I hope you are enjoying our work together as we continue our journey through the Bible. We are still in chapter five of the Gospel of Mathew. We are looking at the Sermon on the Mount. We have looked at what Jesus had to say about murder and adultery. Basically, he said; "Don't do them!" Well, he actually said more. He said that it is not enough to simply not commit the acts; one should not even have the desire to do such things. Today, we will look at one of the more difficult topics to discuss...divorce.
"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery." (Matthew 5:31-32)
I have to admit this is one of the few passages in the Bible that I refuse to preach on. Well, I guess if the Lord told me to do it, I would. But, I don't want to. LOL! When Melody and I got married she assured me that she would never divorce me, however, she would not rule out murder. This is a tough passage....or is it?
When one is studying this passage it would be wise to study these words of Jesus in light of what he has said already. We have discovered that Jesus is warning against de-humanizing others to justify murder (calling one a fool) and reducing one to an object (looking at a woman to lust) in order to obtain personal gratification. So, the question is: Is Jesus following the same pattern here? I believe so. Let's look closely.
We first must notice two things. One, Jesus is again quoting scripture. Oh, yes! It's the old "The Bible says...." line. I cringe when I hear someone begin a statement with that line. Notice, Jesus has them to recall what they know that the Law says about divorce. Two, Jesus is clearly addressing only the male in this passage. Let's look at point number two first. Why did Jesus not address the woman divorcing the man? After all, we know that women often are the ones filing for divorce. Well, this was not necessarily the case in Jesus' day. However, the husband could divorce the wife practically on the spot. O.K., now let's look at point number one. Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 24:1. That passage in the Old Testament does allow for a man to divorce his wife. Do you know what justified divorce in that day? Well, Deut. 24:1 says; "If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her..." As that passage continues there is no condemnation of the husband, just instruction as to how he can not remarry her if she has been defiled by another. Now, what did the writer mean by "finding something indecent about her?" Well, further study reveals that this could mean something as simple as the fact she could not cook. Anyhow, a husband could easily divorce his wife. What would become of the wife? Well, the only chance she had at survival would be what? Marry another man, or prostitute herself. Jesus is prohibiting a husband from divorcing his wife for any reason other than adultery on her part. In other words, Jesus is protecting the wife. He is placing great value on both the marriage itself, and the personhood of the wife.
Jesus is making a statement. He is making it clear that people are not disposable. This is not the only place that divorce is discussed in the Bible. It is interesting that Jesus chooses to discuss it here during this sermon because, according to verse one he was only teaching his disciples. However, by teaching his disciples he is making a much broader statement about the reading and interpretation of the Law. Yes, the Law says....Yes, the Bible says...but be careful as to what all it says. I think Jesus is telling us that the Bible often says far more than we allow, or want it to say. One could clearly use the Law to justify a husband divorcing his wife, but Jesus interprets the Law to protect the innocent. Today, people unfortunately translate the Bible to make it say whatever they want it to say. We will discover just how this plays out as we continue our study.
Join me again tomorrow. I hope you have a blessed day. -Pastor Rick