the spirit of narcissism that will persist in that day.
2 Timothy 3 (NKJV)
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
Something that is perilous and dangerous is often something not readily recognizable. That is why Paul is inspired by the Spirit to expose these conditions to Timothy and to us. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
2 For men will be lovers of themselves,
It’s important to note that at the top of the list of things that will make the last days perilous is that people will be “lovers of themselves.” “Lovers of themselves” is a single term in Greek, philautos which means fond of self, selfish, lover of own self, intent on self-interests. This is the only time in the New Testament where this term is found. When a person loves themselves supremely instead of God, and loves themselves sacrificially instead of others, almost any sin can be justified in service to the self-lover’s goals and lusts.
What follows in Paul’s inspired words are some examples of what flows from the ones with a spirit of excessive self-love and narcissism.
lovers of money,
Self-love loves money, to spend on things that dress up and decorate the self or are pleasurable or hedonistic. Self-lovers lust after money and the fame money often brings.
Self-lovers boast and take pride in themselves.
Self-lovers are arrogant and haughty.
Self-lovers elevate themselves like Satan to a position of “God.” They can go to church, but they go to church for themselves more than to worship God or serve others. The Health and Wealth teaching that Christians are to be “little gods” plays right into such blasphemy. 
disobedient to parents,
Because self-lovers often think they know more than God, it’s an easy next step to disobey parents. Self-lovers think they know more than their parents. They don’t appreciate their home or what their parents have provided for them. They disrespect their parents and disregard parental authority. They break the one commandment with a blessing, long life (Eph. 6:1-3).
Self-lovers are unthankful because they are obsessed with getting and taking with little to no appreciation or thankfulness for those who provide for them. Self-lovers are often saturated in a spirit of entitlement. Their attitude is “I deserve this.” It’s a shamefully unthankful spirit.
The self-lover is not interested in being “holy” or uncommon, unless it draws positive attention to themselves. The more common practice for them is to be like the world and follow the styles. The self-lover prioritizes keeping their appearance at the forefront of trendiness to present themselves as the center of attention. They love the attention of others.
The self-lover doesn’t really know what true selfless Christlike love is because they are blinded by love for themselves.
The self-lover wants immediate forgiveness when they sin, and they will demand it. They might even say, “You are a Christian and have to forgive me.” But if someone offends them they will hold a grudge, harbor bitterness, and indulge in vendettas to get even with those who offend them. They think “how dare such a person sin against someone like me.” A two-tier justice system is no stranger to the narcissist.
The self-lover does not enjoy it when others are blessed, but instead they slander people to bring them down so they can step over them.
The self-lover is self-indulgent. They will go to extremes to get what they want or experience pleasure. They will break laws and conventional discretion if they think it will bring them attention and prestige.
The self-lover will resort to brutal physical attacks if anyone gets in their way. Verbal and physical spousal abuse is not uncommon for the narcissist to inflict on others.
despisers of good,
“Good” to the self-lover is just something that gets in their way.
No covenant or commitment is above the self-lover and their desires. They will betray the country and people to get what they want. They will break vows and break their word if they think it will further their purposes and meet their needs.
The self-lover is always right in their own mind. They are never wrong. Even if they are caught in a wrong they excuse themselves from responsibility or minimize their responsibility in the offense.
The self-lover is proud and is always seeking to elevate their position in life. They dress for attention and talk for attention. They want to be the center of attention.
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
God is an afterthought to the self-lover when opportunity for pleasure is around. Narcissists don’t really love people but use people as objects. Their love is more pornographic than romantic. Rather than loving selflessly, they love in a self-serving way. They “love” God as much as it serves their purposes. If God doesn’t give them what they want, they cast Him aside in their life.
5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.
The self-lover goes to church and uses church to feed their lust for attention and praise. They go to church to get rather than to give. They go to church to be served rather than to serve. They go through the motions to serve their self-deluded need to attain eternal life and personal security. But their religion is a sham that never delivers the eternal life and person saving relationship one can have in Christ. They know nothing of the power of the Holy Spirit, instead relying on their own efforts to bring themselves glory in the church. They know nothing or next to nothing about bringing glory to God.
The Biblical Response to Self-loving Narcissists
And from such people turn away!
Paul instructs Pastor Timothy to turn away from self-loving narcissists. Self-loving narcissists are often so caught up in their sin that their stone-cold hard heart is dead to God and redemption.
Why does Paul instruct Timothy to turn away and avoid such self-lovers?
6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts,
Because self-lovers are carnal to the core and take advantage of “gullible” ignorant people who themselves are “loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts.” Narcissists are creepy and obsessed with captivating for their own purposes the gullible around them. They are loaded with sin. They are filled with carnal lusts. Such things deafen the narcissist to God’s truths.
