Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Financial Abuse – a typical tactic of the Abuser

Luk 19:8  And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

As we see in this account of Zacchaeus, one mark of a genuine Christian is concern for the poor. To mistreat the needy, to oppress a widow or orphan, is a great wickedness in God’s sight.
Unlike Zacchaeus many people who claim to be fine Christians regularly oppress the poor, and some of them even do so to their own spouse. The domestic abuser uses economic oppression as a tactic to maintain power and control over his target. Listen to the testimonies of scores of abuse victims and you cannot help but see it.
Many abuse victims live in poverty. At the same time, their abuser often lives quite high on the hog (apologies to hogs…I prefer their company that of the abuser). Financial abuse looks something like this:

  • The victim is allotted only a small, inadequate allowance for food while the abuser eats out at restaurants regularly
  • The abuser maintains separate and even secret bank accounts in his name (or her name: one of the worst financial abusers I know of was a woman sociopath)
  • If the victim starts to prosper at a job, the abuser will often sabotage her career in various ways – calling her at work, annoying her employer, spreading false rumors about her, etc
  • Abusers often move their victim and children into isolated areas far from any support groups. This cuts her off from possible resources.
  • Demands are made upon the victim that she account for every penny spent and there is hell to pay if she does not
  • Many abusers forbid the victim from working, keep her pregnant, and insist that she home school the children (I am not criticizing large families or homeschooling by the way). As the years go by the victim ends up with very few marketable job skills and this makes her even more dependent upon the abuser.
  • Victims are often denied the ability to buy a decent wardrobe. She is told that all shopping has to be done at Goodwill and even then her purchases will be criticized.
  • Funds for adequate medical care are denied.

And of course as most of you know, this financial oppression continues long after the victim leaves the abuser. She is left with debts the abuser ran up, he hires attorneys to get him off the hook for child support or alimony, cheat her our of funds and property that are rightfully hers, and in many cases he ends up living quite well while she lives in poverty.
What does the Lord say about such men? He says they are worse than unbelievers. He says that His wrath is upon them.
What do most local churches say about such men? They insist that they are fine Christian saints who really never wanted a divorce but their wives just wouldn’t listen and sinfully left them.
The Day is coming. The Lord is coming. The wicked will not fool Him and on that Day there will literally be hell to pay….forever, and ever, and ever.


The Wicked Often Hide Behind a Mask of Theological Acumen – Watch Out for Them


How the Wicked Use "Christian Servanthood" to Gain Control of People


  1. Anonymous

    Pastor Crippen, Thank you for posting this. I never considered financial abuse in my relationship with my ex-husband.But now I know that’s one more thing that he had been doing to me. I’ve always had a professional job and I turned over my checks to my husband I also provided health insurance for the family. When I finally had enough he started doing exactly what it says in your post he called my job with false accusations against me repeatedly saying I was a heroin addict and things like that. He continues to try to get money out of me now. Even though I gave him half of the equity in the house. I really don’t want to dwell on this but lately I have been missing being married but I continue to listen to your sermons on abuse and I do not want to go back to that.I suspect it may take me a while to get over this. From the very beginning when I left him he was seeing someone else. A friend of his came over to my house and told me he was seeing a Mormon woman and they were going to get married. He has since had many others. he blames our failed marriage and me, he has slandered me to all of his friends and they believe everything he says. I really appreciate your posts they help me with reality. I struggle with depression and sadness daily. All I ever wanted was a family in a marriage and I was willing to put up with just about anything for that. I know know that was a huge mistake and it hurt my kids as well I struggle with that every day as well. If you would please pray for healing for me and my family I would appreciate it thank you Allison
    Sent from my iPhone

    • Jeff Crippen

      Anonymous- I am very sorry that you have had to endure such an evil man and suffer the damage a wicked person like him can do. And I can certainly understand the disappointment of having a dream of how you would like your life to be and yet seeing it vaporize due to wickedness. No one deserves such treament. He will give an account to the Lord and that day won’t go well for him. I try to remind myself to look ahead rather than behind. After we learn from our experiences, we press on. The Christian’s real life is up there, not down here, it is yet to come and we only have a sampling of it now. All of that I say in order to encourage you that your life is not always going to be what it has been or what it is. Your depression and sadness bouts are going to end someday completely and even now the Lord works to heal us.
      In regard to feeling guilt about staying with the abuser and thereby hurting your children – here is the reality. It was not you who hurt them. It was your wicked ex. The reasons that drove you to stay originated in him, not you. His deceptions. His evil tactics. All designed to gain power and control over you. So those thoughts that come into your mind that accuse and guilt you – they are not from the Lord. They are typical accusations of the enemy. Christ does not hold these things against you and you have courageously faced the evil, come into the truth, and loved your children.

    • Megan

      Dear Anonymous….I will pray for you. You were doing the very best you could concerning your children. Now with hindsight you regret not removing them from the situation and maybe it would help them to hear you say that…but don’t beat yourself up over it. Abusive situations cause so much stress we are often just *treading water*. When/if your children are adults and had a bit of life experience may God grant they will bless you. Proverbs 31:28(a) and also that He will restore their lost years to them especially if they are wandering…that’s my prayer for you. Hugs!

