The Pharisee and the Publican

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Jesus illustrated how a scoffer operates through a story of a Pharisee and a tax collector praying in the temple:

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And He (Jesus) also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’

But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’.  I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14

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Key phrases in the story match the definition of a narcissist given in Proverbs 21:24 (“proud, haughty, scoffer are his names who acts with insolent pride”).

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The Pharisee was

  1. Proud (of his accomplishments) – “(Jesus) told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous”, “(The Pharisee) was praying this to himself”, “I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get”
  2. Haughty – “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…”
  3. A scoffer – “Viewed others with contempt”

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The Pharisee viewed himself as better than “others” (as represented by the guy standing next to him).  And Jesus specifically says that he “exalted himself” and “viewed others with contempt.”  The Biblical word for contempt here is eksouthenéō[i].

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eksouthenéō[ii]:  to cast out as nothing; “to count as nothing, to treat with utter contempt, i.e. as zero”; “despise utterly”; to regard something as lacking any standing (value).

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Contempt[iii] is disapproval tinged with disgust; i.e. – to feel contempt for a weakling.  Disdain is a feeling that a person or thing is beneath one’s [a narcissist’s*] dignity and unworthy of one’s notice, respect or concern.  Noun – The feeling with which a person regards anything considered worthless

The Pharisee’s self-exaltation left no room in his heart for the man next to him, whom he considered to be not even be worthy of his consideration.

The term “Pharisee” was shorthand for this character type, but not all Pharisees were this way.  For example, Nicodemus (John 3) was a secret believer, and Gamaliel (Acts 5), the grandson of Hillel the Elder, was genuinely open to God’s purposes.  Also, John 12:42 says that “many even of the rulers were believing in Him”.

The above example is derived from a comparison of traits pointing to this Pharisee as a case study on the Biblical equivalent of narcissism, but we have an even more direct connection.  The Bible called out the Pharisees in general as scoffers hundreds of years before they appeared.  They provide a particularly robust case study.

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[i] https://biblehub.com/greek/1848.htm

[ii] From HELPS Word Studies

[iii] From dictionary.com

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Narcissist* Traits – They “Put On A Show” Of Their Deeds

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Matthew 23:5

But they (scribes and Pharisees) do all their deeds to be noticed by men…..

As we mentioned here, here, and here, the scribes and Pharisees are a case study in narcissism / insolent pride.

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In the Narcissists’* drive to be exalted by others, their focus is completely on what other people think of them, rather than on the genuine substance of things.  In fact, they will go out of their way to even suffer some pain – such as with fasting – if the end result is the praise and recognition of man.  To a narcissist, wickedness in their heart does not matter as long as things look good to others.  They particularly will focus on “putting on a show” of their “goodness” so that others will see it and think well of them.

Some examples are:

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God’s Final Word On It All

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Many people like to read a book from front to back and wouldn’t think of starting at the end of the story. But when it comes to the Walk of Life knowing the end of the story is extremely helpful for persevering through the ups and downs.  For those who are downtrodden, especially at the hands of arrogant people, it’s especially good to know that God is completely aware and will have the final word on it all.

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To give an example from Isaiah 2,

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The proud look of man will be abased
And the loftiness of man will be humbled,
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning
Against everyone who is proud and lofty
And against everyone who is lifted up,
That he may be abased.  (Isaiah 2:11-12)

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The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased;
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,  (Isaiah 2:17)

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In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats
Their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
Which they made for themselves to worship,
21 In order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs
Before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.  (Isaiah 2:20-21)

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Isaiah’s conclusion is to stop worrying about what people think, since their true standing will be revealed in the end.

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Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils;
For why should he be esteemed?  (Isaiah 2:22)

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There are many similar passages, for example:

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“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.  Malachi 4:1

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I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.  Isaiah 13:11

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In the middle of our day to day grind of dealing with people with insolent pride, it is occasionally helpful to step back and see the end of the story.  In the end, God will put every proud and haughty person into their proper place, and will show that He alone deserves to be exalted.

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Having a proper view now of that future state of affairs can give us the perspective needed to see the proud and haughty narcissist as they really are – and through that to give us a measure of freedom from the control they seek over us.

