The Tricky Question of Divorce
“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’”
Dear Family & Friends,
Jesus never shied away from tricky questions. Instead He answered the questions wisely, getting to the heart of the matter. One of these tricky questions pertained to divorce.
The Ten Commandments
As Jesus continued teaching, he brought up another misunderstood issue regarding the law and customs held by the people of that time. One of the Ten Commandments prohibited adultery and another one prohibited coveting your neighbor’s wife.
Outwardly trying to sidestep the intent of these laws, some of the teachers of the day found a loophole. These teachers taught that a man could divorce his wife for any reason. They legitimized this way out of what they would consider an unhappy marriage from a decision made by their forefather, Moses.
The Question of Divorce
Deuteronomy 24:1, which was written years after God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, states that if a man found his wife displeasing he could send her away with a certificate of divorce. This was not part of the original Law; it was addendum written because of the hardness of man’s heart.
The Law was meant to be followed perfectly, but since man can’t keep the Law on his own, Moses put in place a protection, especially for the woman of that time, so that she couldn’t just be randomly dumped out on the street. He created a legal process to make sure things were taken care of appropriately and that anyone considering a breach in the covenant of marriage would think long and hard before acting.
The Heart Issue
Jesus, in line with His other statements in the Sermon on the Mount, spoke directly to the heart issue. He understood the work-around that many were using to break their marriage commitment for any and every reason.These divorcees thought their divorce certificate would give them freedom and keep them from technically breaking the other law about adultery when they married someone new. So Jesus taught according to the ideal and original intent.
The Pharisees Try to Trap Jesus
Later in Matthew 19 some of the teachers of the Law tried to trap Jesus on this same issue by asking loaded questions. “They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ Jesus responded by going all the way back to the beginning of time and reminded them of the Creator God’s original plan. What God had united, no one should separate.
The Pharisees then asked what they hoped would discredit Jesus. ‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’
Jesus pointed out that Moses did not command divorce but permitted it because of man’s hardness of heart. This was never God’s intention from the beginning, but sin made it necessary. Their loophole was not going to work with Him!
The Question of Divorce Today
Today, divorce is still a sticky question. Many enter into the God-given covenant of marriage with very little thought. The prevalent underlying mindset is the same as that from Bible times; if you don’t like your marriage, then just get out and start over. But marriage is meant to be a lifelong commitment. We must enter into it only after thinking long and hard and stay committed until “death do us part.” This is the ideal.
But, as in Bible times, we live in a sinful world and the human heart is still hard. There are circumstances when divorce becomes a necessary evil for the protection of all involved. Yet this should be the exception rather than the rule.
Tricky questions? Yes, there are many of them. But God is gracious and He helps those whose hearts are fully devoted to Him to navigate all things well. It is those who try to find loopholes to fulfill their own selfish desires who need to watch out and repent!