  2. Amy

    One time in my abusive marriage years ago my then-husband made me meet with a friend of ours who was an accountant because he wanted someone else to tell me how bad I was at handling our finances. And he made me go by myself instead of us meeting as a couple.
    I was so embarrassed when I showed up at our friends’ house with bank statements in hand and was shaking just waiting for this man to also tell me what a screw up I was, but instead an amazing thing happened — after going over our bank statements and discussing other financial things, he gently said that we were right on track with how much money was in the bank and where our money was going. I’d been sitting with my hands clenched together so he couldn’t see me shaking and looking down at the floor most the time afraid the tears were going to come, but when he said that, I looked up at him in shock and felt a little relieved.
    I was only a little relieved because I knew the wrath that waited for me at home — if only my ex had come too then this man could have said it to him, but now I had to go home and try to explain and I knew he would never believe me.
    I remember going home that night feeling like maybe this couple saw a little of what I was going through (of course, they never called my husband out on it and acted like nothing ever happened), but when I pulled in my driveway I just about threw up knowing I was going to have to explain what had happened. And sure enough, my ex cornered me as soon as I walked in the door and kept following me around the house while I tried to explain what our friend had said. He didn’t believe me at all and was so angry that this man hadn’t torn me apart like he’d hoped for all along. It wasn’t about the finances, never really was, it was about control — it was all about him wanting other people to be on his side against me so that he could feel like a big man and give me his sadistic smirk. But that time, he failed about his attempt to shame me.
    Want to know a funny thing? I’ve been remarried 8 years now and my husband thinks I’m great handling our finances and is always telling other people! 🙂
    When he walked out on me 11 years ago, I survived. Was it easy? No! And let me tell you, not a lot of people want to hire a 45-year-old woman who has stayed home with her kids all those years, but I survived! And sometimes I had no idea where the money was going to come from to pay the mortgage or buy groceries, but God looked out for me and there were times I stood crying for joy at the mailbox when an unexpected check was in there right at the 11th hour.
    It’s not easy to leave an abusive marriage, there are a lot of reasons a victim stays, and financial oppression is high on the list. I didn’t know how I’d ever support my boys and myself if I left, so God stepped in and removed my abuser, and took care of me in ways I would never have thought.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you for that Amy!

    • I_socked_it_to_the_HarperValleyPTA

      Thank you so much for posting this, Mr. Crippen. For years I didn’t understand how my husband was controlling through finances, and it’s negative long term effects. I know God is using you to give hope to women who are living life in a joy desert.

  3. walkinginlight

    Reading all these posts from everyone does indeed help me and give encouragement. This is one I’m sure you all have not heard yet. The anti-husband has been doing government contracts for many, many years now. I was able to help those in need who the Lord brought before me, help my daughter and grandchildren with clothes etc. through the years. Well the contract ended two and half years ago and he came home. I thought to take a break and do another contract. He is not old enough to retire. Boy was I ever wrong! He made the comment after being home for months that “no one can make me work”, and had proceeded to be unemployed for all this time. Draining our retirement savings and him being fired from two jobs in the process. He took up verbally abusing me since he can’t emotionally abuse me anymore. I closed him out of my heart around eight years ago when God put Lundy Bancrofts book “Why Does He That”? in my hands.
    I keep praying and asking the Lord to show me how to be free of him permanently when I can’t work due to severe low back problems from a car accident. The man literally took us from a six figure income to sitting unemployed watching me squirm as I am the one who pays the bills. I think in his mind he is “punishing” me for not being vulnerable anymore. When I read the caption for this blog post today my eyes popped out as I feel he is financially abusing me now. I guess I will sit back and wait for himself to destroy his credit. I pray I can be free of his abuse very, very soon.

    • Aimee

      So true in my experience that the abuser dines out while the abused is given a tiny allowance and is constantly criticised for wasting money.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Happens all the time and yet is ignored by churches. It could be easily proved if they wanted to find out.

  4. Thank you for that encouragement, I Woke Up. My husband tries to tell me I am crazy, because I take medicine for depression, but I don’t feel so overwhelmed unless he is around, with his constant berating and criticizing.

  5. Anonymous

    I would regularly get cut off access to his bank account whenever he was mad at me. It was our only bank account and so suddenly I would have no funds for groceries or bills or anything else. It would last days at a time and I would only be given access back to the account once I had been adequately punished. It was always over daring to question his abuse or evil action, or displeasing him in some insignificant way that I can’t even remember. I just remember the panic and fear and feeling of helplessness and suddenly being cut off from the money with no warning.

  6. Anonymous

    Oh and I can attest to living in poverty while my husband dines out every week at restaurants eating steak, as well as often getting expensive takeaways delivered to his door.

