Is it possible for a narcissist to be plugged into the voice of a holy and just God? Are you in spiritual danger if you discount someone's claims to be hearing God's voice even though you can see that the fruit of their lives is rotten? How can you know for sure it is okay to dismiss these transmissions without fear that you may be dismissing God Himself?
Let's start with the concept of "consider the source". Would we listen to a practicing womanizer lecture us on the need for fidelity in marriage? Would we sit still for a "sermon" from a convicted embezzler on the necessity for good ethics in business? How about a murderer on the sanctity of life? The answer is obviously no. Even though the womanizer, embezzler and murderer would likely be mouthing words of obvious truth on their selected subjects, their message would lack credibility and impact because of their hypocrisy. We would feel no shame in "considering the source". We could rightly assume that the person we are listening to can have no deep or helpful insight to give us because their lives, their actions, prove that they themselves don't believe what they are saying. Why should we? We expect people to practice what they preach. Rightly so.
Let me clarify at this point what hypocrisy is. I have noticed that people are a bit fuzzy on the definition of hypocrisy and therefore get tangled up in moral dilemmas that don't exist because of it. An example of what hypocrisy isn't: Take a parent who experimented with drugs as a teenager. The parent hasn't done drugs since he was 17. No ongoing drug problem. It's been 20 years since he touched the stuff. Now the parent has a teen of his own. The parent is conflicted about counseling his teen to never do drugs because he thinks he is being hypocritical since he himself tried them as a teen. How can he tell his kid to not do what he himself did? Wrong thinking. To give his son a clear, unequivocal instruction to never do drugs is being a responsible parent, not a hypocrite. The parent isn't doing drugs. Therefore, he is not hypocritical to tell someone else to not do drugs.
Here is a scenario that would make this parent a hypocrite: The parent is currently a drug user. For the parent to take a hit off his bong in the evening and then tell his teen in the morning to never do drugs...that is hypocrisy. Is the bong-smokin' parent imparting good advice based on truth if he tells his teen to not do drugs? Absolutely. It is truth he would be imparting because drugs are proven to be destructive to the body, mind and soul. But the message is lost due to the hypocritical messenger. The truth loses impact when the delivery system is a person who acts in contradiction to it.
Hypocrisy = when your life (your consistent behaviors) are the opposite of your words.
The narcissist is a complete and total hypocrite. Their words and their actions are in constant contradiction. When a narcissist dons spiritual garb they raise the level of hypocrisy exponentially. Don't take my word for it. Let's look at some Biblical concepts.
Matthew 7. This chapter is part of what is often called "the Sermon on the Mount" and was given by Christ early in His earthly ministry. Let's read a passage from this sermon. Then we're going to consider these words in light of something He said just previous which we will read keeping in mind the above lesson on what hypocrisy is.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Matt. 7:15-20 NKJV
This passage begins with a solemn warning to Christians that there will be, guaranteed, "false prophets" in the congregation. The broader meaning of the name "prophet" is someone who represents God before the people...so it can be a term applied not just to a foreteller, but also an "inspired speaker". Look in your concordance. A false prophet is described in the concordance as a "pretended foreteller or a religious imposter". Got that? A false prophet can be a person who pretends to be religious by pretending to represent God's will and word to you.
Christ doesn't issue this warning to Christians just to scare them. He is next prescribes how these pretenders can be spotted. He makes reference to nature as He describes how a bad tree, a thornbush, or a thistle is not going to produce good edible fruit. He then promises that, ultimately, these bearers of bad fruit will be "cut down and thrown into the fire"...a promise of a final judgment. Vs. 20 tells us that we will know them by their fruits. That is counsel for us to apply reason and judgment to the behaviors of other Christians. Especially those Christians who present themselves as qualified to present God's word to us. The higher the profession, the higher the burden of proof needed to prove said profession.
