A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

What About Passive Abuse?

1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

In the course of instructing Pastor Timothy regarding how we are to conduct ourselves in the household of God, the Apostle Paul dealt with the issue of widows.  He said that the church should focus upon widows indeed.  Widows who have no family to care for them.  Other widows who do – well, here is the Lord’s Word on that –

1 Timothy 5:4, “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them [i.e., the children/grandchildren]  first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.”

Those who refuse to provide for their own household are brought under harsh rebuke.  Such a person has denied the faith of Christ.  He is worse than an unbeliever, because even the pagans take care of their own as a rule.  True religion, says James, is to visit widows and orphans in their need.

Frequently, we will come across women whose husbands simply will not provide for them and the children.  I have seen this firsthand, and I suspect many of you have as well.  The man is simply not interested in working.  He seems to have money for his own frivolities, but when it comes to the needs of the family, he has no care.  Husbands and fathers like this often also verbally, emotionally, or physically abuse their wives, but not always.  There are some who simply are passive.  They are the sluggard of Proverbs –

Proverbs 6:9-11, “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? (10) A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, (11) and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.”

Is this abuse?  What is the wife of such a man to do?  We hold that an abuse victim is biblically justified in divorcing the abuser who torments her as he seeks power and control over her.   But, what about this kind of passive neglect?

Well, once again I think it helps for us to remind ourselves that marriage is a covenant.  Scripture says so (Prov 2:16-17; Ezek 16:8; Malachi 2:14).  And covenants have terms.  Stipulations.  They are made in the presence of God and witnesses, asking God to bless us for keeping the vows and to curse us if we break them.  Pretty serious stuff.

Now, these vows – if they are biblical – contain terms such as “I will love her” – “I promise to forsake all others” – “I promise to be with her in sickness and in health” – ’til death do us part.   So (here we are using the husband as the example), he vows before God to love His wife.  Love is a pretty big commitment.  It includes caring for her, meeting her needs – and even if she is sick, to stick with her and keep right on caring for her.  ‘Til death do they part.

The sluggard, in his passivity, is actively violating those sacred vows.  Over time, as he persists in unrepentant sluggardry, not loving his wife who is his own flesh, he destroys the covenant.  Is this abuse?  Well, call it what you will, it certainly is unfaithfulness to the vow-terms of the covenant, and for that reason I maintain it is indeed grounds for divorce.  The wife is not required to divorce him, but I believe a case could be made that she should separate from him and that her church should assist her in doing so.  Why?  Well, listen to this –

2 Thessalonians 3:10-15,” (10) For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. (11) For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. (12) Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (13) As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. (14) If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. (15) Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.”

We are not proposing here some kind of checklist procedure that is to be applied in every case like this, but surely we can see here that the Lord tells us how to deal with a man who passively abuses his family by not working, by not providing for them.  (Incidentally, by “provide for them,” we simply mean that he do so to the best of his ability).  The church is to take this thing very seriously.  Such a man, who professes to be a Christian, is living in a worse manner than an unbeliever!  It is a shame to the name of Christ.  We are to take note of him and have nothing to do with him.  We are to warn him, and pray that this process so shame him that he will repent.

Once more, we must ask then, how well are our churches doing in carrying this out when the wife of such a man comes to us asking for help?  Are we standing with her, even if that means helping her and her children separate from him if he will not heed the warnings of Christ’s church?  Or are we leaving her to fend for herself?

***

For further reading: Is my abuser passive-aggressive?

25 Comments

  1. joepote01

    Excellent article, Jeff!

    I have seen situations as you have described, where a husband simply refused to work to help provide for the family. He was physically able to work, but simply refused to do so, as bills went unpaid, utlities were cut off, debt increased, and his wife struggled to work to try to keep up.

    Some of those situations ended in divorce, and I see the wife as not only totally justified in the divorce, but also pursuing the most godly path given the circumstances.

    Satan uses covenant to ensnare and enslave. God never uses covenant to enslave, but only to enrich and bless.

    For a spouse who persistently refuses to honor their covenant vows, sometimes the most loving response is to release them from the obligation their vows, allowing them the right to reap the reward of their choices and actions (or inaction).

