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Why churches should stop paying hush money

What is hush money?

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

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.

Kelly Williams is co-founder and senior pastor of Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Kelly Williams is co-founder and senior pastor of Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. | Courtesy of Kelly Williams

In my own hometown of Colorado Springs, New Life Church and Pastor Brady Boyd paid a sex abuse victim of Ted Haggard’s to keep quiet about the details of the very public fallout. When asked about it in a public interview, Pastor Brady said, “It was compassion assistance.” However, this is not a biblical term nor are there any positive examples of this in the Bible.

Since then, we have seen this same scenario play out with Ravi Zacharias, Brian Houston, Bill Hybels, Jerry Fallwell Jr, and the list goes on and on. We are learning each day more and more that churches and ministries have seen this nondisclosure practice as acceptable.

However, 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.

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?'” (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.

In God's eyes, this is not an acceptable practice to handle matters.

It is legal but it is not godly or biblical. So why do church leaders and boards do this?

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.” Oftentimes, 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” for the “good” of the Gospel.

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

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

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.”

There is not one example in the Bible to support this practice.

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. The Church is Christ’s bride, and He wants her back. Paying someone to suppress the truth is a sin. The Bible makes it clear that, in time, the suppression of truth will be exposed.

Controlling the narrative with money is never God’s way of going about things.

The Bible makes 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.”

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. When confronted, he repents and 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).

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.

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.

Kelly Williams is co-founder and senior pastor of Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  His books include: The Mystery of 23, Friend of Sinners and Real Marriage. He also maintains a blog.  

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