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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Narcissist* Traits – They Lack Perspective On What’s Important

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Matthew 23:23-24

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin [see note], and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

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Narcissist Tactics – Saying Whatever They Have To, To Get What They Want

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John 19:15

So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate *said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

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As we saw in

Narcissism Case Studies – The Pharisees, Overview

Narcissist Case Studies – Pharisees – How We Know They Were Narcissists, Part I

Narcissist Case Studies – How We Know “The Pharisees” Were Narcissists, Part 2

Additional Perspectives on The Pharisees

 

the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day were classic Narcissists.   A careful analysis of their actions can give some clues as to how narcissists approach things.  In this case, there was no way that the chief priests really wanted Caesar to be their king – the whole nation of Israel was chafing at Roman rule and would have loved to cast it off.  And they were actively looking for a Jewish king.  So when the chief priests, said “we have no king but Caesar”, they were blatantly lying simply to make sure that Pilate did not let Jesus go.

As discussed in other posts, some of the Messianic Psalms clearly lay out the characteristics of the narcissistic / insolent pride Pharisees.  And a key tactic was speaking falsehood to get what they wanted.   That is a prime tactic of all narcissists.

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 Psalm 12

12 Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be,
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
They speak falsehood to one another;
With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
The tongue that speaks great things;
Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?”

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Narcissism is the modern colloquial term for what the Bible calls “insolent pride”

Please see Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective for an overview of this blog

 

 

Dealing With Narcissists* – Case Study on “Let Them Alone”

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How Jesus handled His encounters with the narcissistic* Pharisees are very instructive.  The following encounter is a case in point.

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Matthew 15

15 Then some Pharisees and scribes* came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:

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This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”

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Narcissist Tactics – Creating Rules , But Acting Above Those Same Rules

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Matthew 23:4

They (the Pharisees) tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.

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(See here and here and here on how we know that “The Pharisees” were narcissists).

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The Pharisees used their limited co-opted authority as an opportunity to lord it over those whom they could.  One means they used to do this, as well as to prove their superiority, was to create performance requirements which they could then hang on people.  Of course, due to their own exceptionalism, the Pharisees did not bind themselves by those same rules.  That’s for the little people.

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This is a typical narcissist approach – constantly maneuvering, manipulating, and creating situations where they can exercise their rightful position (in their own mind) as top dog – both by creating requirements for others, and by hypocritically and arrogantly thinking they are above those same requirements.

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Please see https://biblicalperspectivesonnarcissism.com/2013/10/21/narcissist-case-studies-in-the-bible/  for an introduction to narcissism case studies in the Bible.

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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Narcissist Case Study – Self-Justification Through Technical Loopholes

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Luke 10:25-37

25 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

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As was made clear by his answer, the lawyer already knew the Biblical answer to his question, implying that his question was not a sincere inquiry.  Luke called it a “test” – the lawyer was simply asking the question to see what kind of response he would get, with the chance perhaps that Jesus would say something that the lawyer could use against him – or possibly to show that he was somehow better than Jesus.  This is a typical narcissist tactic. Continue reading

Narcissist* Traits – They Do Not Think They Are In Need of Help (Pharisee Case Study)

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John 9:39-41

39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?”41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

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The narcissistic Pharisees were in fact blind, even though they claimed that they could see.  They were blind to the true condition of their hearts, thinking themselves to be righteous teachers and spiritual leaders, when in fact their hearts were full of evil thoughts, desires, and motives.  Jesus later was very direct in pointing out to the Pharisees their blindness. Continue reading

Narcissist Tactics – They Mock and Make Excuses (Pharisee Case Study)

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Luke 16:13-15

13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. 15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

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[Please see here and here for more on how we know the Pharisees were narcissists].

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This is one of the clearer examples of how narcissists work.  In their hearts, the Pharisees were focused on money and the “finer things of life” that it would bring.  But in their pride, they also wanted to be highly thought of by men for their piety (including the all-sufficiency of God).  Jesus called out their hypocrisy and created a dilemma for them with His statement that they could not make both God and money number one in their lives – with the clear implication that they had chosen money over God.

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The narcissistic Pharisees had two ways of dealing with this.

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First was to mock (or scoff at) the One telling them they could not have it both ways.  Their intent was to tear down, from a position of “superiority”, and discredit the one getting in way of their greed and pride.

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Proverbs 9:7-8

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself,
And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
Reprove a wise man and he will love you.

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Amos 5:10

10 They hate him who reproves in the gate,
And they abhor him who speaks with integrity.

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Second was to make justification (in modern terms – making excuses), or to construct a clever series of reasons, for what they were doing for the purpose of making people around them agree with them and continue to think highly of them.