    • Sheryl

      “Satan uses covenant to ensnare and enslave. But God never uses covenant to enslave, but only to enrich and bless.” AMEN! Thank you~

  2. I’ve known of lazy, work-shy men who would diligently spend hours juggling the debts on their credit cards (multiple cards, all maxed near to the limit, but different due-dates for minimum payments, so the guy would increase the debt on one card in order to make the minimum payment on another card).
    I’ve heard of one guy who used his vacuum cleaner on reverse to drive the gas meter backwards (yeah, he cut into the gas line to do it, putting his wife and kids at risk of serious bodily harm). He even calculated how much it was costing him in electricity to run the vacuum for the hours it took to drive the gas meter backwards, to make sure he was winning on the deal!
    These men are examples of what Paul is condemning. They’ve got brains aplenty, and the physical ability to work. They just don’t want to. They enjoy playing the system unethically.
    Paul isn’t talking about the genuinely disabled person. He’s talking about the lazy person, the one who is quite happy to be a leech on others.

  3. Anne

    What if you have a husband who works very hard and many hours a week by choice – our food, clothing and housing is taken care of BUT … the home is left in dangerous disrepair? Leaks, broken stairs, mold, crumbling walls, subpar bathroom facilities, etc.

    When I ask if we could hire someone to fix the issues, the answer is no, we can’t afford it or no, I can fix it and will when I have time. I am also guilted into feeling as though I am being materialistic and greedy to just want things in order and not broken. When I ask when can we work on this problem or that and fix something, I am a nag who doesn’t appreciate how hard he works to provide for us and selfish because I always want more.

    I’m also accused of being not very social or friendly because I don’t reach out and invite people (his church friends) over for fun and fellowship … truthfully, I’m ashamed of the way we live and afraid someone might get hurt in our home at worst and even though it’s not a huge thing, it hurts to think I might be judged by the way I keep our home. I keep it as clean and tidy as I’m able to given the condition of it, but all these church friends of his have beautiful, big homes with new stuff, etc. I don’t need or want big, new, latest greatest, I just want our older small home to be in good repair and as welcoming as I can make it with my secondhand stuff.

    It’s also hard because my husband always has the time to help others move things, make repairs, do yard and maintenance work etc, but never for us. And he will never ask any of these church folk to help him do for his own family what he does for them and a lot of them already live much better than we do.

    Is it really so wrong to want just a “normal life” where things work and problems are fixed when they happen and don’t wait months and years to be addressed? (We’re many weeks with no shower – one bathroom house – last time it went out, it was many months without it)

    • Ann it is most definitely okay for you to want those things repaired. Not ‘too much to ask’ at all, especially given that your husband helps out other families with their repairs! He is clearly choosing to be lazy just with you, in his own home. That indeed is a form of covert aggression.

      • Anne

        Oh my gosh! THANK YOU for giving it a name, Barbara! As soon as you did, I used the link to get “In Sheep’s Clothing” for my kindle. I never before thought that that book would apply to my situation. Read it more than halfway through … Bing, Bing, Bing!

        My husband is not a minister, only a layperson … but James and Jean could be us. I kept having ah ha! moments while reading. Then reading the parts about “shaming”. 😦 It’s so obvious now. I keep thinking of incidents, even in recent months that I let hurt me, make me feel guilty and less. I still struggle with believing the behavior is intentional … but the evidence is piling up. Slowly coming out of the fog.

        This blog has been an unbelievable blessing to me. I can’t thank you all enough for listening, teaching and supporting me. I’ve felt so trapped and alone for so long and learning that the idea of doing what makes me healthy and whole won’t mean I will lose favor in God’s eyes, that I’m not a good Christian, is so freeing!

    • Moving Forward

      Although not as bad as your situation, I understand the desire to see h care about his own home and family for once. He builds his outside reputation and grooms it carefully, always being available to help others in whatever way they need, and so everyone thinks he is so kind and generous and wonderful. But at home, a different story. I, too, have lived in homes where things are half-finished, poorly done, and I’m supposed to be happy about it. It is called abuse of neglect, and we have felt its pain a lot. I always felt I didn’t even hit the bottom of his list of priorities, nor did anything that had to do with me (kids, house, personal or household needs). It’s tough.

