MATTHEW 5:31,32 – SAY, WHAT?
v31 “Now it was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY IS TO GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
WHAT DOES IT SAY
The language in these verses is so plain that very little more need be said, except perhaps to comment that we should not be lulled into complacency by the brevity of this verse. This may be THE VERSE that will save a marriage and leads to a lifetime of peace and security – for some of those who read it and/or share it.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN
(The following explanation in quotes is an excerpt from the got questions.org website.).
“First, in order for a divorce to be granted, there had to be a problem related to “indecency.” Verse 1 reads, “If then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her . . .” (ESV). The Hebrew phrase used here was generally a reference to sexual indecency such as adultery (Leviticus 18:6–18) or indecent exposure (Deuteronomy 23:14). Jewish leaders would long debate what was considered “indecent,” but the original wording clearly referred to indecent sexual behavior.
“Second, a formal divorce certificate was required: “He writes her a certificate of divorce [and] gives it to her” (verse 1). A husband could not simply express his desire to be divorced and move on with his life. He was required to provide a written legal certificate, which would have required witnesses to the event.
“Third, the divorced couple was no longer to live together: the husband “sends her from his house” (verse 1). Living together as an unmarried couple was not acceptable, and a divorced couple was considered unmarried.
“Fourth, the divorced woman could remarry another man: “After she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man” (verse 2). The text does not explicitly teach the woman must remarry, but neither does it prohibit a divorced woman from doing so. In that society, a single woman would have had few other options than to seek another husband or to return to her father’s household.
“Fifth, the divorced spouse could not later remarry the first partner, if that partner had remarried: “Her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again” (verse 4).
The New Testament teachings regarding divorce offer additional insight into this topic. Jesus reminded the religious leaders that God never intended divorce: “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Matthew 19:8). The “beginning” refers to Adam and Eve as one man and one woman in lifelong marriage—God’s original design.
Jesus also taught that sexual immorality was one legitimate reason for divorce: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery” (Matthew 5:31). The apostle Paul added, “A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10–11). Another instruction is also provided for Christians with an unbelieving spouse: “If the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances” (1 Corinthians 7:15).
Though divorce was not part of God’s original plan for marriage, sinful humanity demanded it, and the Mosaic Law addressed occasions when it was permissible. Jesus and the New Testament teachings affirm the original intent of marriage as being a lifelong relationship between a man and woman while specifying limited occasions when divorce is acceptable. “ (End of excerpt)
Although there may be times when divorce is acceptable, according to the Bible, (1) the results of divorce are still the acts of selfish and sinful men and women who are in rebellion against God and His plan for their lives (2) and, it is destructive. The pain and damage to the family, can go on for generations.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU
I can remember a day, as a young boy, when divorce was socially unacceptable, it was at best, a social embarrassment, and at worst, a divorced person was somewhat of a social outcast. What I didn’t understand, at the time, was why a young child of a divorced mother would be shunned. The hurt and resentment that was being planted in my psyche which would plague me for decades.
Society at large and Christians in particular have discarded God’s Word as their Guiding Principal, and as the divorce rate in America has climbed to 50%, the damage being done to future generations in incalculable.
(NOTE: The following are excerpts are from Focus on the family – How could divorce affect my kids? website)
- Life expectancies for divorced men and women are significantly lower than for married people (who have the longest life expectancies).
- One study found that those who were unhappy but stayed married were more likely to be happy five years later than those who divorced.
- The health consequences of divorce are so severe that a Yale researcher concluded that “being divorced and a nonsmoker is slightly less dangerous than smoking a pack a day and staying married.”
- After a diagnosis of cancer, married people are most likely to recover, while the divorced are least likely to recover, indicating that the emotional trauma of divorce has a long-term impact on the physical health of the body.
- Men and women both suffer a decline in mental health following divorce, but researchers have found that women are more greatly affected.
- Some of the mental health indicators impacted by divorce include depression, hostility, self-acceptance, personal growth and positive relations with others.
While virtually every child suffers the lost relationship and lost security described above, for many, the emotional scars have additional, more visible consequences. More than 30 years of research continues to reveal the negative effects of divorce on children. Most of these measurable effects are calculated in increased risks. In other words, while divorce does not mean these effects will definitely occur in your child, it does greatly increase the risks. The odds are simply against your kids if you divorce.
