Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

**A Surprising Ally of the Abuser

Acts 5:1-2  But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,  (2)  and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

We don’t know much about Ananias. Certainly we cannot say if he was a sociopath or the typical kind of abuser that we deal with. We do know that his sin was great and that he was a liar and hypocrite. But what I want us to consider here is his wife, Sapphira. “with his wife’s knowledge….”. 

Acts 5:8-9  And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.”  (9)  But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”

Over the years on numerous occassions, I have had to deal with wives who chose to take part in their husband’s evil. I think that in some of those cases the husband was an abuser, but in all of these situations I am thinking of, the wife chose to join with her wicked husband in his sin. 

Now, in addressing this subject we want to take care that we don’t falsely guilt victims. I am not talking about being in the abuser’s fog and being deceived for some time by him. Nor am I speaking here of a victim who for one of many understandable reasons either took a long time to leave or who perhaps has not been able to leave yet. Understood.
No, the people I am talking about here are spouses (all women in the cases I have experienced, though this certainly could apply to a husband as well)…are spouses who knowingly and willfully choose the side of the wicked reviler, abuser, sociopath, etc. Like Sapphira. And then they actively ally with their spouse against his targets. Even though they themselves have been and probably still are subjected to their evil husband’s wickedness, nevertheless they ally with him.  They defend him and participate with him. For example:

  • My husband is a good husband, no matter what you say
  • My husband is my hero
  • How dare you imply that about my husband

And then there are all kinds of non-verbal ways such women ally with their evil spouse:

  • Refuse to leave the marriage because of the financial or other rewards they are reaping from it
  • Cover for his religious hypocrisy and even participate in it
  • Keep his secrets

In other words, when confronted with this:

Joshua 24:15  And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

….these wives choose the false god. They choose the wicked man.
One of the most typical of these kinds of women is the pastor’s wife who covers for her husband who is a wolf in wool. She knows what he is, but for personal benefit she will not expose him. In so doing, she chooses against his victims and parodies his wicked teaching and counsel to them.
These women do exist. And sometimes men are in this role as well. The ones I have known, as I said, have been women. And in the end they fully participated in their husband’s evil. They are not to be considered victims. They are Sapphiras who willfully sin with full knowledge of what their wicked husband is. The Lord knows. The Lord sees.


**A Sure Sign of a Bully or Abuser: the Gnashing of Teeth


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  1. anonymous

    I am going to disagree with you on this one. Sapphira did not know that her husband Ananias had died. She was still under his control, doing what he manipulated her to do. In her mind, she was still returning to Ananias after talking to Paul so she had to continue doing Ananias’ bidding. After all, at the end of the day, she is the one that has to climb in bed with Ananias (and possibly endure his wrath for anything she may have done to displease him that day.) She was more afraid of Ananias than she was respectful of Paul.
    And this was me in most ways: “One of the most typical of these kinds of women is the pastor’s wife who covers for her husband who is a wolf in wool. She knows what he is, but for personal benefit she will not expose him. In so doing, she chooses against his victims and parodies his wicked teaching and counsel to them.” I was told by leaders (who I did go to fifteen years into our marriage or whose teaching we sat under in the early years of our marriage) that I would dishonor God by exposing him to the flock, that God would deal with him, I should just be a quiet and submissive wife. That whole submission thing was what controlled me the most.
    And I did that until thirty-five years into our marriage when my eyes were opened as I began reading about verbal, emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse and saw myself. I realized that I had been brainwashed by leaders and teachers with the “wives submit to your husbands” line. And I was the one that stepped up and said, “He shouldn’t be pastoring any more,” and told folks what our home life was like. He was in the hospital at that time and unable to control me or anyone else.
    After I opened up, other folks began to realize the control he had exerted in their lives as well. Yes, there were many victims over the years and I have been slowly going to them acknowledging that I covered up his adultery and the abuse in my home thereby enabling him to continue to pastor unrighteously and asking their forgiveness for concealing the truth and not walking in the light. Tons of regrets, things I can’t change, but folks have been kind.
    The only “personal benefit” to me by not exposing him was my own safety at home from his manipulations; from the wrath that would have come from other leaders who knew things but chose to “leave it in God’s hands”; and our children’s relationship with their father — my desire to hold our family together. (Now that they know the truth, our family has become very distant but they have all promised me a safe place if it comes to the point that I need to leave him.) The oppression, fear, guilt, and daily apprehension were certainly not “personal benefits.” (The paycheck was minimal, not a consideration.) Why am I still with him? He’s been diagnosed with dementia, two different kinds. He literally is lost without me.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Anonymous – Let me make two points, the second point stated first so that you don’t misunderstand. You are not like Sapphira. The story you tell here of your own life in the fog of abuse is not like that of Saphhira. I understand completely the kind of pressure from the church and other sources that were put upon you. The brainwashing and so on. But here is the first point I want to make: There is no evidence in the Scripture that Ananias was an abuser. He was an evil man. A hypocrite. Perhaps not a good husband. But here we have it – “Acts 5:2  and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” And then again, “Acts 5:7-10  After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  (8)  And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.”  (9)  But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”  (10)  Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.”
      In other words, Sapphira was not under the control of her husband. She sinned and she did so just as he did. The Lord did not deal with her as a woman who had been oppressed by her husband, but as a hypocrite herself. Like Ananias, she lied to the Holy Spirit and thought she could get away with it. The Scripture nowhere excuses her but holds her equally culpable.
      These people (mostly women) who I refer to in my post were like Sapphira in that sense. They knowingly and willfully chose to remain with their evil husband AND to participate with him in his evil. They covered for him, lied for him, and actively oppressed his victims along with him. When it came down to the choice, they chose thier own personal gain rather than obedience to the Lord.
      You, unlike Sapphira, hated what your abuser pastor was doing. And you have shown true repentance for any harm caused to anyone. Like most all abuse victims, you didn’t even see abuse for what it was for a long time and when you did, as you say, you were told to be quiet and that such silence was God’s will. Incredible confusion that is thrown at victims. Ultimately you acted and even now you show true real repentance for any harm done to others.
      Sapphira – she would never have done these things. She covered for Ananias willfully and chose the benefit of doing so over the Lord. And that is the kind of person I have dealt with numbers of times over the years. You are not one of them.

