Are You a Narcissistic Christian?
August 10, 2020 • Jamey Escamilla
I was doing some searching the other day and I came across a term that stood out to me.
nahr • si • jee • sis
The reading of one’s own life experiences into the text of Scripture; the need to make the Bible all about themselves.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of the terms eisegesis and exegesis.
These are two methods of studying the Bible.
Eisegesis is when you plug in your own interpretations into the Bible. It’s when you approach the Bible and just kind of read into it whatever you already believe.
This is a bad way to study.
Exegesis is good. It’s when you lift out of the Bible the true, intended meaning. You draw your beliefs from out of the Bible, rather than pouring them into the Bible.
So, narcigesis is kind of a spin off of these two words.
With this way of studying, it’s not just plugging your own beliefs into the Bible.
It’s plugging yourself into the Bible.
Now, let me begin by saying that narcigesis is NOT an actual, recognized way of studying the Bible.
It’s a word that someone created years ago to explain what they’re seeing in a lot of modern day, American churches.
You can kind of see the definition just by looking at the word.
Narcigesis. Sounds like “narcissist” right?
A narcissist is someone who is obsessed with themself and always wants everything to be about them.
That’s why I don’t necessarily agree with the name of this word.
Because I don’t think that people who read the Bible this way are “obsessed” with themselves in a toxic way.
I just think this is how they’ve been taught the Bible – that it’s just kind of a big story with lessons to help you reach your personal goals in life.
I also don’t think that it’s an entirely new and growing way of studying the Bible.
Really, there’s only two ways to study the Bible, and there will always only be two ways – eisegesis and exegesis.
“Narcigesis” is actually eisegesis. It’s plugging something into the Bible that might not actually be there.
But I do see a danger in always seeing the Bible this way.
With “narcigesis”, almost every story and every scripture in the Bible is simply there for you to pull out of context and apply it to your life in some way.
Here’s an example of it.
We read the story of David and see that he slayed the giant – Goliath.
We then very easily see this story as relating to us, our struggles, and our lives.
We walk away thinking, “I too can conquer the giants in my life!”
And this is the main way we see this scripture.
We don’t see it as an actual piece of history telling us about Israel’s first great king.
We don’t see it as a picture foretelling the coming of Jesus and how he’ll conquer sin for us.
We see it as story used to teach us a lesson – that if we depend on God, he will help us conquer the haters as well.
In my opinion, this is just how many people understand the Bible.
I might sound like and old, angry preacher here, but have you ever noticed how many of the popular churches in America are presenting a message just like this?
Why is it so popular and why does it work?
Because it’s what people want to hear.
People are going through real struggles, and it’s comforting to know that God has a plan to get us out of the mess we’re in.
It’s also why learning the Bible is not so popular.
People think, “How can learning the Bible and what it really means help me as a single mother trying to raise 3 kids and pay my rent?”
You got a point, there, too.
But I think that learning your Bible can help you in a situation like that.
Because if you’re trying to learn the Bible because you want to know God more and enhance your relationship with him, then everything else will fall into place for you.
Seek first the kingdom, and all these things will be added to you.
I’ve never really been into messages that constantly talk to me about getting to my personal destiny.
I already know that I’m blessed, and that he has a plan for me.
I already know that if I focus on him, I’ll get out of whatever situation I’m in.
And I don’t need to be reminded week after week.
I don’t need more assurance – I need the power of the Spirit. And I need to know what the Bible really means.
But that’s just me.
But every now and again, I do need encouragement. We all do.
I actually used to go to Lakewood Church, with Joel Osteen.
I was there for two years, and every Sunday was like a love knife piercing my heart.
The messages he would give were so practical and clear, and I felt so much lighter every time I would leave.
You can say whatever you want about Joel Osteen, but it helped me.
I was actually in a place in my life where I needed a detox in my faith. And that’s where God told me to go.
But I couldn’t stay there.
Encouragement is good, but I think we need to examine ourselves if we need to be encouraged every Sunday, week after week, year after year.
David said that he encouraged himself in the Lord.
I don’t have a problem with seeing a story in the Bible as an encouragement that we can apply to our lives to get us through a tough time.
I do it all the time. I think it’s the practical side of Bible study. And I think people need to hear it.
The problem with seeing ourselves in the Bible is seeing ourselves in the Bible too much.
If that’s what the Bible is mainly about to us – ourselves – to me, that’s harmful.
But again, is this the culture that we’ve turned Christianity into?
I mean, we often hear that the Bible is a love letter written to us from God.
This isn’t true.
I know that probably made some people mad, but just hear me out.
I’m not saying that God doesn’t love us or have a plan for us.
But what I am saying is that I think the Bible is here to be more to us than just encouraging words to baby us when we’re having a bad day.
This might surprise you, but...
Technically, none of the Bible was written to you and I.
Before you click the close button, let me explain.
I know that God wants us to read it and apply it.
That’s why we built this site. To help you understand it.
But if you really think about it, no book in the Bible was written to you, as if you were the intended person to pick it up and read it.
It was mainly written to the ancient Jews and Christians.
When Paul writes to Timothy and says “you should do this”, he meant that Timothy should do this.
There are definitely things that apply to all people throughout time, which is why we should read it.
But we need to remember to rightly divide the word.
Not everything is applicable to us.
Part of this comes from the fact that every time we pick up the Bible and see the word “you”, we see “me”.
For example, Jesus says, “You will see these things happen.”
Me? I will see these things?
No. The people he was talking to.
So, while I don’t think that most people who read the Bible this way are narcissists, I do think that if this is our primary way to see the Bible, we need a reformation.
I’ll end this article with this.
Do you know where the word “narcissist” comes from?
Google it. It comes from a character in Greek mythology – Narcissus.
He was a handsome hunter who prided himself in his looks.
One day in the woods, he bends down to get a drink from a pond and sees his reflection.
He tells his own reflection, “I love you.”
Apparently, he can’t even pull himself away from his own reflection, because it’s so beautiful.
Unable to eat or drink, he dies right there by the pond.
Death by self-infatuation.
What I thought was cool about this story is that the Bible also calls the Word a mirror where we can see our reflection.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
What God showed me here is that we’re not supposed to look at the mirror and stay looking at it.
We’re supposed to look at it and “go away”, doing what it says.
It goes without saying that if we also just look at a mirror and never walk away, we’ll die.
So constantly looking at yourself in the Word and only seeing yourself can be harmful to your walk.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, “Be able to walk away from your own reflection sometimes.”
James goes on to say in this same chapter that his whole point is to get you to see that if you’re not changing, you’re not doing the Word.
If you’re hearing a message every Sunday about how God wants you to go after your dreams, but then go to lunch after church and be rude to the waitress, you’re missing it.
He says in verse 27 that the real point of all this is to be good to others – to see the orphans and widows in their distress and take care of them.
Not just see yourself in every Bible story.
And in a culture where selfies and fame are king, we have to be reminded that the world’s culture is not the church’s culture.
We have to change.
Again, change is the goal of looking into a mirror. So we can see what we need to improve.
And in reality, we really shouldn’t be seeing ourselves every time we look into the mirror (the Word).
We should be seeing Jesus.
2 Corinthians 3:18
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
What should we be seeing when we look into the mirror?
What will transform us?
The glory of the Lord, and this will transform us into that same image.
Changing, from glory to glory.