      • Anne

        Oh, Moving Forward! You so hit the nail on the head! That’s it exactly. Always so far down in the list of priorities, it’s like you don’t exist. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Anne

    Ummm, yes, about that shower I mentioned not being fixed for several months back in May? The only one we have?

    Still not fixed. Haven’t been able to take a shower my own home in close to a year. And I still fight with myself as to whether or not it’s abuse. What is my problem???! Sometimes I want to smack me.
    😦

    We’ve beat the record from the last time it didn’t work in spades. :-/

  5. Finding Answers

    Much of Pastor Jeff’s original post and what others wrote in the comments applied to my anti-x.

    And yet….

    Pastor Jeff’ quoting: 2 Thessalonians 3:10,” (10) For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

    ….I have always felt this was applicable to me, even when explained in the correct context.

    I am a jack-of-all-trades, or in some areas of life anyway. I don’t to fit specific job descriptions, don’t fit the usual stereotypes…no “box”…no “label”.

    Biblically-speaking, I don’t fit any of the women found in the “Women of the Bible” books. Maybe bits and pieces, but not in one individual.

    Somewhere, I need to find the Scripture to fit me.

    Something other than 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

    • I think you are one of the little ones that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 18:6

      But whoever hurts one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

      And I think you are rather like Tamar in 2 Sam 13. And the Levite’s Concubine in Judges 19-21. I guess you know this already but I have a YouTube presentation on The Levite’s Concubine. Click the link to view it.

      • Finding Answers

        I have been struck by Matthew 18:6 in the past, but felt something was “off”.

        I suspect the source may come from the struggles I have written about elsewhere on the ACFJ website. The ‘c’hurch and ‘c’hristian focus on the horrific crucifixion of Jesus, rather than His life and ministry. The off-balance focus left me feeling as invisible to Jesus as I did to the world.

        And for long stretches, I doubted I was Christian. My anti-x was an unbeliever who mocked my faith, my family of origin were nominal ‘c’hristians, and I didn’t meet the “standards” of the ‘c’hurch.

        My beliefs on – all counts – have radically changed.

        To be truthful, I have never believed I was worthy of anyone having a millstone hung around their neck and drowned in the depth sea because they hurt me. I have always been the scapegoat and never seen anyone face repercussions. Perhaps that, too, is why I felt invisible to Jesus.

        Each time I read Tamar, I pause. The only similarities I see are obedience with respect to the meal and the sexual abuse by her brother. The fact I was so much younger tends to colour the rest. I did not grieve, though I know now I dissociated. I did not tell anyone. And no one has ever avenged me.

        I watched your YouTube video on the Levite’s Concubine. Reading The Levite’s concubine has always appalled me. Viewing your presentation, while I could understand the application to abuse, I related viscerally in different ways to different parts. Overarching was the feeling of nowhere to turn. I felt like the virgin daughter, expendable, tossed to the rapists (wolves) with the concubine. I felt myself as the raped and dying concubine, clawing at the threshold…not to return to the Levite, but to reach safety. I saw myself as the concubine, invisible in her father’s house while everyone partied.

        My preference is to be one of the little ones…now I pray for the ears to hear.

      • ((hugs)) if you want them, Finding Answers.

  6. Finding Answers

    Hugs are always welcome, Barb. 🙂

    Y’know what’s odd?

    When I wrote my comment, when I re-read my comment now, I feel no emotional connection. Not the dryness of an academic dissertation, but a statement of facts.

    Yet what I wrote feels accurate. Watching your Levite’s Concubine presentation, I could feel the ache and pain of fog, the moments identified in my reply.

    I know I am not – nor was I – dissociated.

    Given your experience, Barb…and this is a combination of questions and explanations.

    Was my experience similar to a trauma victim reporting on the trauma? (I watched the Sexual Assault videos not long ago, but this doesn’t seem quite the same….) I didn’t feel triggered watching the presentation, fog and pain notwithstanding. The difference when I trigger is usually more vivid. It may sound weird, but I don’t see triggering in the same light as the fog and pain descending. Am I mistaken?

    FWIW, the few times I vocalized the sibling sexual abuse by my brothers, I remember the same factual flatness. I am puzzled…

    • Good questions, Finding Answers. Let me mull over them.

