I receive the occasional comment from haters saying something to the effect that “your God is the biggest narcissist of all”. I erase those immediately so as to not let blaspheme continue, but let’s address it.
People may make such a comment for a variety of reasons, but let’s assume they mean that God is narcissistic because He wants worship and obedience. Yes, He does – but the “why” is where they get things backwards, and is the starting point of their blasphemous error.
People making that statement impute human thinking and motives to God. But the correct answer must start with who God really is, versus a starting point that assumes that God is like us.
God is not like us.
Paul told the Athenians that God does not need our service – nor our worship. In fact, He does not need anything.
Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything that is in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made by hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;
So, while a human narcissist is craving exaltation, God is completely satisfied in Himself. The fancy theological term for this is God’s “aseity” which means: “the quality or state of being self-derived or self-originated – specifically : the absolute self-sufficiency, independence, and autonomy of God”.
A narcissist scrambles to have a deep-seated need met through self-exaltation, but God does not have that need. The comparison between a human narcissist and God breaks down right at it’s foundation, so there must be a different reason as to why God wants our praise, worship, and obedience.
As described in the book, Boundlessly Good, God’s goodness and love is the driving motive behind everything He does. Ephesians 1 explains how His “kind intention” was behind God’s plan for the world.
In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him
with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.
Let’s quickly break this down:
In all wisdom and insight —> in God’s infinite knowledge, God thought of every possible scenario (think trillions X trillions details in each scenario) for how life and the world should work
- He made known to us the mystery of His will —> in God’s perfect wisdom He chose the exact best scenario out of the all of the possibilities
- according to His kind intention —> His choice was based on His goodness – His kind intention – as an expression of His love
which He purposed in Him —> God made Jesus – His life, death, resurrection – the centerpoint of the plan. As Jesus is God incarnate, His sacrifice through death on the cross was the fullest and deepest expression of His love possible.
The importance of the fact that God Himself made the sacrifice cannot be overstated. As Paul said,
God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
There was no greater way that God could demonstrate His love, but through dying in the worst possible way for His enemies while also absorbing God’s wrath for our sins. And that is why God chose just such a way to demonstrate and express the vast depths of His love.
Narcissists don’t die for someone else in order to demonstrate love. The Narcissist may show some publicly visible “sacrifice”, but always with the intention of somehow getting credit or exaltation in return. For example, the narcissistic Pharisees gave and fasted – sacrifices – but with an eye toward the recognition they would receive (Matthew 6).
So, God’s death through Jesus on the cross for His enemies was clear proof of the opposite of narcissism.
But what about His desire for our worship and praise? Ephesians 1 has another phrase that we also need to address.
In love He predestined us to adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,to the praise of the glory of His grace, with which He favored us in the Beloved.
God acted out of love, but He did it to the “praise of the glory of His grace”. This concept is echoed in I John 2:12
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.
I John 2:12
John says that our sins have been forgiven us – not for ourselves, but for the sake of His reputation – so that God will look good. Doesn’t this contradict what we just said, and sound a bit narcissistic? It may look like that at first glance, but actually is not. Let’s dig in further.
First we need to define what “the praise of the glory of His grace” means.
My working definition of God’s grace is that “He gives us what we need (in abundance), when we need it. This applies to sunshine, food, the breath we take, the ability (desire and power) to live the way He wants – but it’s fullest expression is in His provision for our salvation.
God’s grace reveals His glory. My working definition of God’s glory is “God going public” with His marvelous attributes. So, when God uses His infinite knowledge, wisdom, power, and love to provide for us (His grace), He is publicly displaying His glory (those attributes).
When God exhibits His attributes (His glory) in providing our needs (His grace) it naturally results in praise and thanksgiving to Him for what He has done. But even that praise is not selfish or prideful on the part of God – it is designed for the good of us and others.
- When others see what God has done for us, they have a higher view of Him. God uses the praise of the glory of His grace to draw others to Himself, and expand the scope of His blessing
- When we see what God has done for us, we are encouraged to come to Him sooner the next time, leading to a closer walk with Him. God has designed us to be most fulfilled in Him, so anything which brings us closer to Him is to our benefit.
These things have a multiplication effect. But that’s for another time.
As the center of the universe, God is worthy of praise just because of His greatness, but intends for our praise of the glory of His grace to ultimately boomerang back and bless us once again. That is not narcissistic.