 

 

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The Ultimate Fact Check

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As we stated in a previous blog post, one way of dealing with narcissists is to fact check everything.

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The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him.  Proverbs 18:17

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The ultimate fact-check will come on the day of judgment.   Jesus said

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“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits …

 “…Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’  Matthew 7:15-16, 21

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While this could apply to anyone trying to get into heaven through their “good deeds” (instead of through true repentance and faith in Christ), I can envision narcissists in particular trying to talk their way into heaven through an inflated opinion of what they did on Earth – trying to pass it off as an act of faith with good motives.

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We know why someone would try to do this – they’re desperate to get into heaven to avoid God’s judgement. But why would they think they can get away with this? One possibility is that they have an inflated view of what they accomplished.  As Proverbs says,

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Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.  Proverbs 25:14
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The other possibility is that they actually did what might be seen as good works by an outside observer, but did it out of self-centered motives and not from a heart of love.  1st Corinthians 13 says even if you do good works, if they’re not done from the right heart they are of no profit in the end.
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If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.  I Corinthians 13:2-3
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Jesus said the same thing.
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“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.  “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  Matthew 6:1-2

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The hypocrites Jesus refers to in Matthew 6 are the Pharisees Jesus directly speaks to in Matthew 23.

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Claiming good works as the justification to get into heaven will be the narcissist’s typical but final move.  Jesus, in the ultimate fact-check, will see right through the N’s inflated view of themselves and their false boasting for why they deserve to be in Heaven.

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Possible Paths To Codependency

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How does someone become “codependent”, a “slave of man”, subsumed to someone else?
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      • Was he born that way?
      • Did it start in childhood?
      • Did it appear later in life?
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For codependency to take place, two people are involved – the codependent, and the one who causes or allows the codependency – let’s call him/her the controller. Although not always the case, the controller could be a person with insolent pride – the narcissist – who seeks to have others in his orbit to put him on a pedestal and serve him.
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The prospective slave has a vulnerability that can be exploited or manipulated – often unconsciously. This could include:
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    1. the young
    2. sensitive or compliant personalities
    3. those carrying a previous wound that hasn’t healed
    4. those desiring affection to the extent that they will accept occasional crumbs of “love” from someone in exchange for whatever is asked of them
    5. those with no solid extrinsic foundation for their life
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The controller could use a variety of methods to achieve dominance over the vulnerable
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    • Outright bullying, either physically or verbally, ranging from cutting remarks to much more aggressive power moves
    • Lies and manipulation, ranging from charm (which is deceitful – Proverbs 31:30) to the current ill-defined popular phrase “gaslighting” (the attempt to make someone believe an alternate reality)
    • Some combo of the two – such as alternating “love”/abuse

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The controller’s intent is to make the target dependent upon them, so that the target will exalt and be subservient as they seek to get their emotional or physical needs met. The fickleness of the controller may cause the target to cling even tighter as the controller appears to be the only available foundation of strength and source of need fulfillment.

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These seeds of dependency are likely planted in childhood, through a parent or other authority who makes the child in some way fearful of disappointing the authority. The (narcissistic) parent in some way forces the child to take undue responsibility for meeting the parent’s needs as the means to get their own needs met.

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If the dependency is not resolved before early adulthood – if the target does not learn to have their own rock solid foundation for life, they will tend to look for “strong people” who provide that foundation. In milder forms the target may become a “people-pleaser” – constantly going beyond what is necessary or appropriate to make sure others are not disappointed in them. They will tend to respond in the same way as childhood with too much reliance on the approval of others. They have a warped view of healthy relationships.

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While the target may desire a romantic relationship with someone who is kind to them, they might easily gravitate toward someone like their childhood controller. This would be compounded by the fact that narcissists with a bent toward dominance will be attracted to them as a potential “planet” revolving around them. In his pursuit, the N might deceive the target through initial kindness, before they reveal their true colors.

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The special vulnerability of children brings a particularly strong judgment on those who would damage them. That is why Jesus said…

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….. to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. Luke 17:1-2

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Next Up: The Foundation For Freedom From Codependency

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Dependency – Do Not Become Slaves Of Men

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As we discussed in an earlier post, co-dependency is a fuzzy pop-psychology term.  The more precise Biblical concept is that of someone becoming a “slave of men” (I Corinthians 7:23) by subsuming their inner self to another person, rather than to God.  But we will use the term codependent interchangeably as shorthand.

