The word “narcissism” is not found anywhere in the Bible. But the Bible is not silent regarding issues with narcissism, the consequences of it, and how we should deal with it. In fact, it has so much to say about it that one article cannot cover it entirely. Bryant Evans says regarding Psalm 119, “They describe one who is prideful toward Jehovah and one who thinks, speaks and acts in a way that ignores or even opposes the Lord.” (Preacher’s Study Blog) And the Bible says even more about how to identify and deal with narcissism in those terms.
So, how can I tell you what the Bible says about narcissism in one or two sentences? Tall order, but here goes:
The Bible says we are to avoid narcissism and narcissist like the plague. The terms it uses are foolishness, arrogant pride, liars, folly, whitewashed tombs, boastful, proud, lovers of self, abusive, and so many more terms. There is also much advice on how to deal with narcissism.
So, with that said, let’s take a deeper look at exactly what the Bible says about narcissism.
Table of Contents
Narcissists Make Their Own Form of Godliness Instead of Following God’s Teachings
So what does the Bible say about narcissism pertaining to narcissists making their own form of godliness? Let’s take a look at an example first.
My ex husband hated self help books. He would say that he doesn’t need anyone to tell him what to do, he can figure it out just fine on his own. I could never quite understand that perspective, but it was an effective way to shut me down when I wanted to read a book, learn to do something or improve something with him.
What I have since learned after 30+ years of cluelessness is that narcissists don’t like to be told what to do about anything. They want to choose their own path and be perceived as all knowing in whatever endeavor they are currently pursuing. And that includes even God “telling them what to do.” The authority of God isn’t any different than the authority of anyone else in their mind. Unless they are trying to convince people of what a great submissive follower of Christ they are.
So what does that look like in practical, everyday narcissism? For spiritual narcissists, it looks like the narcissist thinking and/or behaving as though he is God’s right hand man. He behaves as though he has a much closer relationship to God than anyone else can. And that means that what he tells you carries much more weight than any knowledge you could have gained through the Word of God, books, or Christian counsel. It’s almost as big as God personally talking to you with an audible voice.
But the narcissist is also not correctly applying the Word of God. He needs to interpret it in a way that gives him whatever it is he is looking for, whether it is admiration, money, women, attention–literally anything that gives him a leg up.
For the secular narcissist, it is much more simple. They are their own god. There simply is no authority greater than them because there is no God to impose sovereignty over them.
What Scripture Says About Narcissists’ Self-Proclaimed Godhood
What does Scripture say about narcissist’s self proclaimed authority and virtual godhood? 2 Timothy 2:23-26 says this:
“But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.“
What this is effectively saying is that narcissists almost always say anything, no matter how ridiculous, to try to get their way. When it causes quarrels, they keep on going, knowing that if they hold out long enough, everyone else will give in and they win.
On the other hand, if they are willing to repent and submit to God, he may grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth and allow them to escape the trap of the devil after he has literally manipulated their brain to think they are so evil that they experience unbearable shame.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 is even more striking. It says:
“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its’ power; and avoid such men as these.”
Most of this passage lists the characteristics of narcissists. But the last verse sums it up very starkly. First it says that narcissists (or those who behave as such) hold to a “form of godliness.” That certainly isn’t the godliness that we find in the Bible. It is what they invent in their head to make themselves more authoritative. And God’s answer to that: avoid such men as these!
But Wait! There’s More!
2 Timothy 4:3-4 continues that theme. It says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.”
That is exactly what happened with my ex husband. He got to the point that he called our whole denomination ungodly, all because he couldn’t manipulate them with Scripture and intimidation. Then he pursued a church that believed according to his twisted view of Scripture. Unfortunately, he found one very quickly and they encouraged him further down his narcissistic road. It was a hard journey to watch from a distance. It is even more heartbreaking to realize churches who help narcissists are literally everywhere.
And finally, Titus 1:16 says, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed.” This one pretty much sums it up. If your words and your actions do not line up, your actions will reveal the truth.