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But Jesus made it clear to them that even though they may get away with fooling men, they were not fooling God.  God could clearly see what was in their hearts, and would judge them based on that – and not based on what the Pharisees had gotten men to believe.

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They might get short term kudos from men for how wonderful they are, but they would ultimately have to answer to God for the evil in their hearts.

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Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective

Narcissist* Traits – Creating “Righteous-Sounding” Excuses To Get What They Want

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Mark 7:9-13

He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

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Jesus was speaking here to the “Pharisees and some of the scribes”  [See herehere, and here for discussions on how we know the Pharisees were narcissists*].

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The Mosaic instruction for honoring parents was very serious, as illustrated by the severe consequence for speaking evil of them.  So, the Pharisees were caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place – in their greed and selfishness they wanted to keep and use for themselves the money that they should rightfully use to support their parents.  But they also did not want to be seen (by God, or by man) as violating the clear Mosaic law.

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The devious solution they came up with created a mechanism that projected an image of “righteousness” while at the same time giving them what they wanted.   They would give their money “to God”, but it would still be under their control as to how it would be spent – they would the recipient of their own “generosity” instead of their parents.

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This was not just about the Pharisees giving to a “greater and more worthy cause” than their parents – although they certainly wanted it to look that way.  This was a deceitful move  – ignoring the requirement to take care of their parents by acting pious while simultaneously being the recipient.  They were keeping the money for themselves, shirking their responsibilities, and using the false “piety” to further glorify themselves while covering for their evil behavior.

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This is a classic narcissist move – they create an excuse that cannot be criticized or questioned as a smokescreen and cover for their self-centered and selfish action to get what they want.  And, if they can use the smokescreen itself as the very means of getting what they want – all the better.

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Narcissist Traits – They Avoid Accountability (Pharisee Case Study)

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Matthew 27:20-25
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20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21 But the governor said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”22 Pilate *said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all *said, “Crucify Him!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” 25 And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!”

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Acts 5:27-28

27 When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

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We know from here that Pharisees were examples of narcissists / those with insolent pride.  The very people who stirred up the crowds to ask Pilate to release Barrabas and crucify Jesus were the same ones who later were trying to avoid being pegged with responsibility for Jesus’ death.  This is a classic narcissist move – seeking to be above accountability for their actions.  Even when confronted by evidence to the contrary.
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Note:  The point of this entry is not to say “the Jews killed Jesus”, but to illustrate the narcissistic tendency to avoid accountability for the very actions for which the narcissist is responsible.  The Pharisees were not all narcissists, and the actions of Matthew 27 and Acts 5 were ultimately done by individuals.   See here for an additional discussion on calling the Pharisees “narcissists”.
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Also, there is additional reading on the various Jewish theological schools of thought and practice @ http://www.centralcal.com/crist2.htm
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*Narcissist is the modern colloquial term for what the Bible calls “insolent pride” – see here for more

Narcissist Traits – They Have A Tendency Toward “Legalism” (Pharisee Case Study)

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Matthew 23:23-28

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

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See here and here on how we know that the scribes and Pharisees are a case study in narcissism

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Legalism is a focus on technical, outward conformance to a standard without regard for the spirit of the standard.  Legalistic people may adjust to comply with the external standard, while neglecting, ignoring, or outright rejecting any changes needed to their core heart attitutde.  The Pharisees were “legalistic” – they were focused on outward compliance with the rules (God’s law plus the ones they made up) rather than on being righteous on the inside.  But God had made it clear from the early days of their people that the focus should be on their hearts:

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Deuteronomy 6:4-6

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart…….

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The scribes and Pharisees knew that commandment, as shown by the lawyer’s response to Jesus’ question….. Continue reading

Narcissist Traits – They Judgmentally Compare Themselves To Others (Pharisee Case Study)

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Mark 7:5

The Pharisees and the scribes *asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”

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Luke 5:30

30 The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?”

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As we said here, scoffers (those with insolent pride, aka narcissists) set themselves up as judge.   Unless they can somehow get in an official position where they can judge others, they will unofficially compare themselves with others in a judgmental way.    They may not do this consciously, but their instinct for moral superiority makes it natural for them to frequently compare themselves with others, with an eye toward what the others are doing wrong and how they themselves are “better”.   In the verses, above, the Pharisees were comparing what Jesus and His disciples did with what they did.  In both cases, what Jesus did was not wrong – but the Pharisees set their own actions up as the standard to live by, and then judged Jesus and His disciples for not matching up to their standard.  Of course, they did not come right out and say, “you’re wrong”, but expressed their judgmental spirit through questions. Continue reading

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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Additional Perspectives on The Pharisees

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Since the Pharisees are one of the key Biblical case studies on Narcissists and how to deal with them (see How We Know The Pharisees Were Narcissists), it is important that we understand the entire picture.  For some additional background:

 

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