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Church Hush Money: “For The Sake Of The Gospel, Really?”

Church Hush Money: “For The Sake Of The Gospel, Really?” July 30, 2021

CHURCH HUSH MONEY: “For The Sake Of The Gospel, Really?”

 

 

What is hush money?

 

It is money paid so that someone will keep information a secret.

 

Sadly, this has become a way of life in the churches and ministries in the United States today.

 

Orpah Winfrey recently created a whole multi-season show called “Greenleaf” that airs on Netflix. This fictional show chronicles the ways churches try to bury the truth. Unfortunately, way too many real life examples prove the truths in this series.

 

In 2007, after the very public fall of Ted Haggard in 2006, Pastor Brady Boyd led New Life Church to pay out $179k to Haggard’s sexual abuse victim Grant Haas in exchange for his willingness to sign a nondisclosure agreement that he would never speak of it publicly. However, in 2009, after HBO agreed to air a documentary on Ted Haggard, Haas came forward with his story. He made public three years after the fact what the church leadership had known about for years. He exposed the fact that the church had required him as the victim to sign a nondisclosure agreement allowing them to revoke the funds they paid him if he spoke publicly.

 

You can read about the public facts of the story and details here:

 

https://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/01/28/colorado.church.haggard/,

 

https://www.coloradoindependent.com/2009/01/27/haggard-sex-scandal-gets-weirder-and-lewder-by-the-minute/

 

Pastor Brady Boyd referred to this as “compassion assistance,” which is not a biblical practice in these contexts. There are no godly examples in the Bible of giving someone money as long as they are willing to sign a nondisclosure agreement and silence the truth. As a matter of fact, Scripture teaches just the opposite. Every example of “hush money” in Scripture is ungodly and used in some capacity to suppress the truth and not allow the real story to be public.

 

Balak paid the prophet Balaam to silence God’s blessing over His people and curse them instead. Numbers records Balak saying to Balaam: “I will make sure you are richly rewarded, and I will do whatever you ask. Please, come and curse these people for me”(Numbers 22:17).

 

Balaam ultimately wouldn’t do it because, even as a pagan prophet, he feared the God of Israel. Even though it would cost him greatly financially, Balaam said: “…The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak” (Numbers 22:38b).

 

Balak was livid. Scripture says, “And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them these three times. Therefore now flee to your own place. I said, ‘I will certainly honor you,’ but the Lord has held you back from honor.” And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the Lord speaks, that will I speak’?” (Numbers 24:10-13)

 

Apparently, Balak failed to get a nondisclosure agreement from Balaam. He obviously didn’t understand the power of God over the power of money, at least in Balaam’s life.

 

In the New Testament, Judas was paid to hush speaking the truth of who Jesus is in Matthew 26:14-16. He suppressed the truth for the sake of a bribe.

 

This is NOT an acceptable practice to handle matters for God.

 

The Bible would call “compassion assistance” tied to a nondisclosure agreement, a bribe.

 

When a church gives money to a sexual abuse victim (or any type of victim for that matter) requiring that person to sign a nondisclosure agreement and stipulating their money is revoked if they talk, it is a bribe and coercion. By definition, a bribe is anything given or serving to persuade or induce.

 

It is legal but it is not godly or biblical.

 

Sadly, this is not the only example of this sort of practice. In 2017, it was reported and confirmed true that the late Ravi Zacharias was entangled in a sexting scandal. The solution, once again, was to settle out of court in exchange that the victim involved would sign a nondisclosure agreement never to speak of it publicly.

 

What happened that would cause a godly man of a godly organization to pay out money to silence his victim?

 

You can read about the public details of this matter here…

 

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/december/ravi-zacharias-sexting-extortion-lawsuit-doctorate-bio-rzim.html

 

https://virtueonline.org/duplicitous-world-christian-apologist-ravi-zacharias

 

In recent months, two more high profile ministry leaders and pastors have joined the ranks of ungodly secret keepers. Jerry Falwell Jr of Liberty University, of which I am a 1993 graduate, paid out an nondisclosed amount to a pool boy in exchange that he sign a nondisclosure statement to keep the details silent and out of the public eye. John Ortberg, Senior Pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, has come under fire for his lack of discretion on matters pertaining to godly leadership and disclosure matters regarding a family member.

