Narcissist Case Study – Uzziah

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When seemingly “normal” people become arrogant and abusive after they get a little power or success, we may reasonably wonder whether the seeds of that pride were latent in their heart prior to their success.  Uzziah, King of Judah is a case in point, as described in 2 Chronicles 26

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26:1 And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the place of his father Amaziah…….

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 He did right in the sight of the Lord according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him…….

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……Hence his fame spread afar, for he was marvelously helped until he was strong.  16 But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. 

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All The Reward They Will Ever Get

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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.

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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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Narcissist Case Study – Absalom, David’s Son

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In the case of Absalom, there is not a clear statement in the Bible about his insolent pride / narcissism.  However, there are clues regarding Absalom’s drive for self-aggrandisement, which ultimately led to his own death.   Absalom’s quest for exaltation resulted in his destruction, and in the process was a tool used by God to chasten David for his sin in the case of Bathsheba and Uriah.

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Dealing With Narcissists – Jesus, Simon, and the Woman

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While Jesus often taught about how to respond to life situations from a “Heavenly perspective”, He also frequently demonstrated it.  One example that is relevant to our study on how to deal with narcissists is when Jesus was invited to dinner by the Pharisee, Simon.

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Luke 7:36-50

36 Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume,38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.

39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”

40 And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” Continue reading

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Narcissist Case Study – Eliab, David’s Oldest Brother

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Psalm 19:7

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

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A “testimony of the Lord” is a Biblical account of God’s dealing with someone in accordance with His nature and His ways.  While those accounts often do not specifically outline the Biblical principles at play, they are excellent illustrations of truth gleaned in other parts of the Bible.  A “case study” or a “cautionary tale” might be modern ways of referring to these accounts.  And as Psalm 19:7 and I Corinthians 10:11 state, these accounts can provide wisdom to those who are naive (or simple).

One such account is that of Eliab, David’s oldest brother.

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1 Chronicles 2:13-15

13 and Jesse became the father of Eliab his firstborn, then Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, 14 Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, 15 Ozem the sixth, David the seventh;

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Narcissism Case Studies – Diotrephes

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3 John 1:9-10

9 I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. 10 For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.

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The tip-off to Diotrephes’ narcissism / insolent pride was his “love to be first among them”.   His insolent pride resulted in

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  • Not accepting what the apostle John was saying.
  • Accusing John with wicked words
  • Not receiving (ie – providing the opportunity) others who might challenge him
  • Getting rid of those who might possibly side with others

Classic narcissist behavior.

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Tragically, there are too many pastors and leaders of ministries who have the “Diotrephes Syndrome”.  Their core purpose is self-exaltation instead of shepherding the flock of God.  They construct their “ministries” and message around what will best serve their delusions of grandeur.  These are some of the false prophets whom Jesus warned us about

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Matthew 7:15-16

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits.

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God will ultimately deal with these guys.  One way of protecting against them is to use a Biblically-based church leadership model of shared leadership.
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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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Ananias And Sapphira

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Narcissists will often lie in order to both get what they want while at the same time looking good in the eyes  of others.

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There is a case study in Acts 4:34-5:11 about a couple – Ananias and Sapphira – who wanted to maintain their standing in the community and get the acclaim that came from being outrageously generous, without being as generous as they pretended.  They faked it.

The book of Acts describes a very early church that was incredibly generous in meeting each other’s needs, to the point that “there was not a needy person among them (Acts 4:34).  People were even going so far as to sell their land and houses to provide for the needs of their fellow believers in Jesus.

Ananias and Sapphira wanted to look like they were as generous as everyone else – pride in maintaining an outward appearance – but they really did not want to give up the full proceeds from the sale of their property (inward greed).  So, they deceptively made it look like they were bringing the whole proceeds when in fact they were not.

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But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet.  But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 

Acts 5:1-4

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The consequences to both Ananias and Saphira were surprisingly severe – God struck them both dead on the spot.  Ananias and Sapphira brought into the church the Pharisaic tendency to feign righteousness while hiding greed.  God’s severe response sent a clear message to His emerging Church – lying for the sake of appearances, combined with selfish motives and secret deception, was not acceptable.

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Narcissist Case Study – Simon The Magician

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Acts 8:9-24

Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; 10 and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” 11 And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 13 Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, Continue reading

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A Prayer For God To Show Whose Side He’s On

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David dealt with three big narcissists in his life – his oldest brother Eliab, his benefactor Saul, and his son Absalom.  As David was “a man after God’s heart” who turned his hurts into prayers, it is divinely natural for David to talk to God about those in his life with insolent pride.  These prayers in the Psalms provide a range of examples for how we can pray in our own difficult situations.

One example is in Psalm 86:14-17

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O God, arrogant men have risen up against me,
And a band of violent men have sought my life,
And they have not set You before them.
But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.

Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Oh grant Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your handmaid.
Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

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The word David uses for “arrogant” in verse 14 is “zed”, the same word for insolent pride found in Proverbs 21:24 – “proud, haughty, scoffer, are his names who acts with insolent pride”.

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David specifically prayed for 4 things.

  • “Turn to me and gracious to me” – David humbly asked God for His gracious help
  • “Grant Your strength to Your servant – David didn’t ask that he would be stronger, but that God would give David HIS strength – a much stronger strength
  • “Save the son of Your handmaid” – David cried to God, “save me!”
  • “Show me a sign for good, that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed”

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This last one is particular interesting.  David asked God to do something special for him that would prove to the arrogant narcissist that God was on his side.