This issue of judging fruit must be reconciled with the words Christ spoke just moments earlier as recorded in Matthew 7:1-5. This is a passage well-worn by narcissists. It is taken to be the absolute prohibition for Christians to ever judge anyone. That is the infantile understanding of the spiritual reality Christ was actually trying to teach. We do a great disservice if we take Matt. 7:1-5 and make it contradict Matt. 7:15-20. To do so makes Christ look insane. Since I don't believe He was insane, I look for the consistency between the two. It isn't hard to find.
Matt. 7:1-5 is counsel to not judge in hypocrisy. It is counsel to examine our own hearts very, very carefully before we start meting out judgments of others because the measure we use to weigh others in will be the measure used to weigh our own souls. To take this passage to be a complete prohibition against all judgment is to be stupid. It is instruction to us to examine our own lives very truthfully and carefully to make sure we aren't about to condemn someone else for what we ourselves are guilty of. To condemn our own sins in others is to add a censorious and critical spirit on top of the sin itself. Which makes you the bigger sinner.
Look at vs. 5: "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye." Is that a condemnation of all judgment? No! It is a condemnation of judging in hypocrisy. After you've removed the big ole' board out of your own eye only then will you be able to see clearly enough to help your brother get that teeny little bit of sawdust out of his own eye. The adulterer can't condemn the flirtations he sees a brother engaging in with someone not his wife until the adulterer stops violating his own marriage vows. If the adulterer sees another man engaging in inappropriate behavior in relation to his marriage the adulterer damn well better keep his mouth shut. He hasn't a leg to stand on. His ability to see what he thinks is wrong behavior is seriously compromised by that strange woman in his own bed. Once you get the plank out of your own eye, you'll also be able to see that you are a bigger sinner than your brother with the speck in his eye. Which should keep you very humble and demand that you approach him because of your deep love for him...not because you have him in a "gotcha" position. You won't use his small sin to whitewash your own and bigger sins. That's how a narcissist uses your failings...to justify his own.
Let's use something less obvious than adultery. How about the very prideful person? Are they in a position to condemn you as being filled with pride? No. How about the avaricious person who covets everything you and others have? Are they qualified to condemn you for being too materialistic? Uh, no. The prideful and the covetous have two very big planks in their eye. Therefore, they are likely to see that plank and think they see it in your eye...when the truth is that the board is actually only in their eye. They misidentify the location of said plank. Projection is likely when a hypocrite starts condemning other's supposed sins. Another reason why judging in hypocrisy is wrong. It misidentifies sin and its location. Blame-shifting and projection are the result.
Let's now compare the two trees...good tree and bad tree...by the fruit they produce. One tree is called Spirit, the other Carnal (Selfish). One tree represents someone controlled by God...the other, a person who is controlled by sin. The New Testament talks a lot about the "fleshly life" which is another way of saying sinful. Not of God. A life lived according to our basest desires. Self centered. Someone who has resolutely turned from living according to the "flesh" (i.e. someone who is truly repentant) is given power by the Spirit--not to live in sin, but to live righteously. The person who is allowing God's spirit to control them will not produce the fruit of a debased life. See Galatians 5:16.
Galatians gives us a couple of lists. These lists are to help us identify whether the tree is "good" or "bad" based on the fruit hanging off their limbs.
The bad tree has this type of fruit:
"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Gal. 5:19-21 NIV
I'm not big on paraphrases of the Bible because they are not as accurate as translations, but sometimes paraphrases can help get things across in more modern language. Check out The Message Bible paraphrase of vss. 19 & 20:
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
Paul is careful to point out that the selfish life will not go on to inherit eternal life. Christ describes the selfish and hypocritical life to be one of "lawlessness". (Matt. 7:23) Lawless? Let's think this one through. I don't remember who said this, but the quote itself stuck, "Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue." The fact that someone is a hypocrite means he acknowledges there is a law outside himself that exists. Be it a moral law or a civil one...he pretends to be following that law by what he says. But his behavior goes against the law. The hypocrite, while paying homage to lawfulness (i.e. moral virtue) by pretending to follow the law, when no one is looking he disregards the law. His life reveals he is dedicated to violating the law. Hypocrisy is a sign that a person is not to be trusted because he is lawless.
[Update] I found the author of the quote above, "Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue". It was French essayist La Rochefoucauld.
