Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contenment - Part 3 - How Christ Teaches Contentment

Narcissistic is an adjective that is often used to describe our society. Narcissism is used to describe everything from self-conceit to a severe personality disorder. The name came from Greek mythology. Here is the Wikipedia entry under narcissism:

Narcissism describes the trait of excessive self-love based on self-image or ego.

The term is derived from the Greek mythology of Narcissus. Narcissus was a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. As punishment, he was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus pined away and changed into a flower that bears his name, the narcissus.

Someone with the personality disorder would exhibit several of these traits:

  • has a grandiose sense of self-importance
  • is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people
  • requires excessive admiration
  • has a sense of entitlement
  • is interpersonally exploitative
  • lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
In part 3 of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment the author describes how Christ teaches contentment and it is a slap in the beautiful face of the narcissist. For Burroughs, every Christian must become a student: "So a Christian coming to contentment is as a scholar in Christ's school, and there are many lessons to teach the soul to bring it to this learning; every godly man or woman is a scholar." And it is the first lesson which Christ teaches his students that would cause the self-lover to pause from gazing at his own reflection; The Lesson of Self-Denial.

The Lesson of Self-Denial is summed up quite easily:
  1. I am nothing.
  2. I deserve nothing.
  3. I can do nothing.
  4. I am so vile that I cannot of myself receive any good.
  5. With God's help I can do something but if he then withdraws I can do nothing.
  6. I am worse than nothing.
  7. If I perish it will be no loss.
  8. If I desire God's ends than I desire something, but if I desire my ends I desire nothing.
This is hard tonic to take even from the humble among us, let alone the egotistical. Burroughs clarifies these thoughts with interesting examples and proofs. He shares Scriptures and quotes to give substance to his argument. However, I thought it fitting to leave all of us narcissism-bent creatures the shocking and jarring Lesson of Self-Denial without the sometimes soothing details. If Christian contentment is the aim then all narcissists should proceed at their own risk.


  1. Pretty cut and dry isn't he?

    I think, as we were saying this morning, this is another example of why as Christians we need to understand total depravity fully.

    Self-denial flies in the face of our culture, we need to be able to be able to solidly support our theology of total depravity to be able to correct the church as we fall into selfish desires.

  2. Great job pulling out Narcissus. The picture alone speaks a thousand words.

    But your words on Challies and your blog have been very helpful, too. I agree with you that this is indeed a very good book that speaks to me, too. I don't think I had ever even heard of it before now; what a shame.

    May Christ continue to grow us up, out of ourselves and into Him.