      I can recall lots of times when I reported/recounted to another person the abuse that I’d suffered, and I didn’t feel any emotion in the retelling. When I did that, the experience of ‘telling’ was usually disappointing…. if the person I was telling didn’t give a response that showed compassion – and outrage about the abuser(s) conduct – and a genuine desire to hear me share more, if they responded in any kind of distanced tone, I instinctively knew they didn’t really “get it” and they would not have liked me to show or express any of my gut raw emotional responses to the abuse…

      … and I knew my emotions about the abuse were locked away in a cupboard, covered in concrete

      … and instinctively I knew that I wanted and needed to reconnect my memories and ‘the facts’ to the emotions I’d buried in concrete… but unconsciously I knew that I needed encouraging responses from the listener(s) to my story to help me reconnect the emotions…

      and very seldom did I find anyone who gave even a little bit of the kind of response I needed.

      Looking back from where I am now, here’s what I’ve learned:

      Recovering from trauma is largely a process of grieving.

      It is innate to the way we are created that we want to share our emotions with others

      Be merry with those who are merry. Weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15 NMB).

      So ideally, grieving is a social process.

      But if there are no safe people and no safe places to share one’s emotions of grief with, then the emotions are often too hard to bear on one’s own.

      Sorrow and grief are meant to be shared. Healing and recovery takes place much better when we have companions who are with us, sharing, witnessing, empathizing, being our non-judgmental companions and friends us as we go through the grief, as we put together the memories, mourn the losses, vent the anger, have insights that help us connect the dots, learn the lessons, grow in depth of character, and build resolution strength and wisdom to keep going and to rise from the ashes, becoming shining stars for others…

      Job’s “friends” were doing a good thing sitting with him in silence. But as soon as they opened their mouths, they became just more of his abusers.

      • Finding Answers

        (Light airbrushing…)

        Your reply speaks volumes to me, Barb.

        So, keeping your reply in mind, I’ll start writing…..thinking “out loud” through my fingertips.

        First. I awoke in the middle of the night with one of those non-trigger fog-physical pain things I alluded to in my earlier comment. The Holy Spirit reminded me of something from childhood, telling me to “name it.”, meaning to make it public. (Maybe by the end of this comment I’ll understand why…)

        (Potential trigger warning?) During the time period of the sibling sexual abuse, the non-sexually abusive sibling would chant, “Incest is best. Put your sister to the test.” (I don’t know whether or not this was common to others that age.) The “main” sexually abusive sibling never said a word in my defense, did not “cry foul” to protect me from the words.(My parents were never around to hear the chant.)

        The Holy Spirit linked that childhood memory to the gang rape in The Levite’s Concubine presentation . As noted in the earlier comment, I was the concubine clawing towards safety.

        You commented in the presentation, Barb, most people write off the rape of the concubine, citing the context of the times as an excuse. The one sibling did not defend me while the other chanted. I think, subconsciously (?),…perhaps even consciously…I place(d) the sibling sexual abuse “in the context of the times”.

        None my counsellors expressed anything other than a “Just the facts, ma’am.” attitude. One even commented it was “not as damaging as being abused by a grandparent.” (I did not yet know my grandfather was a paedophile.) Even now, none of this feels strange. Yet if someone were tell me everything I’ve written up to this point in the comment was their story, I would be aghast.

        I cannot feel the compassion for myself.

        And yes, Barb, the few times I have mentioned childhood sexual abuse, there has been no response. Each time, the person has returned the conversation to their own issue(s). I know the behaviour is dismissing / discounting / devaluing. Again, I feel no different.

        I see how all this describes the experience so, so common to victims / survivors. Not being believed. Not being validated. Not being heard.

        Not being believed. Not being validated. Not being heard. That is the heart of the matter.

        I have never been believed. (Instead, I write.)

        I have never been validated. (Instead, I write.)

        I have never been heard. (Instead, I write.)

        QED. (quod erat demonstrandum)

      • None my counsellors expressed anything other than a “Just the facts, ma’am.” attitude. One even commented it was “not as damaging as being abused by a grandparent.”