 

You can read further about these stories here:

 

https://www.christianpost.com/news/jerry-falwell-jr-agrees-to-take-an-indefinite-leave-of-absence-from-liberty-u-after-unzipped-pants-photo.html,

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/07/us/falwell-bello-fontainebleau-settlement.html

 

https://www.christianpost.com/news/jerry-falwell-jr-says-he-was-depressed-after-wife-had-affair-man-blackmailed-family.html

 

And here:

 

https://www.christianpost.com/news/pastor-john-ortberg-resigns-from-menlo-church-for-allowing-son-attracted-to-minors-to-work-with-kids.html

 

I believe that every man mentioned in this article loves Jesus. In various ways, I have looked up to each of these men for years. However, their indiscretion and practices caused them and their organizations to fall into disarray and placed them under suspicion and scrutiny in matters that remain “undisclosed” completely, still today.

 

In some cases, it appears the exchanging of money was involved, and, in other cases, the truth was simply hidden or covered up – and not just by the point leader but the boards of the organizations as well.

 

Recently, a group of pastors publicly called for Jerry Falwell Jr’s removal as President of Liberty University and others went on to say that board members should be removed, too.

 

You can read about that here: https://www.christianpost.com/news/50-pastors-who-graduated-from-liberty-university-demand-falwell-be-permanently-removed.html

 

This is not the first time something like this has occurred. After the dismissal of Pastor Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Church in Chicago, the entire elder board was eventually replaced due to their negligence in dealing with Hybels’ matters of indiscretion.

 

You can read about that here: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/august/willow-creek-bill-hybels-heather-larson-elders-resign-inves.html

 

Boards have a lot of pressure on them to do the right thing and yet feel the need to suppress the truth for “the sake of the gospel.” Often times, the point leaders take the fall for the suppression when it becomes publicly known. However, boards are just as much to blame when they use “truth suppression” to “protect the organization” or – worse – “for the good of the gospel.” The logic goes something like this: “Yes, it is bad said person has done such and such, but look at all the good this organization is doing. Let’s do what we can to ‘keep it quiet.’”

 

What does the Bible have to say about leaders and boards suppressing the truth and paying brides to suppress the truth?

 

Romans 1:18 says, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”

Ecclesiastes 7:7 says, “…a bribe corrupts the heart.”

 

And Isaiah 59:14-15 tells us: “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice.”

 

Instead of using money to HUSH the truth, the Bible actually tells us to BUY the truth. God wants us to live with full-disclosure.

 

Proverbs 23:23 says, “Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.”

 

God does NOT want us to hide the truth as churches or ministries through non-disclosure agreements with people in our churches and ministry organizations who have been abused by someone in our organization.

 

When a gift or a bribe is given for the sake of suppressing truth and silencing the victim, this is hush money and God speaks to how He feels about suppressing truth in Romans 1:18. He tells us He brings His wrath against it.

 

So, by definition, “compassion assistance” or money to show love to a person stops being compassionate at the moment they must sign a non-disclosure saying the money must be returned if they share their story publicly. Tragically, this practice is common in churches and ministries today, but it is evil and NOT OF GOD.

 

NOTHING godly comes from this practice and there is not ONE EXAMPLE in the Bible to support it. The moment a church or a ministry leader signs an agreement that controls the true story of a person’s life is the moment they stop following God for the sake of their own personal gain or the gain of their organization. They may call it “protecting the reputation of the church” or “maintaining the effectiveness of the Gospel.” However, Jesus doesn’t need any help protecting the Gospel or His reputation. It speaks for itself.

 

The holiness of God and his church must matter more to us than the reputation of the church.

 

The church is not ours, it’s His.

 

Jesus said to Peter in “I will build my church and the gates of hell will NOT prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18b).

 

The church is Christ’s bride and He wants her back.

 

Grieviously, the “business” of the Gospel for truth-hiding churches, para-churches, and ministry leaders gets in the way. They begin to fear the organization’s reputation will be harmed or tarnished, people will leave or stop giving, and that ultimately the bottom line of the church or ministry will be hurt.

