Narcissist Case Study – The Prodigal’s Brother

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Luke 15:1-2

15 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

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In response to crowds coming to hear Jesus, the (narcissistic) Pharisees and scribes did not publicly reveal their jealously, but rather grumbled among themselves with a haughty and holier-than-thou attitude about His “receiving sinners”.

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Rather than directly rebuke them for their attitude, Jesus responded by telling them three parables.  Jesus’ main point in each of the parables was God’s loving grace in seeking those who are “lost”, and joy when they return to Him.  This was in obvious contrast with the Pharisees who did not care about the people to whom Jesus was ministering, but only about the fact that they were not the center of attention.

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In Jesus’ third story of the “prodigal son” [read the entire parable here], He also used the narcissistic older brother’s response as a mirror to point out to the narcissistic Pharisees their prideful, self-centered obstructionism (Luke 11:52), and lack of mercy.  Jesus was not defensive at the Pharisees’ grumbling, but took the path of grace by gently pointing out their error via through this story – if they were willing to listen.

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Luke 15:25-32

25 (And He said….) “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.26 And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 

28 But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. 29 But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; 30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ 

31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”

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This was a classic narcissistic response – the brother knew that everything that remained of the father’s estate would belong to him.  But that wasn’t enough.  He was still focused on what he was not getting – on how he was “neglected” – rather than joy over his brother’s return.

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The brother’s statements reflected the Pharisees’ hearts of jealously at God’s grace toward others.  God had extended them everything, but they instead were jealous that God would also extend grace toward others – a total prideful response as they thought others were not worthy, and a self-centered response as this made them not the total center of God’s attention.  The Pharsisees reflected this jealousy by petty sniping and griping.

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As the Pharisees continued over time to resist what they heard and saw from Jesus, Jesus later became  much more direct in making His point to them.

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Matthew 23:13

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

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The Pharisees, in their pride, were not willing to submit to God in repentance, and in their pride were also unwilling for others to enjoy a relationship with God.

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For a discussion on what this blog is about, please see putting Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism into perspective

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