What fruit hangs off the good tree?
"...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Gal. 5:22
How many of these fruits do you see in the life of the malignant narcissist? Zero. Remember, we need to consider consistency here. The consistent behaviors of the life is the measurement of the character. Not the occasional misdeed or the occasional good deed.
So, using the Biblical measurement and following the command to "know them by their fruits" we can safely assess that the malignant narcissist is a bad tree. They live in complete contradiction to the truth. There is not one fruit hanging on the "bad tree" that we don't see hanging off the narcissist's life.
We don't have to go so far as to judge where they will be spending eternity. We don't have to even say whether or not they are truly Christian. We can confine ourselves to simply looking at the fruit of their lives. What does the fruit say about the tree? In the case of the malignant narcissist the fruit condemns them as being corrupt and living apart from God's Spirit. We can safely judge from their consistent behavior that they come to us "in sheep's clothing" (Matt. 7:15). They present themselves as prophets. They pretend to have the Word of the Lord in their mouths, but their lives testify against their profession. Their agenda must be questioned because of the consistent hypocrisy of their lives. Ravening wolves is the descriptor Christ used. A wolf is predatory. Their agenda is predatory. False prophets' agenda is predation of the flock. We can rightly assume that a predator does not have the best interest of you at heart.
Christians are instructed by Christ Himself to inspect the fruit of those who present themselves to us as prophets, i.e. those who claim to represent God to us. An "inspired speaker" is, by definition, someone who is inspired by God's Spirit. The Scriptures are clear that the person who consistently and persistently lives a life filled with the sins listed in Gal. 5 are not inspired nor empowered by God's Spirit. Argue with that and you are arguing with the Word, not me.
So does God speak to us through hypocrites? If God has a critical message for you, a message which addresses your soul's peril, will He risk the message being lost because He sent it through a hypocrite? Would God risk His critical message to you by committing it to the person with the big old log in their eye?
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD...Is. 1:18
Using Biblically guided reason, the answer is a resounding no. Someone whose life consistently bears bad fruit is not entrusted by God with a word to you from Him. Does the hypocrite sometimes speak the truth? Absolutely yes. But God recognizes the difficulty we have in sorting out the truth when the hypocrite with an agenda is mixing truth freely with untruth. He knows we are quick to discount truth when spoken by a known liar. God doesn't blame us for having that reaction either because it is a reasonable assumption. When the liar speaks truth it is usually only to lend credence to a lie. Pure lies don't sell. They need to attach parasitically onto truth in order to be palatable enough for us to swallow whole. See the snake in the Garden of Eden. He hid his lies by stirring in a measure of truth.
Integrity in the messenger is necessary for a message of truth to have power to convince. God will not entrust the saving of your soul to someone who is "full of hypocrisy and wickedness" (Matt. 23:28)
Take a measure of God's absolute hatred and intolerance for hypocrisy by reading Christ's condemnations in the Sermon on the Mount referenced earlier. Matt. 6:1-18. Then check out Matt. 23. Christ issues scathing rebukes to the hypocrite leaders and then asks this rhetorical question:
"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?" vs. 33.
Much of Christ's earthly minister was directed at saving the people from the predations of the hypocritical religious leaders. Has He changed? Is Christ going to send you a message for the saving of your soul through a hypocrite today?
Heb. 13:8 "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."
Christ didn't condemn and verbally flog the hypocrites of yesterday only to send one to you today to save your soul.
When the fire-breathing narcissist comes to you with a purported message from God Himself, ask yourself whose voice they are likely articulating, God's or the devil's? If the narcissist has proven by their wicked lives that they are not Spirit-controlled, then why do you assume that God has sent a message to you through a liar and a hypocrite? Christ said this to the hypocrite spiritual leaders of His day,
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44
Whose voice did Christ say the spiritual hypocrites were speaking with? The devil's own voice. "When he lies, he speaks his native language". If you have a spiritual hypocrite in your life you can know who their father is...and whose desires they are carrying out. Christ identified them for us. The liar only speaks for the devil. Know it and live accordingly.