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Divorce Debate

Read Matthew 19:3-12

[Jesus] said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

“Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked.

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”
(Matthew 19:5-9)


John was put in prison and killed, at least in part, for his public opinions on marriage and divorce, so the Pharisees hoped to trap Jesus too. They were trying to trick Jesus by having him choose sides in a theological controversy. Two schools of thought represented two opposing views of divorce. One group supported divorce for almost any reason. The other believed that divorce could be allowed only for marital unfaithfulness. This conflict hinged on how each group interpreted Deuteronomy 24:1-4. In his answer, however, Jesus focused on marriage rather than divorce. He pointed out that God intended marriage to be permanent and gave reasons for the importance of marriage (Matthew 19:4-6).

In Moses’ day, as well as in Jesus’ day, the practice of marriage fell far short of God’s intention. The same is true today. Jesus said that Moses gave this law only because of the people’s hard hearts—permanent marriage was God’s intention. But because sinful human nature made divorce inevitable, Moses instituted some laws to help its victims. These were civil laws designed especially to protect the women who, in that culture, were quite vulnerable when living alone. Because of Moses’ law, a man could no longer just throw his wife out—he had to write a formal letter of dismissal. This was a radical step toward civil rights, for it made men think twice about divorce.


Instead of looking for reasons to leave each other, married couples can concentrate on how to stay together (Matthew 19:3-9). How do you support your marriage or that of others? How do you show the high priority your marriage, or marriage in general, has in your life?

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