      • Carrie

        I too am a pastors wife..went t my husbands church to tell them of his abuse. They rebuked me and refused to do anything! Said they would only pray for me. Church’s are failing and many of us pastors wives submitted to our husbands and waited on the Lord and on our church. The church failed but God never fails…he provides a way out. Thx for your posts but this one was a little fuzzy for me.

        • Jeff Crippen

          Carrie – You are not willfully choosing to stand with your husband and participate in his abuse. You have exposed it and in response the church basically told you to shut up about it. You are not a Sapphira. You have not sat alongside your husband while he actively abused his other targets nor have you chosen to keep silent about it and even participate in it. Sapphira lied and covered for her husband so that she could also keep reaping the profit. She did so with full knowledge.
          My point in this post, and I understand that it walks a fine line, is to help people protect themselves from the likes of Sapphiras. I know they are out there because I have met them and been targeted by them over the years. A pastor’s wife who is stuck in her position for now but who sees the evil of her husband and who tries to expose it is much different than Sapphira. She receives mercy and help from the Lord. Sapphira received just judgment.
          Many blessings to you Carrie. May the Lord strengthen you and give you much wisdom and provide that way out.

  2. Z

    Maybe I can contrast my former mother’s willful participation in her husband’s many evils, including abusing us children in every way, with what the previous women have commented about. Those women were victims oppressed by an abuser and also were given false teaching by their church leaders, which kept them in bondage that these women clearly saw as abuse and wanted to be free of.
    My former mother CHOSE to be an abuser herself. She actually could be more vicious in her physical and verbal and emotional abuse at times than my former very violent abuser father. She kept his secrets, covered up his abuse, never asked for help from church leaders or authorities (she denied his abuses when police were called by neighbors who heard our screams), never was told she had to submit or stay with him by the church she went to as a counterfeit Christian. She stayed with him willingly and proudly and sold out her own children, watched them be brutalized by him and then she brutalized us herself. She even said things like you mention in your post, Pastor. When I disclosed sexual abuse by him to her she attacked ME and tried to suffocate me, calling me every vulgar name in the book, telling me to shut up over and over. She’d say, “It’s his house and he can do whatever he wants.” “Don’t you ever talk about what goes on in this house to anyone or there will be h$@& to pay for you.” She had no motherly care or love for her children whatsoever. No instinct to protect her helpless children. She preyed upon her own already abused and terrorized children. She stayed with her husband for the “easy life” both of them made for themselves by not having to go to work, as they together defrauded welfare for many many years. They illegally got monthly checks, health care, food stamps, food handouts, other perks welfare provided that were meant for needy people. Not meant for able-bodied, lazy, criminal frauds who felt entitled to other people’s money and just didn’t want to get up and go to work. They lied and pretended my former father had “abandoned the family” and that his whereabouts were unknown-clear and complete fraud-as my former father would be hiding in the bedroom closet when social worker would do rare home checks. He had never left the home. We children were forced to lie to the social worker about not knowing where our father was, under threat of more bodily harm. They were in that fraud and many other criminal schemes together. Former father ran a porn distribution business out of our home with mother’s help. We children saw the stacks of porn movies piled up in the house. None of these crimes were hidden from us innocent victimized children. We were terrorized by both of them into submission/survival modes. We had nowhere to go for help or to get out. Ultimately, this “mother” desired to not only please her monster husband but to also become just like him. Though they both falsely claimed to be “Christians”, I knew then and now they weren’t ever born again for sure. They had and still have no fear of God or His Power to send them to hell, which is where they are headed. They are still abusing and committing crimes and getting away with them. The wreckage they caused in the lives of their children that still exists in us as adults is, I’m certain, an abomination to God. As Jesus said, millstone/sea would be PREFERABLE to what they are facing from Him.
    I hope that description (believe me, there is so much more!) helps the previous victims who commented and may not be clear about what you are saying understand what an independently and willingly evil “Sapphira”, which you are writing about, looks like.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Very helpful Z. Thank you for helping me be clear.

