Not everyone who claims to be a Christian actually is a Christian. In this case, a person doesn’t see religion as their need for a Savior who can heal them and make their life and eternity the way God meant for them. Instead, they see religion as a means to get something else they want in life. So they set out to convince others of their Christianity to manipulate them into giving them whatever it is they are seeking. It could be fame, fortune (i.e., those infamous t.v. preachers), or hiding a false self behind a false persona. And that is where narcissism comes in. So, what does a spiritual narcissist really think about God?
As a general rule, a spiritual narcissist doesn’t think of God as God any more than he thinks of people as people. Everything is a tool to get him the validation, praise and accolades that he so desperately desires. He doesn’t see God as the solution to his narcissism, even though that is exactly what the power of God can do for him. Instead, he sees that he wants God’s power for his own–to manipulate others into thinking that he is actually an equal to God Himself or God’s right-hand man.
Of course, while this is a good answer, there is a whole lot more to the story. Let’s take a closer look.
A Little Background on What Narcissism Looked Like in Jesus’ Day!
Matthew 15:8 says, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” The passage is actually Jesus talking to and about the Pharisees in his day. They were considered the top religious leaders in the temple. But they were anything but. They were incredibly prideful and treated the temple and Christianity like an exlusive country club. They didn’t want just anybody to be a part of it. So they made all kinds of rules way beyond what God had set in place and made it virtually impossible for anybody to become a part of them unless they wanted them to.
What kind of rules? According to Bible.org, they made up 613 laws which included 365 negative commands and 248 positive laws. The article goes on to say that these outrageous and heretical laws “produced a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness.”
Jesus did not mince words with the Pharisees. They had no love for Him, either. He made it clear to everyone that they were harmful to Christianity and false in their beliefs and rules. He even called them whitewashed tombs (painted graves that looked good on the outside, but were full of death and destruction on the inside–ouch!) in Matthew 23:27-28.
What the Spiritual Narcissist Really Thinks About God
So what does this have to do with what the spiritual narcissist really thinks about God? Although narcissists have been around since the world started, the Pharisees were kind of the original spiritual narcissists, at least in the sense of organization.
Spiritual narcissists think that they can manipulate God in a way that gives them more “street cred” on Earth. And they are not wrong about this. It is pretty easy to fool people into thinking one is better than they really are because most of us like to give people the benefit of the doubt. We like to think the best of other people, generally speaking.
Christians find stronger Christians inspirational. They gravitate toward the hope of a life well-lived in Christ. Because spiritual narcissists put out that vibe of being a spiritual leader, many people follow them, hoping that they too will one day be a better Christian.
The problem begins when the words of the spiritual narcissist don’t line up with their actions. And people start to realize things are not what they seem. While the narcissist claims to know the will of God and what God would say in whatever circumstance they are talking about, it is really more about them and their views than God. Their words are couched in “what God would want.” They may even quote Scriptures. But the quotes are wrong for the situation. They are just manipulating God and Scripture to get what they want.
That is because the Spiritual narcissist thinks about God as a means to an end. He isn’t trying to be a good example of Christianity. And he really isn’t even trying to serve God from his heart. Instead, one or two things are happening. First, he could be just simply putting on an act to make people think he is a Christian, fully knowing he is not. Or, he could be thinking he can even manipulate God into thinking that he is serving Him with the perfect prayer, service, or other Christian act. Really, the difference between the two options is whether or not he really believes in God and how to reconcile his belief with his narcissism.
*Note: For the best resources on understanding and dealing with religious narcissism, click here!
Can a Narcissist Truly Believe in God?
There is a verse in the Bible that says that even the demons believe in God and tremble (James 2:19) So, yes, a narcissist can believe in God. He may even believe in his salvation in God. But if he is using God as a tool to show others (or even God) for the sake of appearing like such a good Christian, that is not the same as trusting in God for your salvation. And it is an incredibly horrific thing to do to God if you believe that God died for your sins and you owe Him your life and eternity.
So, while it appears that a narcissist can believe in God, at least cerebrally, he cannot truly believe in God unless he is willing to give up his position as virtually assimilating God. His cold heart will never follow where his words say he is in God’s world.
The problem here is that as mere mortals, we cannot be certain who is a Christian and who is not. The Bible says many people will claim to be Christians in the last days who are not. And honestly, I think there are a lot of narcissists who think they are Christians because they think they can approach God on their own terms. But we all show narcissistic tendencies from time to time because we can all be selfish. And we can’t draw a line based on a certain number of behaviors displayed.
At the end of the day, only God knows people’s hearts. It is our job to pray for those we know and love. And to lovingly work toward sanctification with them based on their testimony. We can let God do the judging when the time is right.