Narcissists Seek Credit for All the Works They Do
Even covert narcissists need admiration like they need oxygen (this is actually a quote from my ex husband–he knew and acknowledged how much he needed praise for everything he did, no matter the quality of the work).
Luke 20:46-47 says, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
Not only is God saying that they have received their credit or reward for good, but that in the end they will receive the greater condemnation. That is the worst outcome they could possibly want, but they can’t allow their mind to go there. So they do everything they can do for the present moment and disregard God’s words for their future. It is this that actually makes me incredibly sad for them. How trapped they are by their own shame!
Narcissists Have No Love for Others
I think that sometimes narcissists believe that they love their people. What I learned over time is that love depended on what those people were doing for the narcissist. As long as his perceived needs were being met–adoration and credit for everything–then he felt like he was loving and being loved. At the end of the day, it was all about looking out for number one at all costs.
So what does the Bible say about how narcissists have no love for others? Proverbs 29:7 says, “The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, the wicked does not understand such concern.” The point here is that concern for others is so far removed from the mind and heart of the narcissist that he doesn’t even understand having care for others.
What the Bible Says Regarding Narcissists Who Have No Love for Others
1 Corinthians 13:3 says, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Narcissists will go to great lengths to do things that make people think they are amazing. They want to appear like the most productive or the most giving–basically, the most of anything. But God definitely sees through that act. They may be able to fool others into thinking that they are an amazingly giving Christian. But they won’t be able to fool God (they actually think they can, though). And in the end, it is God that they will stand before.
And with that thought, Proverbs 28:14b says, “But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” Often it is maddening to deal with the narcissist always playing people and getting the upper hand. Even worse is when they do horrific things to you behind the scenes while everyone thinks they are an amazing person who pretty much only does amazing things. The hurt is overwhelming.
But rather than dwelling on those aspects of relationship with a narcissist, we can rest knowing that God sees our pain and in the end He will know what true justice looks like. The best thing we can do is focus on our own protection and healing. Making the narcissist pay for what he/she does is not for us to worry about.
Narcissists Will Cause Discord Among the Congregation in Order to Make Themselves Look Better
So what does the Bible say specifically about narcissism and causing discord among the congregation? The book of Proverbs in the Bible is literally full of verses regarding narcissistic people. They speak about the behaviors of the narcissist, how we should deal with them, and what happens to them down the line. Let’s take a look at just a few of them.
“For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble.” Proverbs 4:16
10 “Whoever leads the upright along an evil path will fall into their own trap, but the blameless will receive a good inheritance. 13Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. 14 Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble. 15 Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a helpless people. 16 A tyrannical ruler practices extortion, but one who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long reign. 17 Anyone tormented by the guilt of murder will seek refuge in the grave; let no one hold them back. 18 The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit. 25 The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper. 26 Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.” Proverbs 28:10,13-18, 25-26
So how do these words written thousands of years ago translate to life with narcissistic people today?
Here is a video that elaborates a little bit more on what the Bible actually says about narcissism:
How Narcissistic Scriptures Apply to Present-day Life
While narcissists don’t necessarily go sleepless because they are trying to “make someone stumble,” they certainly do spend a good deal of time scheming how they are going to put themselves on top. This is probably one of the best proof texts of the Bible for showing that a narcissist does indeed realize what they are doing to others. In order to make such elaborate plans, many narcissists actually prove that they are remarkably smart.
The list of behaviors that narcissists are known for is extensive:
- Lead unwitting good people astray
- Hide their wrongdoing in ways that allow them to keep on doing them and throw others under the bus
- Hardening their heart, causing them to do increasingly bad things to others
- Leading wickedly over others
- Tormented by their deeply hidden guilt
- Constantly stirring up conflict
- Trusting in themselves rather than the wisdom of God
This list can go on for miles, but I am sure you get the idea.