7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Because self-loving narcissists know it all, they are unteachable. They are to be avoided because self-loving narcissists are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” They sit under the teaching of the word and receive true counsel, but they refuse or are unwilling or unable to come to or receive the knowledge of the truth. Self-lovers seldom take responsibility for their sin or genuinely repent. Self-lovers close their ears to what the Spirit is trying to say to them. Why should they listen? In their selfish saturation of self-love they assume they know what’s best for them. Therefore trying to counsel or teach excessive self-lovers often proves a waste of time that could be spent on those who are tender hearted and repentant toward the Lord. The idea is more a narcissistic unwillingness than an inability to receive and act on truth that would transform them.
8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.
Jannes and Jambres are not mentioned in scripture but in the Targum of Jonathan. These two figures opposed Moses (Exodus 7:10-13). They actively and persistently resisted the truth brought by Moses. They had corrupt minds and were depraved (e.g., Rom 1:21-22; Eph. 4:17-18; 1 Tim. 6:5). They were “disapproved” (adokimoi) concerning the faith or did not withstand the test of faith but rather proved worthless and rejected. The self-lovers were “as” these two and therefore should be rejected and avoided.
The Path to Freedom
Those dealing with narcissists in their lives often feel enslaved, cornered, hopeless, helpless. How can a victim of self-lovers and narcissists find freedom from such abuse? And I might add, how can a narcissist, who is finally ready to listen to the Holy Spirit’s conviction for their sins, be freed from their self-love? Remember Jesus’ words cited at the beginning of this teaching, “if you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). It is possible to be “free indeed” (John 8:36). Are you willing to trust the Lord in even this dark swamp of despair? He is waiting for you to surrender and obey.
Here is how Paul advised Timothy to respond to the problem of excessive self-love.
10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Paul commends Timothy because he has been attentive to Paul’s life and Paul’s example of loving the Lord supremely, enough to undergo persecution. We should love the Lord supremely, not ourselves supremely. We should live lives fully surrendered to God and His purposes for our lives.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Self-lovers are “imposters” (goetes), seducers, wizards, enchanters, imposters who present themselves as something they are not. They go around deceiving people and are themselves deceived. Be realistic. Things are not going to get better but only worse. We see this in our day. You may see it personally in your life. Sometimes it’s time to move on, to move forward and trust the Lord. Narcissism and excessive self-love situations are a quagmire of deception. Victims of self-lovers are deceived and beaten down by the lies of those who would only use them and abuse them. Self-lovers themselves are self-deceived. “If we say that we he no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). It’s a mess and if we don’t follow God’s instructions here, it will only get worse.
How can we protect ourselves from such things?
14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Get back to the fundamentals of your faith. Rededicate yourself to receiving solid teaching of God’s word, fellowshipping, worship, and prayer (cf. Acts 2:42). When God’s people were floundering in narcissistic self-love, God sent Jeremiah to exhort them, “Stand in the ways and see, and ask fo the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16a). Obey God’s call in faith. Don’t be like Israel who said to God, “We will not walk in it” and as a result were led into captivity (Jeremiah 6:16b). God gives the Holy Spirit to those who trust and obey Him (Acts 5;32).
These words also speak to the importance and value of teaching our children the word of God. The scriptures give us wisdom and show us God’s salvation which is in Christ Jesus. Be a family that knows God’s word. Memorize it and study it. It will pay great eternal dividends.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The word of God is inspired or literally God-breathed. God breathed out His word like wind that blows in the sail of a ship to direct it where He wanted it to go. God’s word is profitable, it will show us what true worth and value is. God’s word helps us to prove what is right and true. God’s word corrects us when we get off course. God’s word shows us the right ways of life. God’s word is what every godly believer needs to be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
There is no substitute for God’s word. God’s word is His instrument to work in our lives. It is in God’s word that He promises, “No temptation [or trial] has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God promises to show us the way of escape. He stakes His faithfulness on such a promise. Trust Him; He has a pretty good track record. If God can get His people across the Red Sea, if He can bring down the Walls of Jericho, if He can defeat the giant Goliath through the youth David with a sling shot, if He can feed four thousand and five thousand and walk on water, if He can raise the dead and be raised from the dead Himself, He can help you. Trust Him.
God’s word teaches us about true genuine truthful love. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). God uses His word to light the way out of the perils of excessive self-loving narcissism. You don’t have to be jailed to narcissism; you can be freed. There is hope in Jesus. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17b). I pray for both the victims of narcissism and narcissists themselves that they find the liberty promised by God. I pray we all decrease and let the Lord increase in and through our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.