Yes, that's a rather potent title. But as we are exploring Jesus and what it means to be in His community, this is the diagnosis I am giving the modern church in America.
Let's define our terms first. Narcissism is:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:1-8)
The people who came to Jesus with horrible news about Pilate were afraid, yet Jesus could see another emotion operating in them: Pride. That is why, I believe, He brings up the tower incident.
The people telling Jesus about Pilate weren't just reporting; their hearts were crying out, "Could that happen to us? NO! Why not? Because we are good people."
Jesus went right to the heart of the matter: These people had sinful hearts, but their pride told them otherwise. The real question was being asked silently in these people's hearts: Only bad things happen to those who do not have the kind of faith we have. Right! Right?
Comforting, yes, to the people whose faith (they so proudly believed) exempted them from the vicissitudes of life. Their fundamental belief in their own goodness made them lack empathy for the victims. Their theology drove them away from the community. Their fear kept them clinging to a belief that Jesus corrected.
Jesus talks about sin and repentance using both incidents. People died, not because they were "selected" for their unrighteousness; they were living in a fallen world where terrible things happen. To everyone, good, bad or indifferent.
So, Jesus clarified His inspection of their theology with a parable. The fig tree was not producing fruit, yet the caretaker gave it one more year to produce fruit. What was the tree given? Fertilizer. It is the fertilizer of life that makes us grow, and if we push it away out of self-righteousness, fear and not wanting to be with Jesus in a community He has created, we will not produce fruit of any eternal value.
We, in America, are being given a similar opportunity to produce fruit, or the axe will come. Where do we start? With ourselves, repenting of our pride. Then with others, reaching out and loving them with a Christ-centered love.
Now, that's church!
(1) "Narcissism." Google's English Dictionary, Oxford Languages
(2) "Prosperity Gospel" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosperity_theology. Accessed 9/25/2021