How do we know that this phrase did not refer to the physical slavery of the day?  We know it because Paul made several other clear statements that while it is better to be free, it was also ok to be a slave.

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Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that.   For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.    I Corinthians 7:22-23

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In fact, slaves were to not just chafe under their masters, but seek to honor the Lord in the situation.

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All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.   I Timothy 6:1
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Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.   Colossians 3:22
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Paul could make these statements, because slavery was a feature of his era’s economic system, not focused on the control of people’s inward selves but their outward performance.  In fact, in Christ everyone was equal irrespective of their socio-economic status.
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a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.    Colossians 3:11
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There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28
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Therefore, Paul’s admonition to “not become slaves of men” referred to who we are as a person, who we are on the inside, how we live our lives before God and with others.  We are not to subsume who we are on the inside to someone else.
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All scripture taken in isolation is subject to misinterpretation and abuse.  “Do not become slaves of men” could easily be twisted to mean, “no one will rule over me” (including God-given authority), leading to “I can do whatever I want”, or “I should exit any relationship that restricts my freedom”.  This does not mean that.  We are referring to an inward freedom to be yourself and the person God wants you to be, regardless of the circumstances.
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There are different tactics a “slave master” might use to make someone their slave (codependent).  For example,
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  1. Bullying
  2. Manipulation
  3. Use of fake authority
  4. Abuse of true authority
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Underneath the success of all of these is an element of the fear of man on the part of the codependent person – worried about what the other person thinks of you or can do to you, rather than what God thinks of you or can do to you.  Proverbs says,
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The fear of man brings a snare,
But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.  Proverbs 29:25

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and Jesus said
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 “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!   Luke 12:4-5
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As narcissists have an inner drive to be the unquestioned #1 around which others’ lives orbit, they are particularly driven to make others their emotional or physical slaves.  It is difficult for them to achieve that with “hard targets” (those who are on to them or not afraid of them), so they focus on available “soft targets”.  And one of the easiest of soft targets are their own children.
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Next up:  Possible paths to co-dependency

 

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Dealing With Narcissists* – They Ultimately Don’t Get Away With It

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Those who have been hurt by a narcissist that appears to “get away with it” can really struggle with bitterness and a deep desire for “justice” to be done.  This often results in a continued obsession with the narcissist and what he/she has done, and a corresponding inability to “move on” or focus on your own following after God.

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Narcissists are pros at shifting blame, covering up, lying their way out of things, and making you think it was your fault – all the while seeming to never really receive consequences for their actions commensurate with the pain which they have inflicted.  Especially when they just flippantly move on to their next target.  One aspect of coming to a point of peace in what happened to you at the hands of the narcissist is understanding clearly that in the end God will deal with them – and we can and should leave that to Him.

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Romans 12:19

19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

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Narcissism and Job Performance

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Proverbs 16:18

18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.

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We have seen in these pages that the Bible discusses consequences to insolent pride – but sometimes it is hard to see in real life since it appears that narcissists almost always “get away with it”.  One area where we would expect the consequences to be seen would be in the area of job performance.

People in many lines of work get their performance evaluated through the eyes of others – thus giving the narcissist the opportunity to manipulate situations to his own advantage.  However, in the field of money management the job performance is summarized in the simple final number of the investment return.  This means that the ultimate job performance is not based on what people think, but on actual results.

A study was done using the field of money management as the “hard number arbiter of job performance results” which shows that narcissists (embedded in a broader group of psycopaths) in fact do have lower job performance.  If you’re interested, here is the article which discusses this:

Psycopath Hedge Fund Managers Make Less Money

 

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God Makes Clear What He Thinks About N’s

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In case you have any doubt about what God thinks of those who have the heart and actions of narcissists, Proverbs 6 makes it very clear

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Proverbs 6:16-19

16 There are six things which the Lord hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood,
18 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,
19 A false witness who utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers.

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Several characteristics in the above list stand out as narcissistic traits

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  1. Haughty eyes
  2. Lying tongue
  3. Heart that devises wicked plans
  4. False witness who utters lies
  5. One who spreads strife among brothers

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The bottom line is that God HATES insolent pride.  It results in much harm to others, and is the single biggest barrier to the prideful person experiencing His true love and goodness.