    • frankiesmith2064

      Z— I’m so sorry you had to endure that horror. Peace be with you and hugs, healing, restoration and justice. Justice come quickly for these evil doers. In Jesus name.

  3. Lynn

    Thank you for this post Pastor Crippen. You described my family to a T. My mom is the primary abuser in my relationship with my immediate family, but my father refuses to stand up to her and supports her no matter what she does. This pattern of narcissistic women and the weak men that enable them extends to my grandparents as well. It’s why I’ve chosen to remain single. I was deathly afraid of turning into either of my parents. While I do not fear that anymore, there is little motivation or opportunity for me to safely seek out a partner. My family operated with the belief that divorce was the unpardonable sin and that regardless of how evil their partner was, they couldn’t leave. I’ve had other family members and church people who say that divorce is never allowed and in the case of narcissistic abuse, seeking a divorce is a sin that is as bad if not worse than the sin of abuse itself.
    I finally had enough of the abuse when my mother tried to swindle me out of my inheritance and my father sided with her and called me all sorts of names for refusing to submit to her demands. I’ve chosen to go no contact with them since there is no evidence that they are willing to repent or acknowledge their sin. While my heart is broken over their choice to live like this, especially since they’ve deceived themselves into believing that they are Christians, I will no longer allow them to continue to abuse me and sabotage my life.
    I am trying to determine if seeking therapy for C-PTSD is the right move for me since I’ve not been able to find a medical solution to the sleep issues and chronic fatigue I’ve suffered from since I was a teenager as a result of my prolonged exposure to narcissistic abuse. I am continuing to seek healing from a lifetime of trauma and abuse. Do you have any thoughts as it relates to the Bible about seeking psychological treatment as a means of healing from abuse? I know some reformed preachers teach that the Bible is all you need to overcome the challenges in life, but I’m struggling from a physical health standpoint. While I’ve been praying for God to heal my body, soul, mind, and spirit, I’m still suffering from the physical and financial effects from chronic exposure to narcissistic abuse from family and wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.
    The last church I was a member of admitted to me after the fact that they were suspicious of the wolf, but instead of dealing with the wolf and saving their members, they allowed the person to become a member and were unwilling to take action until after the abuse resulted in significant financial loss for me. I’ve been struggling with finding a church and people I can build relationships with as a result. While I know living in isolation isn’t healthy, I’m still really nervous about trusting people. I humbly ask for your prayers for me for continued healing, justice against my abusers, and financial provision in this unsettled time. Your sermons on sermon audio have been a godsend to me over the last 18 months and helped me properly understand biblically what being wise as a serpent about evil while being innocent as a dove of evil. I look forward to learning more about your online church option when it becomes available.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Lynn- the online church is up and running. Go to Christ Reformation Church facebook page. We livestream both the Sunday morning class and the entire worship service. You can also find links to everything at my Other blog, lightfordarktimes.com. The full Sunday order of service is there plus links to everything each Sunday.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Lynn- as to getting help from a therapist. Absolutely do it! Ignore any pastor or person who claims to do so is wrong. In fact there is no difference between seeking help there than in going to a medical doctor. Thank you for sharing and many blessings to you in Christ

  4. D

    Its like they’re all reading from the same guide book. I’ll be praying for you x

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