This does not mean that we have to let people who treat us poorly continue to treat us poorly. There are plenty of Scriptures that show us not to let narcissists continue to abuse us. One of the most famous ones is 2 Timothy 3:1-9.
Who Can Be a Spiritual Narcissist?
When somebody believes that their spirituality has elevated to a level beyond those around them, making them superior to everyone else, that would make them a spiritual narcissist.
Let me clarify a bit more. Everyone has feelings that they know more than someone else about something. And they probably do. That counts in spiritual situations too.
But the difference between knowing more than those around you and what you do with that information will determine whether someone is a spiritual narcissist or simply a human being.
- Not allowing others to say that they are wrong about anything because they are smarter than them.
- Using their knowledge to take others down a notch instead of lifting them up and encouraging them.
- Using their knowledge to make themselves feel better about their position among their peers.
So, who tends to be a spiritual narcissist? There are several. Clergy would be the top of the list in the spiritual narcissist area. That doesn’t mean all clergy, or even most clergy are narcisssits. But it does mean that a good number of spiritual narcissists are clergy because it allows them to exert power and control over people without having to necessarily prove their authority or ability to shepherd people.
Spiritual narcissists can also be found among other positions of leadership in churches, Christian schools, and other Christian organizations. This may be the place that spiritual narcissists are found the most. That is because Christian organizations are always looking for people to minister and volunteer. That allows spiritual narcissists to easily gain positions of authority without proving qualification, even more so than clergy positions.
The Problem With Identifying a Spiritual Narcissist
The problem with identifying a spiritual narcissist is that we can’t know what is actually in another person’s heart. We can identify narcissistic behavior. But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that everyone does something that seems narcissistic at some point.
The problem is when the narcissistic behavior is a regular pattern of behavior. Even more of a problem emerges when the person is approached about the narcissistic behavior and chooses to lie, blame shift, deny, or minimize the behavior. And they refuse to repent.
At this point, we still can’t necessarily say definitively that the person is a spiritual narcissist, but if it quacks like a duck, then….
There are scriptures that tell us that because spiritual narcissists are unrepentant, we are to shake the dust off our feet and walk away. Or don’t cast your pearls before swine. I’m sure you are getting the idea here. They are so blinded by their evil ways that there is nothing we can do to help them. So God tells us to stay away and protect ourselves.
Check out this video by Melanie Tonia Evans which gives you a bit more information about identifying a spiritual narcissist:
What Makes a Spiritual Narcissist so Self-righteous?
Spiritual narcissists possess an incredibly high amount of self-righteousness. They expect everybody to practically worship the ground they walk on because they see themselves as the personal mouthpiece of God Himself. Of course, they would never say they expect you to worship them. That would be sacreligious. But they expect the highest accolades and praise for what an amazing Christian they are.
So, what makes them see themselves so much more highly than everyone they associate with? Because they don’t see anyone else. They only see themselves and their agenda. And they believe God sees them in the same way they see themselves. So they endeavor to assist God in making sure everyone knows this.
They see themselves as entitled because they think they are better and more godly. I cannot elaborate on why they think this, other than that their words for themselves are so lofty and most of us would never refer to ourselves in such a bold way, even if we did believe we were wiser or more godly than anyone else.
What Does God Think About the Spiritual Narcissist?
God has quite a few choice words for narcissists, spiritual or secular. Here are some of them:
- lovers of self
- lovers of money
- disobedient to parents
- without self control
- lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God
There are probably hundreds of other things God calls narcissists. But you get the idea based on this list.
Proverbs 6:16-19 says,
16“There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
It is incredibly sad to me that narcissists are not willing to look at themselves honestly enough to see what God really sees of them rather than the mask they choose to wear to hide what God knows about them. I always used to wonder why my ex-husband would ccontinue to deny things even when they were proved to be true and would not repent and seek forgiveness and healing. It would be a very scary thing to realize that God is all knowing and that someday they will be standing before Him to answer for all of these things. And to see that narcissists rarely if ever choose to heal is the scariest concept of all. May God save their souls.
The final verse I would like to share with you is Galatians 6:7. It says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” We cannot fool God. Ever.
If you want to see how narcissism has damaged the church, check out this book by Chuck DeGroat called When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse. I was amazed by how spot on it was. It felt like he had been in my house and church taking notes about how narcissism affected my family and church. I bet you will be just as amazed!
Do you have experience with a spiritual narcissist? Were they able to show any healing? How was your relationship affected by them? I would love to hear your story! Please feel free to comment below. If you don’t feel safe commenting in a public forum, feel free to contact me here.
Blessings and hugs,