I once read that some people believe narcissists are demon possessed because their actions throughout history are so incredibly similar. Nearly all of them resort to the same language patterns and abuse. While this would seem to make a lot of sense, after a significant amount of research, I don’t believe that narcissists are literally demon possessed. I found the concept so fascinating that I spent a lot of time researching it.
Taking in all that Proverbs Says About Narcissism
This is such a small sample of what the book of Proverbs says regarding not just narcissists, but all kinds of unwise people. There is an awesome way to take it all in in good time. The book of Proverbs has 31 chapters. That is one chapter a day for a month. Reading just one chapter a day will help you to focus on how to deal more wisely with all circumstances of life, not just dealing with a narcissist. Following this routine for even just a few months will be a life changing exercise for those who read, meditate, and apply its principles.
In the meantime, if you want to see more of what the book of Proverbs has to say specifically about narcissists, click to check out the following verses:
Narcissists Will Exhibit False Humility
What does the Bible say about narcissists that exhibit false humility? For starters, Colossians 2:18-23 says, “18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
20″Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.“
False Humility in Today’s Church
Humility has been described as “having an accurate assessment of one’s worth.”
The problem with narcissists is that their assessment is way off in both directions. The mask that they wear to keep people from seeing them in real life is false humility. But what they are hiding isn’t arrogance or excessive pride. It’s actually a deep sense of shame. This shame is so deep that they cannot live with it or chance anyone else ever seeing it.
So, in order to wear their mask of spirituality, they have to make themselves look humble. They know that Christians cannot be seen as proud. They do whatever they can to look and feel humble. But while they are trying to appear humble, they are actually using their false humility to get themselves positioned higher than anyone else. Not because they are so arrogant that they think they are the best, but to hide the shame that tells them they will never be seen as good enough.
The Colossians passage above says their actions lack any value in restraining sin. What it does instead is lead many people astray and destroy countless lives of people that get in the narcissist’s way.
Many are fooled by the false humility shown by narcissists in the church. Even though my church leadership publicly explained that they had joined with our counselors as well as many other professionals in psychology and abuse in having my ex husband removed from our home, there were a few that refused to believe it. They even told me they were very upset with the way the church handled our family situation and that I had misled the leadership to make that happen.
My pastor said none of the people that had approached me with their complaints had ever asked him or any of the other church authorities what events had transpired that led to his removal. They just knew that they wanted to hold on to the mask that he showed everyone rather than what was really happening.
By this time, I had learned that my emotional health was not dependent on receiving unilateral support from everyone. In fact, there are many people that are not emotionally healthy themselves to discern what is going on. And there isn’t anything we can do about that, except move on and let them have their opinions.
Narcissists Constantly Lie
This may be the biggest indicator of a narcissist in the church, or anywhere for that matter. One of the biggest hallmarks of narcissism is gaslighting, lying to someone in order to twist their sense of reality, and make them feel mentally unstable.
Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about narcissism in relation to lying. There are actually thousands of verses that talk about issues of lying, so we can’t go through them all here. But we can cover some of the best ones!
Proverbs 19:5 says, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.”
Revelation 21:8 says, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
And finally, Proverbs 12:22 says, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.”
How Scriptures About Narcissists Lying Play Out in Present-day Life
Lying is a pernicious habit. After being trapped by the first lie, the next lie is told to cover up the first one. This can go on forever. And keeping up with it all can be maddening.
That is just what a narcissist will do. Some become very adept at it. My ex-husband ran circles around me in the memory department. He remembered everything. I suffered from major brain fog.
But once our counselors knew what was going on, that brain fog began to clear. I realized I had been excusing all the lies I had been told as misunderstandings. The stronger I became mentally, the angrier and more manipulative he became.
The lies didn’t stop. He still pushed as far as he could with them. But once cornered, he would claim that he misremembered. Except that he could regurgitate the facts of everything else like it was nothing.
Once I stopped talking to him personally and only communicated by text or email, life became so much simpler. And that was the key to my healing.
