2 Timothy 3:2 – In the end times… People will be lovers of themselves

Narcissus is a character of Greek Mythology portrayed by both Greek and Roman writers. The story of Narcissus is unique in that it is a moral tale; one that heeds an ominous warning.

Narcissus, was the son of River God Cephisus and nymph Lyriope. Known for his beauty, he was loved by the God Apollo due to his extraordinary physique. In the Roman version of the myth by the poet Ovid, Narcissus’ parents were worried because of the astonishing beauty of the boy and asked prophet Teiresias what to do, regarding their son’s future. Teiresias told them that the child would grow old only if “he didn’t get to know himself”.

"Selfie"

“Selfie”

When Narcissus was sixteen he was walking in the woods and the Nymph Echo saw him and fell instantly in love.  She started following him and Narcissus asked “who’s there?” Echo responded “who’s there” which continued until Echo decided to reveal herself. She attempted to embrace the boy, who stepped away, telling her to leave him alone. Echo was heartbroken and spent the rest of her life in glens; until nothing but an echo sound remained of her.

Nemesis, though, the Goddess of Revenge, heard the story and decided to punish Narcissus. Narcissus sees himself in a pond and was amazed by the beauty of the reflection. He falls in love with his own image. Once he realises that this love could never be attained, he commits suicide. One version stating that he simply fell into his own reflection and drowned.

The term narcissism originates from this ancient mythical story and is defined as the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes. In loving ourselves above others (or God) – we ourselves become the idol.

2 Timothy 3:2 states in the end times,

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy”.

With the rise of social media, self-image, ‘selfies’ and plastic self-augmentation, it seems reasonable that this prophecy is reaching fulfilment.

The problem with narcissism is as Professor Jean Twenge from San Diego State University states ”Narcissists are missing that piece about valuing and caring within their relationships, so they tend to lack empathy, they have poor relationship skills…People who score high in narcissism tend to have trouble in their relationships, basically because they are focused on themselves rather than on anyone else

Love as described in the Bible is quite different from the love as espoused by the world. Biblical love is selfless and unconditional, whereas the world’s love is characterized by selfishness.
We are to take our eyes off ourselves and care for others.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others

Philippians 2.3–4

Our focus, biblically, should be love for God and neighbour. “Self” is something we want out of the way so that we can love outwardly as we ought. As Jesus sates “deny yourself”. Loving ourselves is our default sinful disposition. Theologian John Stott proposed “There is not three commandments – Love God, Love yourself and Love others”. Rather there is two. Love God and love others (as you would love yourself). In other words – treat others as you would want to be treated.

Sadly in the age of narcissism, this biblical concept is being lost to a generation (Christian or not) who think that self-love and self-focus is a command of God.

It is not.