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Spiritual Abuse Is Using the Bible as a Weapon of Control

Spiritual Abuse is Using the Bible as a Weapon of Control

The devil uses the Bible as a weapon of control (Matthew 4:1-11)

Let me break this down for you.

Satan did it. (He is the bad guy, not the good guy.)

So – Bad Guy used the BIBLE. (Good Words. Not nasty, mean, obviously evil and vile words.)

So – Bad Guy used Good Words to TEMPT the Son of God. (Tempting is a bad thing.)

So – Bad Guy uses Good Words to do Bad Things in the WILDERNESS. (Not when things are going well, but when things pretty much suck, and you’re down.)

So – Bad Guy uses Good Words to do Bad Things when you are Down in the Pits.

Has this ever happened to you?

The Bible wasn’t written so religious people could use it to slam people’s heads against rocks. It wasn’t written so religious people could control other people and make them do what they want them to do. “I’m an ELDER (translated Fraudulent Authority)! I’m God’s appointed man! If you don’t obey this Bible verse I’m throwing at you out of context (and even mistranslated), then YOU AREN’T A CHRISTIAN AND YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!” Or “THEN I’LL TELL EVERYONE YOU ARE A JEZEBEL AND WE’LL EXCOMMUNICATE YOU!”

Sisters, there is a name for this. It’s Spiritual Abuse. If your husband or friend or sister or elder or anyone used the Words of God to control you, you experienced spiritual abuse. How is one to respond to someone who says, “Thus Saith the Lord!” I mean, if God said it, why, you better believe it, right? Right, except that God doesn’t say all the things these spiritually abusive individuals say He is saying.

One of the Flying Free members discovered another lie Bad Guy uses to shame women who attempt to escape their abusive relationships. Have you ever had this verse smashed into your face? Leslie explains what this verse really means with insight and joy.

I hope it sets you free from one more chain that keeps you in bondage. Here’s what Leslie Hatton writes:

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”
~ Proverbs 14:1

I finally figured it out. My (almost ex-) husband has been beating me over the head with this verse ever since I drove him out of our house over two years ago. Aside from the fact that mentally abusing a person with God’s holy word is obviously wrong, I was at a loss regarding his application of this particular verse.

During these past two years, these mental beatings have made me feel angry and defensive. Eventually I began rolling my eyes when these texts came through. Ignoring his noise has become easier. I’ve even felt sorry for him…rarely.

But this week, I had my aha moment. My husband sees “her house” as synonymous with her marriage and family. But how does Jesus Christ define a person’s house? As in, “the wise man built his house upon the rock”?

Jesus says a person’s house is his–or her–life. (See Matthew 7 for His train of thought regarding life, beginning in verse 14.)
So, my house, metaphorically speaking, is my life. Your house is your life. A husband’s house is his life, and so on.

If we look at Proverbs 14:1 and Matthew 7:24 side by side, we will see how closely related they are.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” (Proverbs 14:1)

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

Everyone includes men and women, husbands and wives. In fact, in Christ “there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) God’s view of any person’s life is not based on his or her sex.

What is my point? My point is that the subtle distinction between a person’s life and a person’s marriage is pivotal. Whether or not we distinguish the two has an enormous impact on how we live our lives, how we build our house.

For decades I tried to build my house on the shifting sand of my marriage. I thought I was building my house on the rock, but in reality, I was tearing down my own life. With my own hands, I dismantled my self-esteem, my self-worth, even my own personality. I twisted myself into a submissive pretzel in a vain attempt to make my marriage ‘work.’ I became someone I did not recognize and someone I did not like.

Did this have a positive impact on my husband and children? On the contrary, the effect was devastating. I had set out in faith to follow my Savior, but 23 years in, I saw that our family resembled a pack of wolves rather than a flock of sheep. My reality did not line up with my identity in Christ, so I cried out to God, and we began again, apart from my husband.

God showed me how to view myself correctly, through his eyes. Fixing my eyes on Jesus, I saw that I could no longer allow myself to be disrespected and mistreated. I began caring for myself, and for the first time in my entire motherhood, I was finally free to care for my precious children properly, without begging for provision, in a peaceful home. I am sighing in grateful relief just thinking about it!

God will not work with a person who is busy beating his sheep, or tearing them to pieces. Why should we? (See Ezekiel chapter 34.) Until that person is blinded by the Light and repents, God cannot work through him. (See Acts chapter 9.) God “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5, James 4:6, Proverbs 3:34)

So what should we do? I think we should fix our eyes on Jesus and focus on building our own life on the Rock. After decades of futility, believe me when I say this focus shift results in a house you can honestly call home. Finally!

Written by Leslie Klipp Hatton

Flying Free Sisterhood

An online coaching, education, and support community for women of faith in destructive relationships.

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The Comments

  • Avatar
    September 30, 2023

    I’ve dealt with spiritual abuse pretty much my entire life and still continue to do so by my parents. The abuse has gotten so deep into my head that it has led me to believe that God hates me because I’m the problem and I deserve all the bad things that happen to me (according to my parents )which is far from the truth. Growing up I’ve had to put up with the physical and emotional abuse and just today actually my father put hands on me and by that I mean he hit me over something that he had started. As we argued, he brought up my car accident that I had about a month ago. I was hit by a reckless driver and I was very lucky to have survived given the extent of the damages that was done to my car, so he threw this whole incident in my face by making comments like “don’t forget what happened to you, your car accident, that was a punishment by God.”
    It’s not the first time he’s made these type of comments. Anytime I experienced some sort of misfortune, my parents would always throw it back in my face and blame me for the bad things that would happen to me. Now for two people who claim to be devoted Catholics and who yes attend church, take part in the church choir and pray, would you consider their actions to be Catholic? I would say not, they never accept responsibility for the hurt they cause or own up to anything. In their minds, they are always right and everyone else is wrong. Respect is a one way street for them. You have to give it to them but they don’t have to return it. They have a God complex.

    Unfortunately I’m one of those people who aren’t lucky in life. I’ve been like that since I was a child and now I’m starting to believe that as long as I continue to be in my parent’s lives, I will never break free from this curse and I call it that, because that’s exactly what my parents do to me- curse me. I also believe that as long as there is tension, animosity, toxicity, parents constantly cursing their children within a family unit, you invite negative energy. You give easy access to the devil and things will always go wrong in one’s life. I’ve come to the realization that despite the amount of praying and worship they do, they will never see the wrong in their actions, and I feel like it’s time to cut them out of my life for good. I truly believe that as long as they are in my life, things will never go right for me . It’s going to take some time for me to regain the little bit of faith that I once had in

    • Avatar
      → M
      October 27, 2023

      Thank you for sharing this, it was very comforting sadley there is many out there that do this and it spiritually hurts others that turn away from God when the truth about him is,he is such a loving, merciful, patient, gentle, forgiving God.

  • How Can I Overcome Temptation According to the Bible? – Moral Support Network
    July 3, 2023

    […] of the most effective ways to overcome temptation, according to the Bible, is by using Scripture as a weapon. God’s Word is powerful and can help us stand strong against the temptations that come our […]

  • Avatar
    Sarah Janzen
    February 1, 2022

    I am a survivor of two abusive marriages. The first time I fled for my life. But I had children with the second. Yet I made a vow and refused to leave the second. After 16 years, he finally walked out in answer to my prayers. I’m now 11 years into my third marriage, at last healthy and stable. I have struggled with enormous condemnation from Christian counselors and friends, with rejection from family members who sided with my abuser, and from even my children who rejected me for 5 years in favor of their Disneyland Dad. Two of them now see him for whom he really is; my third is still in the dark. Narcissists are very convincing. He convinced everyone, including my kids and my family, that I was the problem. Going crazy in such a dysfunctional home with even a trip to the psych ward, such emotional and psychological abuse can make a person become volcanic and mentally ill in their own struggle to survive. I had no support groups or friends to help me navigate through those horrible years. I only had God, who at times seemed like He had forsaken me. But He didn’t. He never left my side.
    For the women who struggle with divorce, is it Scriptural? and isn’t remarriage forbidden, I’m grateful that your articles emphasize looking deeper into the original languages and not being fooled by mistranslations. Yeshua came out strongly against “apaluo” (mistranslated as divorce). This was the common practice amongst Jewish men of “dismissing” their wives for any reason (even approved of by the rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof), not giving her a divorce certificate (called a “get”), leaving her destitute but still married, and therefore an adultress if she remarried. Yeshua found this abhorrently abusive toward women. It would be an evil God who would demand you stay in an abusive destructive relationship.
    Paul is notoriously mistranslated and misunderstood and has given us some of our most despicable “normative” teachings in Christian theology, such as Yeshua “nailing Torah to the cross”. Even Peter agrees that mistranslating Paul leads to destruction (2Peter 3:15-16). Paul was addressing cultural issues in his congregations in 1Cor. 14:34 because women were shouting out and disruptive (mistranslated as “speaking”) over the partition that typically separates men from women in a synogogue. In 1Tim 2:12, Paul was addressing the recently converted temple prostitutes of Ephesus who were domineering and wealthy, who were trying to take charge and usurp authority. No, they’re not allowed to teach till they’ve been properly discipled.
    I hope Scripturally we can take back the ground that we as believers have lost to hasatan. We were created male and female, equal but different, mutually commissioned to rule over the earth (Gen 1:28). But the original curse placed women under man’s authority (Gen 2:16). Yeshua came to break the curse, restore to us His Kingdom on earth, and tear down the partitions that divide and separate us as Jews/gentiles, men/women. We truly can “fly free” now and submit ourselves one to another, as mutual servant leaders in our own giftings.
    I hope this helps someone out there who is struggling as I did.

  • Avatar
    August 15, 2021

    Thank you for this insight. I did not know spiritual abuse was a thing, but I’ve been experiencing it in my marriage for sure. My husband cherry picks the parts of the weekly sermon that he likes and uses it as a weapon against me. And this morning he said the only subject we were going to talk about from now on is the Bible. He said he was so happy to read this morning that God created man first. I knew what he meant was that I’m inferior to him in every way and he was going to look for ways to use the bible as his new weapon. I’m exhausted from years of emotional abuse and just want it all to end. I try my best not to engage, but I’m just plain worn out, and overwhelmed from it all.

    • Avatar
      Shelly Marino
      → Jennifer
      June 3, 2022

      I can sympathize. My husband, a non-Christian, does the same to me to get his way. I recently walked out with my son due to his out of control verbal abusive attack. He has done this before but never directly at son like this last time. My husband is using Christian principles over my head like forgiveness to get me to come back. Reading this article has been an affirmation for me as to what God has been speaking to me through scripture about abusive behaviors and wicked talk. Stay strong and pray for God to show you the way because He will.

      • Avatar
        → Shelly Marino
        December 7, 2022

        Since my last comment, my husband has abandoned me and our son. He moved 200 miles away to play cover songs in bbq restaurants and dive bars 5 nights a week with a woman I have never even met. He tells me that he is a follower of Jesus, a man of God, and positive all of the time. I do not believe that Jesus wants men to abandon their families for a life of sin. I am somewhat relieved that he is gone, but it is taking a huge toll on my mental health. I was already overwhelmed at home and now I have to take one the few chores that he used to do in addition to doing everything myself. I cry all the time and don’t sleep at night. I pray and read the Bible when I get upset and it helps, but I wonder if this is God’s plan for my life. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through.

        • Avatar
          Shelly Marino
          → Jennifer
          December 7, 2022

          Your husband leaving sounds like a blessing in disguise even though it is very difficult. I have looked back on the hard times God has allowed me to go through and realized it was to make me stronger and grow closer to him. It took me marrying two narcissistic, controlling men through very difficult, heartbreaking situations where I felt like my world was crashing down on me while the rug was being pulled out from under my feet to realize God is the only man I need in my life and His love is sufficient for me.
          My trials have allowed me to share an understanding ear and provide words of comfort to those in similar situations with many people that have come across my path.
          Never forget the words of Jeremiah 29:11, God has a plan for you nor forget Isaiah 40:31. I knew these passages before but they came to me during my trials and I have held them close to my heart ever since.
          Give it to God Jennifer. He already has EVERYTHING worked out. He is the only one that can give you peace, rest, and energy sufficient for each day.

  • Avatar
    March 29, 2020

    I actually loved reading this my marriage is at a stand still because my husband doesn’t like the fact that my son holds my hand “caresses” as he may say or stand to close to me etc. We have talk with the Pastor, Edlers, and recently a counselor. I’m feeling so overwhelmed what I’m reading in these replies feel like I’ve been going through this since we moved in together . Sorry I needed to vent

    • Avatar
      Jennifer Thomas
      → Shenita
      December 9, 2022

      Thank you for your words of encouragement. It was another sleepless night last night. I live in an old farmhouse, and I discovered a hole in the floor last night. I am not handy, and the urge to call him to ask what to do was strong. I know I need to figure it out myself or hire a handyman, that I’m just looking for an excuse to contact him. You are right I need to turn all my thoughts and love to God and my 12 yo son who is still living at home with me. Thank you again for your timely words of support this morning. Have a blessed day.

  • Avatar
    Laure Covert
    November 23, 2018

    I am finding such freedom (and relief) from books and blogs that focus on the truth of the Bible and the lie of patriarchy/complementarian theology! Thank you! I started with What Paul Really Said About Women and moved on to The Equality Workbook by Helga and Bob Edwards (I am working through Addressing Domestic Violence in the Church by this couple too). Now I have your resources too! YAY!!!!

  • Avatar
    July 26, 2018

    In the original language it does not say a wise woman builds her house up, it says the wisdom of woman builds her house up. That is a huge difference because “the wisdom of woman” is a leadership quality unique to womankind for the building up of the family. It is head and not take, it is knowledge and initiation to plan, delegate, govern, take action, set family direction, and lead through taking action. It is the opposite of submission to another’s direction and instruction because it is the wisdom of woman not of husband or man. Also, I’m studying scholarship resources not theology, and it is possible that Ephesians 5:24 is not in an original document, an older text, that is now lost to us. Therefore, the original may have simply started with the call to mutual submission to one another out of reverence for Christ then moving onto wives and stating that the husband is head of the wife like Christ is head of the Church, Saviour of the body, then onto husbands giving themselves up for wives etc, excluding the submit in everything verse. I belive that verse 24 was added sometime after 200 AD. It makes a huge difference when the “everything” verse is removed because it softens the blow of submission due to verse 21 and 25 content which makes a husband’s cultural authority impotent and crippled which was the intent in Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Peter. All three places move a husband away, not towards, the power that the Roman-Greco culture gave them. Do you know what the qualifications were for the husband even being campaired, not identified with, but compared to Christ as Head of the Church? The qualification in Greek is “Saviour of the body!” That is an idiom for Roman patronage of the husband providing the wife with the material resources to survive and the legal representation for transactions, and the promise to physically protect her! In return, the submission is reminiscent of give to Cesor what is due to Cesor! Christ is pictured earlier in both Col and Ephs as fighting the Church’s spiritual battles on her behalf and nourishing and cherishing her for survival, health, and growth. It is spiritual patronage, and that is why the husband was compared to that imagery. It was only a social position due to cultural reasons, not one due to maleness or divine male leadership. It is timebound to cultural qualifications that no longer apply. Theologians should know better than to set it up as timeless without qualifications from the husband. Also, Roman patronage was exploitive therefore husbands were commanded to give themselves up, I.e to give up those cultural privileges of power and leadership and to serve by meeting the wife’s needs and requests, not by following his own will and then calling it leadership! It has strong ties with Philippines where we prefer and defer to the desires, gifting, and will of other’s because we consider them better than ourselves. That is what husband’s were told to mimic and identify with, not with leadership as in making all of the decisions. Too bad the point of it has been so abused with two verses that were not even written to husbands.

  • Avatar
    June 28, 2018

    I totally get it! I suggested to my husband the other day to edit something he wrote to our teenage son. It sounded like he was discouraging him from reading his Bible, but he said he was giving him an “out” and suggesting devotionals, even though that suggestion wasn’t in the letter. I suggested he make the edit so our son could tell he was suggesting “additional” forms of being in God’s presence. My husband sarcastically said, “Did you just pray about what you said? Did God tell you to say that to me? Or is that just your opinion?” (I didn’t answer….I was frustrated, so I walked away from the conversation.) What would you have done? (btw, he eventually added a p.s. to the letter, suggested that the Bible really was the best way to get to know God.)

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Sue
      June 29, 2018

      What he did was a sarcastic baiting tactic meant to shut you down. It was childish at best, and verbally abusive at worst. If this is his regular way of communicating, he’s abusive. I would have offered the advice, and when he baited me, I would have said, “Stop that” and walked away as you did. You can’t have a rational, adult discussion when someone is just lobbing stupid accusations at you instead of addressing the topic of conversation. Good job to refuse to engage.

  • Avatar
    May 1, 2018

    It’s crazy how the abuser makes you culpable for the abuse by using scripture, but is exempt from the scriptures that talk about treating one another with love and respect.
    Mine tells me I am not obedient and God put women here for men. But if I try to tell him that God’s word commands us to submit to one another in love, he says I don’t understand the Bible. So he has no responsibility to me, but I must forhive and forget at his command.

  • Avatar
    Ashley Cash
    April 17, 2018

    This is so beautifully written! I have never even considered spiritual abuse being a thing, I’m glad to see this is talked about!

  • Avatar
    February 11, 2018

    Thank you for the devotional and its message. Amen!

  • Avatar
    February 8, 2018

    WOW!!! What a revelation! 😀

  • Avatar
    Bunny Suiter
    February 8, 2018

    How very liberating. I love how God reveals His heart in these subtle shifts. Thank you sister, for sharing this. What a beautiful nugget!

  • Avatar
    Deb Beck
    February 8, 2018

    Until a person repents God cannot work through them! It takes two to have a relationship. You can never make it work when the other is unwilling! Thank-you Natalie for great insight!

  • Avatar
    February 8, 2018

    Wow! Wonderful news! I LOVE this! Thank you for sharing!