As for him, the lies continue to this day. I don’t think he will ever free himself from them. And for that I am very sad. Because I know what God has in store for him. And that is why I will still pray for his healing until the day I die.
If You Disagree With a Narcissist, They Will Oppose You and Make You Their Enemy
Psalm 10:1-11,16-18 says,
1 “Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
3 He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
5 His ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected by him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
6 He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
7 His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
8 He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
9 like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.
16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.”
That passage says a whole lot about narcissists and how they function. It amazes me to see something written so long ago that is still so relevant today.
Applying Scripture to Narcissists Today
What does the Bible say about narcissists regarding how they make the innocent their enemies–and how is it still relevant today? When you look at verses 2-11 that I bolded above, you can see how hard hearted and cruel the narcissist is. He is actively seeking out ways to take down those that would dare stand up to him. (You will see more on that in the reference to Proverbs 6 below.)
But at the very end of this passage (verses 16-18), we see words of comfort. The Lord will deliver the victims of narcissism and other evil people. We don’t know when or where. We don’t even know if it will be on this side of Heaven. But it will happen. And victims won’t be the ones that will have to do it. God will do it for us. He will lift us up because He loves us even when we feel like we are too far away for Him to see us or that we are drowning under all the abuse.
Jesus Made a Point of Speaking Out Against Narcissists
Jesus spoke about narcissists and narcissism several times, but the most striking time for me was when He was speaking to the crowd and His disciples about hypocrisy (Matthew 23). He eviscerates the teachers of the law and Pharisees for their narcissism. The whole chapter is dedicated purely to their acts of destroying everyone else to put themselves on the top. Here are some highlights:
A Warning Against Hypocrisy
¹Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate.”
How Jesus’ Words on Narcissism Translate to Modern Day
I would certainly not want to be on the receiving end of that lecture! It is downright scary to me to see how perfectly he described how my ex husband uses the church in this day and age. But even more scary is the last part where Jesus says that He would love to gather them by His side and love them but they are not willing and will lose everything in the end.
I don’t know if narcissists realize what Jesus is talking about here or the hopelessness of where they sit if they do not repent. But the warning is there if they will just look.
God Will Advocate for Victims of Narcissism
So what does the Bible say about narcissism and how God will advocate for us? It has wonderful things to say! Let’s take a look at just a few of those verses below:
1 Corinthians 7:15 “But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.”
Psalm 23:4-6 “ Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Psalm 23 can be such an overused cliché , but verses 4 and 5 talk about that even while we are in the lowest of valleys, God is there with us, preparing a table of abundance for us. He is in the trenches with us. He’s got us, even if we can’t feel it!
While this article speaks to what the Bible says about narcissism, there are actually thousands of verses that talk about what narcissism looks like and how to deal with it. It doesn’t specifically use the word narcissism but it uses lots of other relevant and very descriptive words to describe narcissism and narcissists. The wicked, fool, arrogant, and many more terms are used.
So in concluding what the Bible says about narcissism, check out Proverbs 6:16-18. It 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.”
This may be the most relevant passage about narcissism in the Bible that I know of. This is kind of the equivalent to the DSM5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Version 5, published by the American Psychiatric Association). It has a list of the most prominent things that narcissists do.
1 Timothy 3:2-5 also has an extensive list. It says, “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” That last sentence concludes this article perfectly because in the end, the only way to be healthy from being in relationship with a narcissist is to walk away and never look back.
Has the narcissist in your life ever given you a glimpse of his recognition of bad behavior? How have you had to handle your relationship with your narcissist? Have been able to set and keep boundaries? Did you have to walk away? We would love to hear about your experience(s). Feel free to share in the comments below!
Hugs and love,
If you liked this article, I think you will also love the following articles:
- How Narcissists Use Religion to Control and Manipulate You - December 26, 2023
- Do Flying Monkeys Ever See the Truth? - December 16, 2023
- Flying Monkeys Spying: Understanding and Dealing With It - September 21, 2023