Narcissism and the Breastplate of Righteousness

In more recent years, much has been discussed about the topic of narcissism. Is it because narcissism is on the rise? There seems to be a growing sense that it is. There certainly is an increase of interest in the term and a surge in debate about it. But what do we know of its origin?

The term “narcissism” comes from Book III of the Roman poet Ovid‘s Metamorphoses, which was written in the year 8 AD, during the reign of Caesar Augustus. In the poem, Narcissus falls in love with his own image, after having spurned the advances of many other potential lovers. Wikipedia’s succinct description of the self-centered personality style is that of “having an excessive interest in one’s physical appearance or image and an excessive preoccupation with one’s own needs, often at the expense of others.” [1][2]

An earlier work, dated between 592 and 570 BC, speaks of one whose “heart was lifted up” because of his own beauty and his riches. He thought so highly of himself that his great wisdom became corrupted. He wanted to be worshiped as God. The author was the prophet Ezekiel, who spoke of Lucifer, called the prince and king of Tyrus in Ezekiel 28:12-17, but whose message points back to an issue in Heaven before the creation of the world.

“It was a being of wonderful power and glory that had set himself against God. Of Lucifer the Lord says, ‘Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.’ Ezekiel 28:12. Lucifer had been the covering cherub. He had stood in the light of God’s presence. He had been the highest of all created beings, and had been foremost in revealing God’s purposes to the universe.” DA 758.4

In Heaven itself God’s law of love was broken. “Sin originated in self-seeking [or what we now call narcissism]. Lucifer, the covering cherub, desired to be first in heaven. He sought to gain control of heavenly beings, to draw them away from their Creator, and to win their homage to himself. Therefore he misrepresented God, attributing to Him the desire for self-exaltation. With his own evil characteristics he sought to invest the loving Creator. Thus he deceived angels. Thus he deceived men. He led them to doubt the word of God, and to distrust His goodness. Because God is a God of justice and terrible majesty, Satan caused them to look upon Him as severe and unforgiving.” DA 21.3

We find this narcissistic spirit really only seeks to defame others, even God, in order to garner worshipful adoration for self.

Isaiah described the personality and the heavenly scene this way: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! [how] art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:12-14 KJV). The wraps came off on Earth, however, when Lucifer, now Satan, outright stated to Jesus the Christ, “If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine” (Luke 4:7).

Securing worship was what it was all about. Yet Christ, “being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8 KJV). God became man and served mankind.

Especially to those of us who live in these days, the warning alarm sounded about this personality that would rather be served than serve. It was the Apostle Paul, who sounded the alarm, saying, “In the last days, perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent [without self-control], fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady [rash], highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:1-7 KJV).

How is that for a narcissistic personality!

But did you notice how Paul says you should respond? From such a person, Paul says, “turn away.” In fact, even psychologists today agree with Scripture in this case. “Cutting ties with a narcissistic partner, family member, or boss may eventually be the best if not the only solution.” 

Nevertheless, remember that, as a Christian, you are the servant of the Lord. Even though you must turn away, don’t leave with an evil spirit. You must avoid arguing. Instead, strive to be gentle to all, even to the narcissist, if it be possible. When the opportunity arises, be ready to patiently provide the truth of God’s Word with a meek and humble disposition. Because nothing is impossible with God, that person could potentially repent and eventually acknowledge the truth. Pray that they recover themselves out the snare of the devil, who has taken them captive by him at his will. This biblical advice is laid out in Paul’s 2 letter to Timothy 3:24-26.

To do this ministry, it takes a delicate and tough balance. Our Savior perfected it. Although He never joined in sin with the sinner, they knew His love for them never abated. “God, in his great mercy, bore long with Lucifer,” while he was still Heaven. That same mercy was evident throughout the earthly ministry of Christ, even to the death of the cross. We see how He interacted with the unconverted disciples, like Peter and Judas. With a loving heart, He sympathized with the sinner, but stood firm in obedience to God, the Father.

Sadly, professed Christians and churches are known to bend the rules of righteousness in an effort to win the interest of outsiders just to swell the membership of the church or to be approved in the world. In this, they fail both the potential member and God Himself. We must remember that friendship with the world is enmity with God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4 KJV).

Therefore, we must all be careful in all our relationships. While bowels of divine compassion, loving patience, and endurance, must be exhibited, remaining faithful to the precepts of God’s divine law is critical. For this we must be clothed in the armor of God every day. It takes an essential piece of the armor of God that does not bend or yield to external pressure, while it preserves intact the loving compassion of the heart. That piece of the armor would be the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness.

How do you secure it? Here’s a suggestion to be done with fervent prayer:

“It would be well to spend a thoughtful hour each day reviewing the life of Christ from the manger to Calvary. We should take it point by point and let the imagination vividly grasp each scene, especially the closing ones of His earthly life. By thus contemplating His teachings and sufferings, and the infinite sacrifice made by Him for the redemption of the race, we may strengthen our faith, quicken our love, and become more deeply imbued with the spirit which sustained our Saviour. If we would be saved at last we must all learn the lesson of penitence and faith at the foot of the cross.” 4T 374.1

This could even work for self-righteous narcissists, if they could get only a glimpse of their need, realize that they have no righteousness of their own, and need the righteousness of Christ. Then they can receive the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness. It is a gift to all who believe and are willing to receive it.

“This covering, the robe of His own righteousness, Christ will put upon every repenting, believing soul. . . . When we submit ourselves to Christ … we live His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the garment of His righteousness. Then, as the Lord looks upon us, He sees, not the fig-leaf garment, not the nakedness and deformity of sin, but His own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah.” ML 311.4

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