Narcissists are in a power play with their targets in a quest for dominance.  This leaves the target with two “natural” choices – fight back to win, or acquiesce and be a doormat.  (In some cases you can avoid them – see here).   But there is another option – rather than do head to head battle with someone seeking superiority, David showed that we can invite God into the picture.  God can exalt us in front the narcissist in a way that puts the narcissist in his place.

This sign of favor may not always come on our timetable, but just as God will ultimately show with Jesus, it will come.

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Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.    Philippians 2:5-11

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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 Case Studies – The Pharisees – How Jesus Responded To Their Backbiting

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He *said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.

Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?”  ut when Jesus heard this, He said, It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassionand not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

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[Note:  Please see herehere, and here on how we know that the Pharisees were narcissists]

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Here are some observations:

  1. The Pharisees wouldn’t be caught dead eating with the tax collectors and sinners – they were too much above that.
  2. But, Jesus showed them up by eating with the tax collectors and sinners, and not doing things “the Pharisees’ way”
  3. So,while the Pharisees could not criticize Jesus for who He was (ie NOT a tax collector and sinner), they criticized Him for associating with people that they had deemed “unacceptable”.  He was not following THEIR self-made rules of who you could and could not associate with
  4. But rather than taking their issue to Jesus, they sniped at him to His disciples.  Cowardly?  Trying to undermine Him by driving a wedge between Jesus and His disciples – planting seeds of doubt in their minds?
  5. In this instance, Jesus proactively responded to their criticism.  As the Pharisees’ comments were not directed directly to Him He could have let it go.   It says “when Jesus heard this” – it may have been that the disciples reported the Pharisees’ comments to Him.

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Why and How did He respond?

  1. He may have wanted to deal with the doubt about Him which the Pharisees seeded in the minds of His disciples
  2. He used the Pharisees’ criticism of His ministry as an opportunity to teach the disciples what His ministry was all about.  God used the narcissists to present Jesus with a teaching moment.  And Jesus knew what to do with that opportunity.
  3. Jesus did not rebuke the Pharisees (do not rebuke a scoffer or he will hate you).  Instead He gave them them the same lesson He taught His disciples – “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.”
  4. But then He also admonished them with an instruction / challenge – “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassionand not sacrifice,’”
  5. And finally, He explained Himself with a truth (“for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”) that they could easily use to justify themselves – if they were further hardening their hearts by continuing to think that they were  – or use to seek Him.   IE – a Pharisee who heard Jesus’ last phrase could easily say, “Oh right, He’s here for the bad guys, not me”, or he could humble himself and say, “I’m a sinner, and He’s here to help guys like me”, and begin to seek Him.  Its a parable that gave enough truth to seek Him with, for those who were willing.

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Narcissistic Traits – “I would never have done it that way”

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Matthew 23:29-30 –  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

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The Pharisees were saying in effect, “I would never have done it the way they did it.”  This is a classic statement from a narcissist / scoffer (see here and here how the Pharisees were narcissists / scoffers with insolent pride).   In this situation these narcissists were doing two things at the same time

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  1. They were setting themselves up as judge of other’s actions (see here for Scoffers – Narcissists as Judge)
  2. They were setting themselves up as superior to the other person.  But as typical of the Narcissist, the superiority was only in their own minds – not in reality – and didn’t actually have to be demonstrated.  It is very easy to say after the fact “I would never have done that”, when you don’t have to actually prove it through your actions.

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To top it off, they were so arrogant that they were willing to trash their own ancestors in order to exalt themselves.

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But Jesus turned the tables and called them on it:

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Matthew 23:31-32 – So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.  Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.

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Entrapment To Destroy

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The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them.  So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor. 

They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth.  Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”  

But He detected their trickery and said to them, “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.”  And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent.

Luke 20:19-26

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The Pharisees here were clear examples of narcissists.  There are several lessons on how narcissists operate from the above narrative:

  • The scoffers (narcissists) tried to eliminate the threat to their supremacy.
  • They attempted to entrap Jesus by presenting a no-win situation, on a subject that could get Him in deep trouble with the authorities if He answered wrong.
  • They sent others to do their dirty work (this time).

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Notice the flattery these Pharisees used as part of their work to ruin Jesus.   In verse 21, “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth.”  This is what is discussed in Proverbs:

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A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

Proverbs 26:28

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They Snipe At Those Of Whom They Are Jealous

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And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.  The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Luke 5:29-32

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The Pharisees were jealous of the attention and honor Jesus was receiving at this reception organized especially for Him.  Rather than recognize their own jealously, they began to sneeringly condemn and criticize everyone else at the reception.  They took a condescending, judgmental, holier-than-thou attitude toward the entire crowd by labeling them all as sinners, and then arrogantly judged Jesus for not separating from the guests.  They showed their insincere cowardice by whispering against Jesus behind his back instead of approaching him with their concerns.   This was all an arrogant outflowing of their jealously – cloaked as “holiness”.

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Jesus knew about the Pharisees grumbling to His disciples.  He could have rebuked them for the jealously at the root of their comments, or for their insolent pride at looking down upon virtually everyone in the room.  However, lowering himself to their level, He pointed them and anyone else listening to a much higher point – the need for the willing to recognize their spiritual sickness.  The proud Pharisees naturally would not recognize their need and would not receive healing.

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This was both a subtle rebuke to the Pharisees’ self-centered blind jealously, a demonstration of His willingness to confront others’ error for the disciples’ benefit.  And in the process, He demonstrated Proverbs 26:4-5:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him.  Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes.

Proverbs 26:4-5

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