Research comparing children of divorced parents to children with married parents shows:
- Children from divorced homes suffer academically. They experience high levels of behavioral problems. Their grades suffer, and they are less likely to graduate from high school.
- Kids whose parents divorce are substantially more likely to be incarcerated for committing a crime as a juvenile.
- Because the custodial parent’s income drops substantially after a divorce, children in divorced homes are almost five times more likely to live in poverty than are children with married parents.
- Teens from divorced homes are much more likely to engage in drug and alcohol use, as well as sexual intercourse, than are those from intact families.
- Children from divorced homes experience illness more frequently and recover from sickness more slowly.
- They are also more likely to suffer child abuse.
- Children of divorced parents suffer more frequently from symptoms of psychological distress.
- And the emotional scars of divorce last into adulthood.
(End of excerpt)
Additionally, statistics show that once divorced:
- Second Marriages: 60 percent will terminate with a divorce as the result.
- Third Marriages: 73 percent will terminate with a divorce as the result.
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
(These are 2 real-life examples of people who made decisions about marriage and divorce)
I. My wife and I were on a cruise ship in one of their specialty restaurants waiting for our meal to be served, when the restaurant manager, a lady, came by our table to greet us. She asked if we were celebrating any occasion. We told here we were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. The lady smiled broadly, congratulated us and asked “How did you do it? How did you stay married for 50 years?” And laughed, as if she was communicating humor. I assumed she laughed because so many people get divorced.
My wife, Betty, look at this lady and answered, very matter-of-factly, “Just never get a divorce.” The lady laughed out loud. But, when she saw my wife was not laughing, she turned serious and asked, “Really? What do you mean?”
My wife proceed to briefly explain what the Bible says about marriage and divorce and why ‘sticking with it is worth it’.
The lady responded with, “I don’t know if I could do that. You see, I have been in a relationship for 10 years and things aren’t working out, so we are thinking about splitting up.”
My wife asked, “You’ve been married for 10 years?”
The lady answered, “Well, no, noT married. But, we have been living together.”
My wife answer with, “Well, when you start wrong you won’t finish right. A commitment of Marriage is an agreement, that can help you get past the tough times. God wants you to be happy and happy in a marriage. I’m sorry you are having a hard time. God can help you through this, if you would like.”
The lady appeared nervous at this point, thanked my wife and said she need to attend to the other diners, and excused herself. It seemed as if this lady had made her choice.
II. I was out for a walk around the deck of this cruise ship one morning when I notice a couple sitting, drinking coffee and talking at one of the deck tables. I recognized them as a couple I had seen at breakfast before we boarded the cruise ship. They appeared to be in their early thirties. The man had been loudly and publicly berating the woman for eating too slowly at breakfast, telling her that she would make them late boarding the ship.
I stopped and greeted them with a ‘good morning’ and they smiled and responded. I initiated some light conversation by asking them where they were from and other small talk. I discovered they were on their honeymoon.
I congratulated them and told them that we were celebrating our 50th anniversary. The man remarked, “I hope we can make it that long. What is your secret?”, he asked.
“Do you really want to know?”, I asked. They both said yes, enthusiastically.
I sat down with them and said, “My wife and I were married in our teens. Sometimes we would argue over small things – like you guys did at breakfast this morning.” They both looked surprise and embarrassed.
“It’s normal to argue from time to time. But, our marriage wasn’t going well after a few years. We argued more and more, to the point we were drifting apart. Then, through circumstances, we turned to God for help and we found the direction we needed. It gave us a security and a sense of peace that got us through tough times. Now, here we are 50 years later!”
This couple agreed that what they wanted was a way to find peace and security. I told them how to come to Jesus. They were obviously grateful and thanked me. I left the table, honestly feeling humbled.
It seemed, like the lady in the restaurant, they too, had made their choice.
So, what about you? What will you do when faced with similar circumstances? What is your choice?
I pray for us all that we have the courage and the conviction to decide to follow Jesus and find our peace and security in Him.
Your Brother and Friend,
PS: If you have been through a divorce, just remember, there is hope for healing and restoring. Although it is not always easy, it is always worth it. What is done is done, and the future can be bright with opportunities and hope of peace, secuity and prosperity for your soul, in Christ! Please, make the right decision.