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All The Reward They Will Ever Get

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Matthew 6:1-18

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

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“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

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The Progression of Fools, p.s. – God Will Ultimately Lower The Boom

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There is a clear warning to those who continue down path of the progression of fools

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Proverbs 6:12-15

A worthless person, a wicked man,
Is the one who walks with a perverse mouth,
13 Who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet,
Who points with his fingers;
14 Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil,
Who spreads strife.
15 Therefore his calamity will come suddenly;
Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.

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Proverbs 29:1 explains that this sudden calamity does not just happen at the first “mistake” the person made, but actually comes after the wicked person has repeatedly rejected God’s warnings to change his ways.

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Proverbs 29:1

29 A man who hardens his neck after much reproof
Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.

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One example of God’s gracious patience in giving many reproofs and even final “notice” was King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in Daniel 4.   God gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream with a warning to change his ways.  Then God gave him an entire year to repent and change, but Nebuchadnezzar did not.  After the year God lowered the boom and took decisive action to humble him.

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One implication of this for those suffering at the hands of narcissists and fools is that while in our weariness of dealing with it we want it FIXED NOW, God also is gracious and patient with them while at the same time providing grace to us.  But, He will ultimately deal with them.

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For more on repentance see Steps To Peace With God, and Fake vs. Sincere Repentance

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God Will Most Definitely Settle Accounts With The Proud and Lofty …….

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We discussed here that God will deal with the proud and haughty.  Isaiah makes it clear that, even though it is not obvious to people now, and even though it may seem slow in coming, a specific day of reckoning for the proud will come.  The proud will think everything is going well, until the tables are instantly turned.

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Isaiah 2:12-22

12 For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning
Against everyone who is proud and lofty
And against everyone who is lifted up,
That he may be abased.
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Narcissist Consequences – Two Degrees To Their Judgment

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The unbelieving Narcissist* will receive a greater degree of judgment based on the spiritual light which has been given him……..

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Matthew 11:20-24

20 Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.24 Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”

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……And the unbelieving Narcissist* will receive a greater degree of judgment based on the evil which he has done

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1 Thessalonians 2:16

16 hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.

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Therefore, if you demonstrate truth and godly responses to a Narcissist, and the N responds with  evil, he will be multiplying for himself the level of his own eternal judgment in 2 different ways – simultaneously rejecting the light and adding to the amount of evil he has done.   Very serious stuff, indeed.

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Note:  The above discussion relates to Narcissists who have NOT had their sins covered – see here and here for a further discussion

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Click here for “How To Know God Personally”

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  • Narcissism is the modern colloquial term for what the Bible calls “insolent pride” – see here for more
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Narcissist Traits – Honoring Themselves Instead of Working

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Proverbs 12:9

Better is he who is lightly esteemed and has a servant
Than he who honors himself and lacks bread.

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The priority for a narcissist is self-exaltation.  If no one else is there to honor them, they won’t hesitate to honor themselves.  They will go around bragging about their “accomplishments” instead of actually going out and making them happen – talking instead of working.

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There is No Defense Against God’s Humbling

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Obadiah 1-4

Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom—

We have heard a report from the Lord,
And an envoy has been sent among the nations saying,
“Arise and let us go against her for battle”—
“Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
You are greatly despised.
“The arrogance of your heart has deceived you,
You who live in the clefts of [b]the rock,
In the loftiness of your dwelling place,
Who say in your heart,
‘Who will bring me down to earth?’
“Though you build high like the eagle,
Though you set your nest among the stars,
From there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord.

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It is easy for a proud person to think that he can build a strong enough wall through his wealth or fame to prevent himself from being humbled by God.  Of course, a proud person does not consciously think in terms of being humbled by God (as he rarely acknowledges God), but in terms of “bad things happening” to him.  But as God demonstrated through Nebuchadnezzar, He is able to humble anyone.  And as He declares here with Edom (family line of Esau, another N), it does not matter how much an N tries to guard against it, if God decides to humble an N, He will make it happen.

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  • Narcissism is the modern colloquial term for what the Bible calls “insolent pride” – see here
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