For twenty years, Matt Lauer was perhaps the most popular and trusted news host in America, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars to NBC every year, from advertising on the Today Show. More than that, he was a champion of women’s rights, beloved by feminists since the 1990s. But this week, that all came crashing down, with the revelation of a far-reaching sex scandal and Lauer’s resulting firing by NBC. You can read the sordid details on other outlets. But only here will you read what matters most. We answer the question, in light of recent events, What would God say to Matt Lauer?
I think that if God were to sit down with Matt Lauer, he would say six things.
1. I love you as much today as I did before the scandal broke.
God would go even further. He’d tell Mr. Lauer, “I love you just as much today as before the scandal broke, and just as much as I did before you committed your first indiscretion.” We don’t know when it all began for Lauer, though that will likely be exposed soon. To God it has no bearing on his love for Matt Lauer. God’s love for him today is just as complete as it was on the day before his first sin. I think God would say it like this – “There is nothing you can ever do that will make me love you more, and there is nothing you can ever do that will make me love you less.” Upon learning the news, Lauer’s co-host, Cathy Lee Gifford, texted him, “I adore you.” She said, “No person is perfect. No one is sinless. We need God’s mercy.” God’ love for Matt Lauer – and for you – is not diminished by the magnitude of any sin.
2. What you do in secret will always be exposed.
The accusations against Mr. Lauer are growing by the day. Like so many before him, his actions of sexual misconduct have been repetitive. Lauer’s activities seem to have crossed the line into addiction. And as with all addictions, secrecy is the incubator of the compulsive lifestyle. It’s not that men like Lauer, Weinstein, Conyers, and Franken want to battle such ferocious demons. It’s just too hard to overcome in secret. Sins of darkness cannot be solved in darkness. Jesus said, “There is nothing done in darkness that will not be revealed in the light” (Luke 8:17). For the perpetrator, his exposure is both his worst fear and his very best friend. The reason our sins “find us out” (Numbers 32:23) is not one of judgment, but mercy. God knows that we can only get well in the light. Patrick Carnes, perhaps the foremost expert on sex addiction, says it like this: “The addictive system uses secrecy as a shield. Addiction thrives on secrecy.” God would tell Matt Lauer, “What you have done behind closed doors, I will expose in the light of day – not so you can lose your reputation – but so you can find it.” If he opens himself to God’s grace, Lauer will look back one day and see the day of his exposure as the best day of his life.
3. What you took a lifetime to build can be lost in a moment.
Will Rogers famously said, “It takes a lifetime to build your reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.” Case #1 – David (adultery with Bathsheba). Case #2 – Noah (drunk and naked before his children). Case #3 – Peter (denied Christ three times). Case #4 – Matt Lauer. What is built for 30-40 years can be lost in a moment. But God would tell Lauer – and you and me – that this is not all bad. He would tell Lauer, “You no longer have the ability to write the start of your personal story, but you can still write the ending.”
4. Pride precedes fall.
God would tell Matt Lauer what he has already said in his Word. “Pride comes before fall” (Proverbs 11:2). One of the things all the men who have recently been disgraced in the nightly news have shared in common is power. Matt Lauer is – or was – a powerful man. His mere presence on The Today Show made NBC hundreds of millions of dollars every year. And in turn, they made him the highest paid newsman on television. But power is more often our enemy than our friend. What Abraham Lincoln said over 150 years ago still resonates today: “Nearly all men can stand adversity; but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” NBC gave Matt Lauer power – lots of power. But the higher the pedestal, the greater the fall.
5. The Mike Pence Rule is a good idea.
When Vice President Mike Pence shared the boundary he has erected to protect his integrity, the media scoffed. His rule is simple – never be alone with a woman other than your wife and never be in a room where alcohol is served without your wife there also. Billy Graham lived by this standard, and so did his entire team. It was called the Modesto Manifesto. And now in his 100th year, Graham has never had a hint of personal sexual scandal. Graham once said, “It’s not that I don’t trust the women; I don’t trust myself.” If Matt Lauer, John Conyers, and the rest had followed the “Pence Rule,” their stories would have played out much differently. The same is true of each of us.
6. Get help!
God would tell Matt Lauer it is never too late to seek help. The Bible says, “They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of distress” (Psalm 107:28). The First Step of recovery is to admit one’s powerlessness over his struggles. Yes, Matt Lauer crossed some clear lines. Yes, he has lost his job and his reputation. And yes, of all the paths he may take in the future, the road of recovery will be the road less traveled. There are too many bumps along the road, not to mention exit ramps, for the road to be easy. But there is hope for Matt Lauer if he wants it. But he must really want it. Since their sexual indiscretions were made public, rumors have resurfaced that suggest Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods have not taken their recovery seriously. It is hard to begin the journey, still harder to stay on it. Matt Lauer has apologized. He has admitted personal failings and faults. But will he really seek help for his problems? Will he make amends? Will he put his recovery before anything else? We will know soon. God would say to Matt Lauer, “Seeking help is a good thing, not a bad thing.” To quote Les Brown, “We ask for help, not because we are weak, but because we are strong.” Whether or not Matt Lauer is strong enough to know he is weak, smart enough to know he is not so smart, and helpless enough to know he needs help – will determine how his story ends.
Yes, God has something to say to Matt Lauer. But is he ready to listen? He needs help – help he probably would have never sought until God gave him the gift of exposing his sins. I pray he gets help. He suddenly has a three-hour hole in his daily schedule, Monday through Friday. If he uses his time to get well, he may never return to the fame he once enjoyed. But what God has before him is so much better than what lies behind him. What would God say to Matt Lauer? “Matt, the rest of your life can be the best of your life. But you’ve got to want it – more than you’ve ever wanted anything before.”