Better is he who is lightly esteemed and has a servant
Than he who honors himself and lacks bread.
Better is he who is lightly esteemed and has a servant
Than he who honors himself and lacks bread.
It is frustrating, annoying, and maddening when we see narcissists – those with insolent pride – skate by and seemingly get away with their self-absorbed abusive actions. We wonder when justice will prevail. God does not immediately lower the boom, but He has set them in slippery places and ultimately will (Psalm 73). And when He does, there is nothing can do to stop it. God explained this in His prophecy about the nation of Edom in the Old Testament book of Obadiah.
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”—
2 “Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
You are greatly despised.
3 “The arrogance of your heart has deceived you,
You who live in the clefts of the rock,
In the loftiness of your dwelling place,
Who say in your heart,
‘Who will bring me down to earth?’
4 “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.
It is easy for a proud person to think that he can build a strong enough wall through his wealth or fame or ability to manipulate situations 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 (the descendants of Esau, a case study in narcissism), 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.
.The devising of folly is sin, And the scoffer is an abomination to men.Proverbs 24:9.“Scoffer” is one of the names given to people with insolent pride…….
“Proud,” “Haughty,” “Scoffer,” are his names, Who acts with insolent pride.Proverbs 21:24.
Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.Matthew 23:12.
Pay heed, you senseless among the people;
And when will you understand, stupid ones?
He who planted the ear, does He not hear?
He who formed the eye, does He not see?
He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke,
Even He who teaches man knowledge?
The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
That they are a mere breath.
As we said here, one fear we may have in our dealings with a narcissist (one with insolent pride) is that the narcissist might be “getting away with it”. Holding on to this fear prevents us from releasing things to God and turning our focus to our own heart, wise actions, and responsibilities – rather than on what the narcissist is doing. Our fear that the narcissist will receive no consequences is based on two separate fears: 1. That God does not see what’s going on, and 2. That even if He does see, He is not going to do anything about it.
Even though a narcissist / one with insolent pride may work very hard to conceal their true goals, motives, and tactics for achieving what they want – and even though they may fool most people most of the time – God fully sees what they’re doing and the evil in their hearts that is driving their actions. And He will not let them get away with it, but will judge them and provide the exact consequences needed.
Letting God do His job frees us to focus on gaining the wisdom we need to deal with our narcissist.
O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
In Psalm 131, “great matters” refers to God orchestrating everything as part of His grand plan for a purpose of love. And “things too difficult for me” are things that God controls on my behalf and for my good, out of His goodness and grace. Leaving things of God to God, and focusing on my own part, lays the foundation for a far greater peace.
We are frequently tempted to lament that the arrogant “get away with it” – prospering, thinking far more highly of themselves than they should, and even speaking against God. This was certainly the case of the Psalmist in Psalm 73
Surely God is good to Israel,
To those who are pure in heart!
But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling,
My steps had almost slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For there are no pains in their death,
And their body is fat.
They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
The garment of violence covers them.
Their eye bulges from fatness;
The imaginations of their heart run riot.
They mock and wickedly speak of oppression;
They speak from on high.
They have set their mouth against the heavens,
And their tongue ]parades through the earth.
But little do they know that when God says “enough”, they will fall from grace with surprising speed.
When I pondered to understand this,
It was troublesome in my sight
Until I came into the sanctuary of God;
Then I perceived their end.
Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
How they are destroyed in a moment!
They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!
Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form.
We see modern-day examples, but a prominent Biblical example of this sudden “fall from grace” iss Haman (book of Esther), a big-time narcissist. Haman had been given a position of highest prominence in the kingdom a year earlier, but used that position to orchestrate a national attack against God’s people. As a result he went from congratulating himself for Queen Esther’s invitation to a private banquet with the king, to being hung on the gallows in less than a week.
God knows everything, is always aware, and always working in accordance with His purposes and ways. He is “opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” He always has the last say, in His way and in His timing.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
We may think N’s are getting away with it, but God says that in the end they will be humbled.
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 unrepentant proud will come. Proud mankind will think everything is going well, until the tables are instantly turned.
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.
Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
We have seen in these pages that the Bible discusses consequences for insolent pride – but sometimes it is hard to see in real life since it appears that narcissists almost always “get away with it” (see Psalm 73). 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 psychopaths) in fact do have lower job performance. If you’re interested, here is the article which discusses this:
Why would a narcissist have lower job performance? Because they think they know best, are unwilling to listen to wise counsel or anything that might prove them wrong, and in their superiority believe that minimal effort should result in maximum accolades.
If you are ever in doubt about whether God is passive about insolent pride (narcissism, see here), Proverbs 6:17-19 puts it at the top of the list of things which God hates.
“There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him
- Haughty eyes (“Proud, haughty, scoffer are his names who acts with insolent pride” Proverbs 21:24)
- A lying tongue
- Hands that shed innocent blood
- A heart that devises wicked plans
- Feet that run rapidly to evil
- A false witness who utters lies
- And one who spreads strife among brother
Look closely and you will recognize most of these actions as those of narcissists. We may fear that they “get away with it”, but God assures us that they do not.
,Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord;Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.
We may not know how or when He deals with the proud person, and may not see it, but we should not doubt that He will indeed do what He says.
Note: Narcissism is the colloquial term for what the Bible calls “insolent pride” (see here)
6 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
2 “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.
The devising of folly is sin,
And the scoffer is an abomination to men.
To quickly review, “scoffer” is one of the Biblical terms used to label what the secular world calls a narcissist. The modern secular terms also include narcissistic personality disorder (implying a higher degree of “bad”) and malignant narcissism (signifying the highest degree of “bad”), while previous generations used phrases like “delusions of grandeur” and “megalomania”. As discussed in the book based on this blog:
While malignant narcissism is shorthand for the more extreme form, all narcissism is malignant – to a degree. A narcissist’s self-centered, self-aggrandizing, “me first-and-only”, “I’m never wrong” heart is intent on benefitting themselves with no thought of you, so that their gain typically comes at some cost to you. This could result in annoyances – like their hogging a conversation, or telling obvious lies to puff themselves up – to flattering you in order to extract something from you – to outright stealing, lying, cheating and stabbing you in the back.
As Proverbs 24:9 says, all scoffers are “an abomination”. The Hebrew word is “toebah” meaning detestable or loathsome. You really hate what they do. And not just you – everyone who sees past their fake charm and flattery. The level of loathing is a function of:
Being denied a promotion because of a backstabbing narcissistic coworker is far different than being annoyed by a relative stranger inflating and bragging about one of their “accomplishments”.
All narcissism is malignant – to a degree. Pride is on a continuum, and while the secular world of psychology tries to make a clinical distinction between “not too much” (not NPD) and “too much” (NPD), that distinction is arbitrary and is in the eye of the one affected.
Is it possible to love a narcissist while at the same time being absolutely devastated by the path they have chosen including the possible impact on you? When I say “love”, I am not referring to the romantic notion, but the most core definition of love – God’s type of love. To answer this, let’s look at two examples in the Bible.
Absalom was a narcissist and tried to overthrow his father David to become king of Israel. Absalom’s move was part of God’s discipline of David for his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12), while God ultimately punished Absalom for his insolent pride and rebellion.
David clearly understood that Absalom had become his enemy, described in Psalm 3 “A Psalm of David when he fled from his son Absalom”,
Lord, how my enemies have increased!
Many are rising up against me.
Many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
But You, Lord, are a shield around me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
I was crying out to the Lord with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah
l lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, Lord; save me, my God!
For You have struck all my enemies on the [e]cheek;
You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
May Your blessing be upon Your people!
But what was David’s response? He first told his military that, in spite of the fact that Absalom was trying to overthrow (and possibly kill) him, they should deal gently with him,
But the king commanded Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the people heard when the king commanded all the commanders regarding Absalom.
2 Samuel 18:5
and when Absalom was killed….
Then the king trembled and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And this is what he said as he walked: “My son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!”
2 Samuel 18:33
How could this be? David’s lament for Absalom was so obvious that his people complained that David would have rather them die than Absalom (2 Samuel 19).
A second example is found in Matthew 23. Jesus had just finished a “truth encounter” with the narcissistic Pharisees, clearly and bluntly outlining to them various aspects of their insolently proud hypocrisy.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who have been sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
David was a “man after God’s heart”, and Jesus was God Himself. Both showed us God’s heart for insolently proud people walking in rebellion against Him. While justice will (and should) occur, God – as illustrated by both David and Jesus – still has an underlying heart of love and care for those insolently proud recipients of that justice. He deeply mourns their outcome.
The implications for us in dealing with the narcissists in our lives are:
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart rejoice when he stumbles,
Otherwise, the Lord will see and be displeased,
And turn His anger away from him.
Do not get upset because of evildoers
Or be envious of the wicked;
For there will be no future for the evil person;
The lamp of the wicked will be put out.
Jesus illustrated how a scoffer operates through a story of a Pharisee and a tax collector praying in the temple:
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.”
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”).
The Pharisee was
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].
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).
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.
[ii] From HELPS Word Studies
[iii] From dictionary.com
But they (scribes and Pharisees) do all their deeds to be noticed by men…..
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:
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.
To give an example from Isaiah 2,
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)
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)
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)
Isaiah’s conclusion is to stop worrying about what people think, since their true standing will be revealed in the end.
Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils;
For why should he be esteemed? (Isaiah 2:22)
There are many similar passages, for example:
“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
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
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.
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.
As we stated in a previous blog post, one way of dealing with narcissists is to fact check everything.
The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him. Proverbs 18:17
The ultimate fact-check will come on the day of judgment. Jesus said
“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
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.
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,
Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely. Proverbs 25:14
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
“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
The hypocrites Jesus refers to in Matthew 6 are the Pharisees Jesus directly speaks to in Matthew 23.
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.