  7. Anna

    Thank you for this post. Although I am a little confused here as to how financial abuse works. My husband and I have been married for over 20 years although I can’t say it has been a happy relationship. He stopped working 2 years into our marriage. Then on the third year, he moved me away from my family to another country. Once there the marriage eroded gradually and slowly although I did not realize it at that time. He became very argumentative and loved to provoke me into foolish arguments just trying to get me worked up. I fell for this each time but since he was criticizing my family and me most of the time, I felt I had to defend. Then he got himself involved with porn, but he may have already been addicted before our marriage. Refused counseling saying that he will work on it but he never did. He had one affair I know of. He has stolen my cash and jewellery making it look like a house robbery. Ne never treats me as his wife, never says anything nice and affirmative never validates or compliments me.
    I opened a joint account so that he would not feel too insecure over his jobless state. He handles the finances and pays for all the expenses from this account. As I earn well, there are large sums of money missing from the account almost each month, meaning the disappearance has not been accounted for. My husband has never given me an account of how my salary is spent. He is always talking about starting up a business but I think its just talk. As I am reaching 60 soon, I started to take some money from the account to put it away for a rainy day. He does not know I have a secret bank account or else I am sure he will find some expense to use the money.
    I no longer trust him. I have been warned by friends that a narcissist is always a narcissist and even when they are doing something nice, it is done to manipulate. My father sold some bonds and shares and wants to give me part of the proceeds. I plan to place this in my secret bank account. I don’t feel bad about doing this as throughout our marriage, I was single handedly paying for all the household expenses, mortgage, insurance, holidays and children’s expenses and education. He wants me to continue working and not retire, perhaps he is worried that our resources will be cut off.
    Whatever funds in my secret account is for the family’s use in the future, including my husband. I keep the money separate as I don’t trust my husband and he may have another affair and decide to leave the family. I doubt he will be able to take care of the children’s needs so that is my responsibility. I have been told by my BFF that what I am doing is morally wrong as I am keeping secrets from my husband and that I am being dishonest by keeping financial matters a secret from my husband. MY motive is not to control my husband but to be in a safe place financially in my old age. Hope to get some feed back here.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Anna- I am very sorry that you have had to endure this abuse all these years. And yes, it is indeed domestic abuse. Your husband craves power and control over you. In his mind he is entitled to own you and to be served by you and to do whatever he desires regardless of the harm his actions do to you. The Bible says that such men are “worse than an unbeliever.”
      The advice you have received from people about the narcissist is accurate. Your husband is never going to change. Never. The best forecaster of life with him in the future is to look at the last 20 years. Living with him will be more of the same. He won’t change.
      Your BFF’s counsel to you is absolutely wrong however, and damaging to you. In fact one of the wisest things an abuse victim can do is to put money away in reserve. And you have done very well in this. You have also done very well to have maintained career skills. Continuing to put money away in your account is very wise and is in now way doing wrong to your husband. Would your friend say it is wrong for a wife to refuse to buy her alcoholic husband whiskey for his own good? This is the same thing.
      I don’t know what the culture is where you live nor do I know the details of your situation such as the ages of your children. But I can tell you that in God’s sight you have every reason to divorce this unfaithful abusive man and to be free of him. I realize however that divorcing and getting free is not always a simple process, and that decision is yours alone to make. I just want you to know that it would be right and you would not be sinning in doing so.
      May the Lord direct you and give you wisdom and keep you safe,

  8. Mhiggins

    My situation doesn’t really fit any of that criteria but I feel I was financially abused. My ex was all too happy to let me work. We were only married for 22 months and he has 5 jobs in that time and many months not working at all. He had a bank account with 32,000 in it when we married. My name was on the account but it didn’t take me long to figure out that it was not to be touched after he went into a tirade when I asked for some money to help pay for all the new insurance policies for all of his “toys”. I have a medical professional career and two small businesses and during our marriage he was constantly berating me for not working more. Telling our pastor to tell me I should work harder. He would deprive me of sleep making it hard to manage all of that.
    During our marriage (I owned my house and two other properties prior to marriage) I paid for all mortgages, taxes, utilities, both of our cell phones, family health insurance, insurance for properties, insurance for both our vehicles, insurance for his motorcycle and other toys….. Even with all of this he would tell people I was spending all of his money. The only things he paid for was his truck payment (had to have a brand new top of the line truck) , groceries, and when we would go out to dinner once a week.
    Something about that unbalance bothered me so much that I actually bought a new car for myself where as normally I’m so frugal I will drive my Honda until it can’t go any further. He totaled it 13 months after I bought it. He did not feel the financial loss from that, I did.
    I am still financially burdened by him as the aftershocks are still shaking my world. He abused my child terribly and now I’m spending so much money on intensive therapy for my child and need to miss work a lot when my child is in a depression.
    He walked away from the marriage with his bank account that was down to 30,000. He was able to live for two years without having to pay any dwelling expenses. I walked away with a badly broken child, and debt on my home equity line of credit. I do however feel grateful that no lawyers needed to be hired and he didn’t try to take any of my assets. But mostly I’m grateful that he’s gone!!! This is so hard but it’s worth it.

    • Jeff Crippen

      I suppose we should coin a new name for this kind. He is an abuser for sure. The Leech?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *