Why Pastors Cheat

Lifehacker had an interesting post the other day on cheating.  I hear way too many stories about cheating pastors.  I always wonder why and how they ever get to this point.  This is really something to consider:

Cheating doesn’t occur just because it’s a possibility, but because the alternative to cheating is potentially worse.

Say you’re back in high school and you have a history test in the morning. History is your worst subject because you don’t like it and can’t seem to memorize a bunch of dates you find incredibly boring. As a result, there’s a very likely chance you will fail the test and it will 1) negatively impact you grade, which 2) will negatively impact your chances of getting into the college you want, which 3) will result in an angry parent. Alternatively, you can cheat and be guaranteed a good grade. This, of course, comes with the risk of getting caught but you have to weigh that risk against the risk of failing”which is basically an assurance.

Comparing this to the dating scenario, more people will choose to try and fail because it’s the more assured outcome, like not asking someone out for dinner.

Cheating happens when the risk of getting caught cheating isn’t as scary as failing. With the dating scenario, you’re more likely to ask someone out if being alone is scarier than being rejected. When cheating becomes the more attractive outcome, people choose it.

(Via Lifehacker.)

Wow… I really like that quote:

Cheating happens when the risk of getting caught cheating isn’t as scary as failing.

Could this be true?

Is this why so many pastors fall into the temptation of cheating on their wives, losing their career, their families, and everything they’ve worked hard and given their lives for?

Does cheating happen for a pastor when the act of getting caught cheating isn’t really as scary as overall failure?

Food for thought.

What do YOU think?




  • H. Ed June 2, 2011 Reply

    The statement that “Cheating happens when the risk of getting caught cheating isn’t as scary as failing” is oxymoronic when it comes to the pastorate, because cheating IS failing! It makes some sense with a history exam, because there is a chance (or the idea of a chance)of success, but when it comes to an affair, what success could be gained? No, I think pastors cheat for the same reason other men cheat… they are drawn away by their own lusts, and enticed! Lets not romanticize, or psychologize sin. It starts with a corrupt darkened heart that is the result of the sin nature, and leads to temptation, and failure.

    • Richard June 2, 2011 Reply

      No, I think pastors cheat for the same reason other men cheat… they are drawn away by their own lusts, and enticed! Lets not romanticize, or psychologize sin. It starts with a corrupt darkened heart that is the result of the sin nature, and leads to temptation, and failure.

      I think you might be making a false dichotomy here, there isn’t a contradiction between “drawn away by their own lusts and enticed”, and the “psychologized” version.

      I think this article points to the possibility that the sin problem goes deeper than a pastor thinking a particular parishioner is attractive and having sex with that parishioner. Maybe the “lust” in this case is for interpersonal connection, significance or caring (especially given the stress that the pastorate can put on a marriage).

      If cheating happens when the “assured failure” of connection, significance and caring is greater than the risk of disrupting one’s relationship with one’s spouse and community by getting caught (and one’s relationship with God by carrying out the act) then it changes the way that we guard against this particular sin.

  • Cindy Day June 2, 2011 Reply

    I think there is a power/fame element as well, much like what happens to politicians and actors. Pastors are up in front of people on a stage. Women can be attracted to that aspect. Pastors also are glorified in some people’s minds. They are a stand-in for God, as well, and in a crazy way, turning the head of a minister can feel like having won God’s favor. Then, from a minister’s perspective, having that kind of adoration in someone else’s head is very flattering. Attention from someone who doesn’t know or grasp your own warts and inadequacies can be very enticing. Put it all together, and the situation is ripe. Ministers need to be very guarded on this level. I believe there are far more opportunities for failure in this area than for most men.

    • Barbie July 29, 2014 Reply

      Could not agree with you more.

  • Lawyer with a Gun June 2, 2011 Reply

    I think this might be an apples-to-oranges kind of thing. It seems like the Lifehacker article is speaking of the “dishonest” sort of cheating (cheating on a test, fudging a resume, etc…).

    Although cheating on a spouse IS dishonesty, it’s more for the reasons H. Ed and Cindy Day discussed above. I don’t know that that type of cheating fits neatly within the author’s theory. I would think that, in the case of the loose pants, it’s not so much that the pastors are afraid of failure. It very well may be that they’re NOT afraid of failure at all (or not enough).

    • Pastor Steve June 3, 2011 Reply

      Lawyer with a gun, That was my first reaction to the Lifehackers article. For a Pastor and as a Pastor I see a moral failure as total and complete failure. Running away from that temptaion like Jospeh did with the allurement of Potiphers wife is the achievemnt of victory amd even that has consequences at times.

      Preachers have affairs for the same reason anyone else has an affair, they are men who allow thier flesh passions to control thier decions. It’s not a psychological problem. Let’s get back to calling it what it really is; It’s a SIN problem!

  • Matt Steen June 2, 2011 Reply

    I think it is slightly different in the church world. In many cases the guys who blow up their lives don’t think of it as cheating, the believe that they deserve what they are doing.

    Entitlement thinking and arrogance are the triggers in ministry more than the thought that getting caught won’t be a big deal.

    • Keith June 8, 2011 Reply

      I’ve read research which has found men who have affairs actually consider themselves to be morally superior to ordinary people: They have a very high view of themselves, they work so hard, they contribute so much, therefore they rules don’t apply to them and they deserve their pleasures. Although it is antithetical to the Christian way, I suspect that church men who cheat on their spouses have this same worldview.

  • steve miller June 3, 2011 Reply

    Lots of good comments, but let’s remember we aren’t the only team on the field. You know who gets sacked the most? The quarterback.

    I’m an average guy (I’m no Brad Pitt, then again I’m no Quasimodo either), but I have noticed when I’m visibly in ministry and have a lot of folks under my leadership I get hit on by women a lot more.

    The enemy is no fool. He knows to go for the most damage as possible.

    Why do Pastors fail, there are tons of reasons. What are you doing to insure your pastor doesn’t become a statistic. Are you praying for him and his marriage. Are you providing time off for him to actually date his wife? Do you insist he is a heart to heart accountability relationship with another man? Is his wife being encouraged to be his support and helpmate.

    I don’t want to downplay Pastor’s own culpability when they fall, but usually when a Pastor fails you see there was also a poor accountability and support system as well as a church schedule which fostered opportunities to sin. Sadly we tend to only focus on the Pastor’s sin and don’t take the proper steps to safeguard our future leaders.

    • Pastor Steve June 3, 2011 Reply

      Technically the only person that can be sacked is the quarterback. When a defense player, or the d-line tackles the quarterback or forces him out of bounds behind the line of scrimage. But anyway!

      Great point Steve Miller, plus having a famous rock band probaly makes you a target to women as well. JK

      The only problem with having “accountablity partners” is that person can only be accountable to the amount of information he is willing to give out.

      At our church there is no internet access to a pastors private office, OK!That helps with not looking at bad websites in my office, But what else can be done to safegaurd from affairs and such… this is an important topic for the church, looking forward to reading other responses.

      Mainly becasue I am a young pastor and look forward to keeping my “above reproach” credibility for the rest of my life. But it just takes one wrong decision to end a lifetime of work Rom. 14:16 Don’t let your good be evil spoken of. SOme times good intensions reap painful consequences.

      • steve miller June 6, 2011 Reply

        My ignorance of sports and sports terms is pretty glaring isn’t it?

        Yeah, accountability partners are not fool-proof. Because people are capable of deception you can’t safeguard against every contingency. You can make it difficult for people to sin or start down a path of being enticed by sin. You open yourself up to being held accountable at a heart level to another person and you are either going to get humble and real or be forced to become a very skilled deceitful liar. In either case eventually the fruit of your decisions will be apparent. You can’t serve God wholeheartedly or consistently sin without those close to you seeing the condition of your heart in other areas of life.

    • DeAnna December 1, 2013 Reply

      Excellent comment about how the church leadership needs to be held accountable for the Pastor straying. I have a friend who’s husband is a pastor of a church and they kicked her out and let the Pastor continue his sinful behavior. Those who disagreed left the church and those who supported him stayed in the church. He has no accountability and people are turning a blind eye to his behavior. In the meantime she has spent the last 5 years alone, abandoned by her fellow church woman and her husband continues to pastor the church. He has recently filed for divorce and she has been trying to pick up the pieces in her life ever since all of this happened. It makes me very sad and angry to have to watch her go through all of this with zero support from the church.

      • yoli June 8, 2014 Reply

        Yes I know what your talking about first hand . I was a pastors wife was married in 1992 his father was the Bishop of the church and turned the ministry over to him , he passed shortly after. Me and my husband took over and we were doing a good work, but the devil infiltrated in the ministry and I saw the shift in the ministry and in him . To make a long story short he started sleeping around with women coming home all times of night and I told him sit down and talk to me what’s going on and if he doesn’t stop he can’t stay in our home. We have two children one daughter and a son and I didn’t want my children to think this was normal . He wind up walking out the day after Christmas after coming home at 5:00 am in the morning in 2008 .Then after 2 years separated he came back home 2010. In my spirit I knew something wasn’t right, and I prayed and asked God to show me, and he did. He sent a text and it said you know why I’m not there. I knew this text wasn’t for me because he was home, it was for the other women. He left again and the other women got pregnant, and people in the church eventually found out some left but the ones who stayed excepted him with open arms. He still preaching laying hands and he lives with her on and off. He’s still a Bishop of a Pentecostal church. Preaching and teaching laying hands and give no support for his children , and brings the child who is now 2 years old to church. We are still married, in the process of getting a divorce which he held up another long story. I pray and attend another church now but still don’t understand why God doesn’t strike him dead, please pray for me.

        • Dan June 8, 2014 Reply

          It is deeply tragic, but unfortunately it is not at all uncommon. I believe in forgiveness, but only where there is sincere repentance. A preacher who dumps his wife and goes off preaching with his whore is no better than a Satanic high priest who at least admits to what he is doing. And the leadership of a church is a leadership of incompetent fools who open their arms to these giggalos to preach from their pulpits. What’s passeed off for repentance today is often nothing more than a phony plot to get back into the limelight for self-glorification. And these preachers are more adept at taking people to hell with their revivals than taking them to heaven.

  • Lazo June 5, 2011 Reply

    I think it’s an oversimplification to say “it’s just sin–stop sinning,” without giving at least some consideration to how we got to that sin in the first place. I resonate with Steve Miller’s pithy response, “Why do pastors fail, there are tons of reasons!” It’s probably a combination of these comment suggestions so far: fame/recognition + lack of accountability + pressure = a weak link in the chain. I don’t want to sound like I’m making light of the sin of cheating, I just don’t think most pastors who fall just woke up one day and casually decided to cheat. It was probably a long, secret battle that went unchecked…until it was too late. Sadly, we only want to keep people like this accountable after they’ve fallen. But this could happen to any of us who think much of our self-reliance (1 Cor. 10:1-12)

  • Gary Sweeten June 27, 2011 Reply

    A couple of the remarks suggest that we stop the “psychologizing”. May I suggest it is all about the soul/psyche and the need to understand what is wrong with it. The church has always been involved with “the care and cure of souls” and anyone that commits adultery has a “sick soul” that needs the balm of Gilead and healing from The Great Physician.

    The passage that says “We are carried away by our own lust” uses a term for lust that can be interpreted as “A hole in the soul”. When a leader is not whole he has a “hole in the soul” and needs “soul care”.

  • Spica July 1, 2013 Reply

    @Todd: It’s not “the act of getting caught” that becomes less scary than overall failure, but the “risk of getting caught”, which is quite different, because getting caught still looks scary, but the probability of it happening feels too low to be that risky. What pastors do forget if they think like that is that getting caught is 100% guaranteed for us christians (pastors or not), if not by men, at least by God. So they lose sight of the fact that cheating is actually failure, even if not caught by men.

  • Jeff Ruble July 1, 2013 Reply

    There should be @ least four people present two of each gender who can be trusted to keep what is said in that session there and that no hanky panky took place .

  • Fred July 1, 2013 Reply

    I think the biggest problem is that when people get to a certain level they start thinking they can do anything they want to and get away with it. if so many people like me so much, what could possibly go wrong if I do this. I’m doing so much good over here, so I can do that over there and it will be fine.

  • Monua Cary July 4, 2013 Reply

    Every Christian has a “target” on their back by the enemy of our souls. And in today’s society we get so caught up in a fast life and how quickly we can obtain what we want, it is easier to gain access or be exposed to ungodly things. Which is why every believer needs to “surrender all” and “die daily” to self. We were bought with a price through the Blood of Jesus, thus we are not “for sale”. This doesn’t mean we aren’t hit with temptation, but the Lord said with every temptation he would make a way of escape. Everything we do is a conscious choice. To live for Christ…or not. We can’t do both. Sin is sin regardless of what “level” we justify it. If you’re in ministry, you are accountable for others’ lives. My opinion is to step down and forget pastoring. Everything does rise and fall on leadership. The world has enough rocks to throw at the Christian community without Christians giving them more ammunition. Our behavior and our example lead people to Christ. Not our TALK. God-Complex, entitlement, whatever you may call it, it all falls under disobedience to the One Who calls us to holiness. Be hot, or be cold, make the choice. With the state of affairs (no pun intended) in the world, times are going to get tougher. So, it’s time to seek the Lord while He may be found. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and lead us. There’s a lot to be said and taught through the Lords Prayer. If we don’t confront the issues in our own lives, we cannot effectively help others confront the issues in their lives. I believe in Personal Accountability and Responsibility for everyone (I even co- authored a book on the subject). It is a legacy we leave, period. So, if the righteous scarcely be saved, where does that leave everyone who isn’t LIVING the Truth? Just a thought 🙂

  • DeAnna December 1, 2013 Reply

    In my opinion, a pastor has been in a bad place long before he decides to cheat on his wife. He obviously is not keeping in close contact with God, praying, reading the bible, etc. Because if he was, then he would be open to God’s guidance regarding his desire to stray, long before he actually has an affair. And there is not enough accountability to the church leadership.

  • Wendy March 2, 2014 Reply

    Let’s defer to God and call this what it is – the Sin of ADULTERY. Let’s also defer to God that ADULTERY is ALWAYS wrong and inexcusable. Adultery causes deep emotional and psychological pain, destroys marriages, splits up families, traumatizes children, can bring on poverty, suicide, violence…

    A warning for us all – when we find ourselves making excuses, or coming up with explanations or rationalizations to defend selfish, immoral, unprincipled choices or behavior – evil has enslaved us.

    ….Woe unto (us) when we call good evil, and evil good.

    “…the issue of free will, like so many great truths, is a paradox. On the one hand, free will is a reality. We can be free to choose without “shibboleths”, without conditioning or many other factors. On the other hand, we cannot choose freedom. There are only two states of being: submission to God and goodness or the refusal to submit to anything beyond one’s own will – which refusal automatically enslaves one to the forces of evil. We must ultimately belong to either God or the devil. This paradox was, of course, expressed by Christ when he said, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it. And whosoever shall lose his life, for my sake, shall find it.” ….As C.S. Lewis put it, “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” (Christianity and Culture, contained in Christian Reflections, Wm. B. Eerdmanns Publishing Co., 1967, p.33). I suppose the only true state of freedom is to stand exactly halfway between God and the devil, uncommitted either to goodness or to utter selfishness. But that freedom is to be torn apart. It is intolerable. As (Malachi) Martin indicates, we much choose. One enslavement or the other.”

    M. Scott Peck, ‘People of The Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil’, contained in ‘Toward a Psychology of Evil’, Simon & Schuster Publishing, 1983, pp 83-84)

  • Wendy March 28, 2014 Reply

    When I hear my pastor husband’s sins of Adultery referred to as ‘cheating’ , ‘fooling around’, ‘running around’, it feels like I’m being told that Adultery is just a’ minor scratch’- not painful, devastating and life-altering. The euphemisms are flippant and trivialize the sin of Adultery and disrespect victims’ crushing pain and loss.

    God’s Law and Word calls marital fidelity Adultery – not ‘running around’ or ‘cheating’.

    When a human being, in the space of a moment in time, chooses NOT to submit to God and goodness, and chooses instead to submit to their own will and morally wrong desire, that human being becomes enslaved to the forces of evil.

    I find it intriguing that God’s Law and Word speaks so clearly and powerfully of the wrath, condemnation and judgement He holds in store for ‘shepherds’ who choose not to walk in Christ’s footsteps and who cause suffering to any of God’s ‘lambs’.

    How then, does a pastor who truly believes in God and believes in the Scriptures, day-after-day commit secret sinful acts that scorn God to His face, flout God’s laws about personal conduct, and challenge God’s warnings of judgement and eternal condemnation?

    Such a pastor is a fraud. Their actions clearly reveal no belief in God. They are actors, not pastors, and the pulpit is their stage. The congregation is their audience and ‘bread and butter’. Such a pastor is companioned with evil.

  • Ginna April 28, 2014 Reply

    my husband has been cheating for more than 25 years and he is a pastor, do not have words to describe my pain and shame. trusting the Lord to heal my broken heart and spirit. my respect for pastors are very low. do not trust them, do not want to hear them.

  • Dan May 19, 2014 Reply

    I agree that it is sin and psychology does not serve it’s purpose when it excuses or justifies sin. However, I would like to see people analyzing what happens, how the lust carries people away, what situations are unhealthy and can open opportunities and temptations for sin.

    I don’t agree with calling adultery a “failure” or a “mistake”. It is an intention–a choice–a decision. A person does not “fail” to commit adultery. In fact the person fully succeeds in sinning because that was the person’s intention. The person may try to hide it claiming he was weak, as though God failed to give him adequate strength, or that everyone makes mistakes as though to say, “Whoops–how did I accidentally fall into that woman’s arms with my pants down and etc.–the children must have left the toys out on the floor and I slipped…”

    I would guess that everyone gets tempted and a pastor being hit on by so many women must make deliberate decisions to provide adequate protection from falling into adultery. If we review the story about Adam and Eve, Eve saw that the fruit was attractive to the eyes. Satan helped her rationalize doing what she wanted to do. Satan only gave assistance. But, Eve chose to listen to Satan. She chose to take the temptation, accept it, and surrender to it. So just as a Christian would surrender to Jesus as Lord, Eve, Adam, and the adulterous pastor surrenders to Satan and Satan becomes his Lord.

    Imagine that. How many churches today have Satanic leaders at the helm? It is a sobering thought. I would not recommend fearing all churches because of it, but the danger is real. A pastor cannot lead others to receive Jesus as Lord if Jesus is not the Pastor’s Lord. Imagine telling someone to trust another person when you won’t trust that person yourself. It only makes you untrustworthy.

    One day when I was praying for wisdom about evangelism, the Lord impressed on my mind that evangelism is not a mere sales pitch or an attempt to get people to agree or rattle off a sinner’s prayer. Evangelism at the core is about being alive and reproducing after our own kind. If we’re liars, we’ll teach others to lie. If we’re hypocrites, we’ll teach others to be hypocrites. If Jesus is sincerely our Lord, we will reproduce sincere Christianity in others. So, if we’re being trained up by a whoremonger, what kind of disciples will we produce? Sobering thought, isn’t it? What kind of children will we raise?

  • Dionne Anderson July 24, 2014 Reply

    My husband is the head deacon in our ministry which has a female pastor. He is involved with a woman at work and has several women in our church that would gladly sleep with him. He encourages this behavior. I do not know if he has had sex with any of them but I am uncomfortable at church. My pastor acts like nothing is going on. When I confide in her she contacts
    my husband and tells him what I told her! This scenario left unchecked can on lead to disaster! I am praying my husband changes and sees my heart, despair and sadness. Meanwhile, I am secretly planning to leave him because it all hurts too much.

  • Cj April 8, 2016 Reply

    A problem I have seen in the church is the women (pastor wives) become frigid. This leaves a man open and vulnerable because let’s face it men seek intimacy through sex. We women have to make sure his needs are met just as he does ours. If we say no all the time, he will look elsewhere. I know this as a fact. Lived it.

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