 

Paying someone to suppress the truth is a sin. And eventually all sin comes into the light of the public eye. Moses spoke of this: “Be sure and know your sins will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

 

The Bible makes it clear that, in time, the suppression of truth will be exposed. There are no secrets with God, only things He has not yet revealed. In the Old Testament, Balaam was hired by Balak to curse the people  of God but God wouldn’t allow him.

 

Controlling the narrative with money is NEVER GOD’S WAY of going about things.

 

This is NOT an acceptable practice in the eyes of God for the church but it continues for one reason and one reason only…it works.

 

Victims of sexual abuse come to the realization that probably nothing is going to happen to the powerful person or organization. Therefore, they take what they can get for their pain in exchange for signing away their integrity. This is not acceptable in God’s eyes, either. God is not okay when a victim signs a nondisclosure agreement to suppress the truth of abuse that has occurred in His church or amongst His people.

 

Three separate passages in the Bible make this very clear that God does not want the victim or anyone to take a bribe to hide the truth…

 

Proverbs 17:23 says, “The wicked accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the ways of justice.”

 

Isaiah 5:23 says, “Who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!”

 

And Exodus 23:8 couldn’t be more clear: “And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.”

 

The ultimate bribery to suppress truth came when the soldiers were paid money to lie about the body of Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew records, “While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day” (Matthew 28:11-15).

 

They suppressed the truth.

 

I want to reiterate there is NOT ONE EXAMPLE in the Bible where a godly person required another person to sign a nondisclosure agreement or agreement to withhold truth for the sake of the Gospel, the church, or God Himself.

 

If anyone needed a nondisclosure statement it would be King David after he confessed to Nathan the prophet that he had committed adultery with another man’s wife and had her husband murdered. But instead, King David allowed the real story of his life to be plastered all over the world and throughout history through the book of Samuel.

 

A man after God’s own heart is not a man who doesn’t sin but a man who doesn’t try to cover up his sin and bury it. When confronted by his sin, he confesses it, forsakes it and doesn’t try to control the public narrative through nondisclosure agreements tied to money.

 

I am afraid the heart of God has left the building of a lot of churches in America due to the leadership’s willingness to hide and bury the truth of what has happened.

 

I think Moses made it clear what God thinks of this in Deuteronomy: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe” (Deuteronomy 10:17).

 

Bribery is an ungodly, unacceptable practice in God’s eyes, and ministry leaders MUST STOP THIS PRACTICE. Otherwise, God makes it clear to us through the story of Moses and the Levitical priests (who represent the modern day pastors or ministry leaders) what comes when they use tithes and offerings for bribery and ungodly purposes. Numbers warns, “….be careful not to treat the holy gifts of the people of Israel as though they were common. If you do, you will die (Numbers 19:32b).

 

I believe the church of America is dying like Ananias and Sapphira did in Acts 5:1-11 because it is hiding the truth of what has happened in its churches and creating a narrative that is a lie. Money and success has become the focus instead of the holiness of God, the advancement of the gospel and the glory of Jesus.

 

If we want the blessing of God on our churches in the days ahead, we must repent of our nondisclosure agreements, expose the truth for what it is and ask the Lord to forgive us.

 

The money changing in the church of God to suppress the truth must stop if we want God’s hand of favor on us again moving forward.

 

God gives us a posture and the directive in 2 Chronicles 7:14 as to how we should approach him to receive His favor, again: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

 

Until churches, church leaders, ministries and ministry leaders humble themselves, pray, seek, and turn from this practice, God is not going to hear, forgive and heal us.

 

God wants His bride the church to be holy. He wants, “To present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27).

 

Our churches will never be holy and blameless as long as we continue the practice of hush money to suppress the truth.

 

It’s not too late. Moses reminds us: “…OBEY the voice of the Lord your God, KEEPING all his commandments that I am commanding you TODAY, and DOING what is RIGHT in the SIGHT (EYES) of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 13:18).

 

May God do what He must to humble us so that we will turn, repent, and seek His face for His glory and for the true good of the Gospel of Jesus to go forth to all in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings,

Pastor Kelly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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