Daniel 3:12 “There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O King.”
The latest round of cruel barbs from Ann Coulter about the Edwards family, going so far as to take a swing at their loss of a child, has a lot of the pundits talking about narcissism. She who cannot be shamed attacks others with a toss of her hair and a smile on her lips and even gave permission for the Edwards campaign to use her attack to raise money. As long as Ann Coulter is front and center, it matters not what puts her there or who might either benefit or suffer as a result of her words.
The psychiatric disorder known as narcissism is named for the Greek hero, Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes narcissism as “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.” It goes on to say, “Lying is the most common complaint about narcissists and in many instances, defects of empathy lead narcissists to wildly inaccurate misinterpretations of other people’s speech and actions, so that they may believe that they are liked and respected despite a history of callous and exploitative personal interactions.” Treatment is nearly impossible since the narcissist always thinks that the problem lies with someone else. Ann Coulter certainly could be the poster child for narcissism. And she’d probably be fine with that.
When I think about narcissists in the Bible, none stands out as strongly as King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. From page one of the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar is working to expand his empire and force the people to worship him. He makes stupid decisions and impossible demands and shuns any form of humility, even before God.
In stark contrast are Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They do the miraculous, their wisdom is unmatched, but they claim none of it for themselves. They give the credit where it is due: to God. When the King puts up a golden statue and demands worship, they refuse, even though it means a death sentence. A narcissist has no way to understand such sacrifice and the refusal to give the King the worship he desires throws him into a murderous rage.
Most psychiatrists would probably agree that only God can cure a narcissist, and at least in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, that’s what happens. As a dream predicted, “He was driven away from human society, ate grass like oxen, and his body was bathed with the dew of heaven, until his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails became like birds’ claws.” But the treatment worked, and the closing chapter of Nebuchadnezzar’s life shows him back on the throne, but this time acknowledging the sovereignty of God and saying of God, “he is able to bring low those who walk in pride.”
There’s a lot of walking in pride going on in our world at the moment, and we bow at the golden statues of our prominent narcissists without shame. Where is Daniel? Where are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who refuse to bow the knee? Are they out there? Or are we all indeed Godless?
Blessed are you, God of the universe. Bring us to our senses. Amen.
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