        Aarrrggh! That counsellor’s comment was awful! He or she should be made to stop counseling altogether. What an arrogant, hurtful, and totally unnecessary comment!

      • That chant by your sibling was diabolical!

        I think, subconsciously (?),…perhaps even consciously…I place(d) the sibling sexual abuse “in the context of the times”

        … I understand why you did that, since no one ever told you how vile the chant was and no one ever told you how abnormal it is for one sibling to sexually abuse another sibling, let alone have a third sibling taunt you with such an evil chant.

        I want to let you know that sibling sexual abuse is not common, and it is even less common for another sibling to egg the sexually abusive sibling on and taunt the victim sibling like that!

        I know a woman who was abused by her sister when she was growing up. She was nine when it happened, and the sister who abused her was eleven. This single occasion of sexual abuse messed that girl up for decades well into her adulthood…. it affected her profoundly.

        Anyone who thinks that sexual abuse by x-type of perpetrator is not as bad as sexual abuse by y-type of perpetrator is an arrogant prideful fool. The abuse is as bad as the victim of that abuse says it is.

        How dare these fools try to make victims ‘feel better’ by telling the victims that they didn’t have it as bad as some other victims?

        I’m really angry about what that counselor said to you!

        And words can’t express how horrified I am by that chant…

      • Finding Answers

        I wrote a long reply to this earlier today. I see comments I wrote later elsewhere posted and on the sidebar. Is my longer reply to this one being held in moderation or did it get lost in the ether?

        My apologies if I sound “impatient”. I’m still not familiar enough with the ACFJ moderation process. And I know some comments take longer to moderate, depending on content, if links are included, etc.

      • Finding Answers,

        I think that comment has been approved.

      • Partial explanation: at the moment, I’ve got internet problems at home, so I’m slower than usual in moderating comments.

      • Jamie

        Finding Answers,

        I hear you and I believe you.

        I’m so sorry about what you’ve endured. I don’t want to presume; I only know what you have posted about here at ACFJ, but I think you and I probably have a lot in common. I know that is hard to believe that when you’ve led such a tortured past. And I do not mean to suggest that I can completely understand. I cannot.

        But I am still listening. And praying.

        You are loved.

        I find great comfort in Psalm 27. Some weeks I read it every day. Some days I read it more than once.

        _______________________

        “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
        The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

        When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh,
        my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.

        Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
        though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.

        One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
        that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
        to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

        For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
        he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

        And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me,
        and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
        I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

        Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me!

        You have said, “Seek my face.”
        My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

        Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger,
        O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not,
        O God of my salvation!

        For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
        but the Lord will take me in.

        Teach me your way, O Lord,
        and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.

        Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
        for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.

        I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
        in the land of the living!

        Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage;
        wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:1-14, ESV)

      • Finding Answers

        Jamie,

        Thank you for your words, every one of them. And thank you for including Psalm 27, untwisting it for me with new meaning. ‘C’hurch and ‘c’hristians could never apply it to my life, and now I understand why.

        Most of them had not been in the trenches, fighting the gates of hell. They may have brushed by the gates, soiled their sleeves, perhaps singed their hearts. But in the eyes of hindsight, we – you, me, everyone in the ACFJ community, all the victims and survivors out there – would not even be on their radar.

        I picked up one of my Bibles, curled up, and read Psalm 27. Several times. Each time I read, something different stood out. I can honestly say was the first time an entire psalm penetrated through the old muck and mire. Perhaps, quoting from Barb’s comment, because:

        Barb commented: Sorrow and grief are meant to be shared. Healing and recovery takes place much better when we have companions who are with us, sharing, witnessing, empathizing, being our non-judgmental companions and friends us as we go through the grief, as we put together the memories, mourn the losses, vent the anger, have insights that help us connect the dots, learn the lessons, grow in depth of character, and build resolution strength and wisdom to keep going and to rise from the ashes, becoming shining stars for others…

        Just as others have untwisted the words of Scripture for me, you have tied in the psalms.

  7. Finding Answers

    Barb,

    Thank you for your JUNE 17, 2018 – 12:26 AM and JUNE 17, 2018 – 12:47 AM replies. I sat and read them…and read them….and read them.

    And I heard them. And I felt them.

    And I am left with no words to reply…

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