Why don’t authors address Matt 19:29 when teaching on divorce for abuse?

[November 3, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

Today’s post is by a male survivor of domestic abuse. I (Barb) have met this man face-to-face as well as communicating over time with him by email and I am confident he’s a survivor of domestic abuse. He wrote this to me in an email and we are publishing it here with his permission. Many thanks to him for raising this topic in such a cogent manner. Text in square brackets has been added by me (Barb).


There is one passage that I absolutely cannot believe seems to have been completely ignored by every single author on the topic of divorce in the context of abuse — at least at the time at which I really investigated this thoroughly, after the latest NIV version of the Bible was published in 2011 [Internet Archive link]. [November 3, 2022: We added the link to BibleGateway’s page that contains more information on the NIV translation, including the information that the 2011 translation of the NIV is the most recent update. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]

This passage is Matthew 19:29 and the parallel in Luke 18:29-30 —

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  (Matthew 19:29  NIV)

“….I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”  (Luke 18:29-30 NIV)


1) In at least the case of Matthew, it is only the most recent version of the NIV that includes “wife”, with a footnote — “Some ancient manuscripts do not have or wife.” — that some texts exclude “wife”.
[To see more translations of Matthew 19:29 go here [Internet Archive link]. “Some ancient manuscripts do not have or wife”; thus, some English translations include the words “or wife” and others do not.]
[November 3, 2022: There are a number of Bible translations that contain the word “wife” in Matthew 19:29, and the number of Bible translations containing the word “wife” in Matthew 19:29 has been changing over time, including the NIV. Editors.]

2) Mark 10 has many parallels with Matthew 19, but does not mention wife.
[November 3, 2022: The verse the Guest poster is referring to is Mark 10:29. While the NIV doesn’t mention “wife” in the 2011 translation of Mark 10:29, nor in at least one earlier translation, there are other Bible translations that mention “wife” in Mark 10:29. Editors.]

3) The start of Matthew 19 talks about divorce.

4) The start of Mark 10 (lacking reference to “wife”) also talks about divorce (i.e. in parallel).

My questions are these:

1) Why has nobody at all taken the time to answer the question “Why does Jesus include ‘wife’ in the list?”

2) In the context of these two references, under what circumstance is a man blessed (yes blessed!) to leave his wife? The answer is given in the reference. Jesus says “for my sake”.

3) Aren’t newer versions of the NIV supposed to reflect increases in knowledge and understanding about a passage such that the newer version best communicates what a majority now believes was the original intent of the original speaker? In other words, to move from “wife” being a footnote (older NIV), to being in the main passage, isn’t this saying the translators now believe it is a more accurate representation that “wife” be included in that list?

For those who would argue this passage is not relevant I ask: how can a man leave his wife in such a way that Jesus’ words here apply to him?

How can you not conclude that a believer, leaving a persistently and unrepentantly violent [or non-violent but still abusive] situation, is in fact bringing themselves (and potentially their children) to a place of greater peace — which is a fruit of the Spirit, surely an act and outcome that is in line with Jesus’ desire for humankind? Indeed an immediate blessing is, in fact, peace!

It feels like the more accepted arguments that permit divorce — adultery, for example — come across as concessions (like this: “Yes, if your spouse has committed adultery, you are permitted to leave.”). Whereas in these verses Jesus’ language comes across as someone pro-actively leaving a wife to pro-actively pursue Jesus’ “[for His] sake”. The scenario of a person standing up and saying “For the sake of God, I will no longer endure your unrepentant, persistent abuse; I am leaving!” seems to fit this tone.

Look at the proximity of this statement to Jesus speaking on divorce! Is there no connection whatsoever? One might refute by saying other items in the list have nothing to do with divorce but imagine this scene played out: Jesus spends notable time discussing divorce, then a moment later talks about people leaving all manner of relationships — including their wife — for His sake and being blessed. And this reference to leaving a wife (proactively?) seems unrelated to the discussion just had. In other words, the discussion just had about divorce in the earlier verses is not the exhaustive word on the matter. Again — how can a man leave his wife in such a way that Jesus’ words here apply to him?

A final note of consideration is that Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible has this to say [about the phrase Matthew 19:29]:

brethren or sisters, or father or mother, or wife or children, lands, for my name’s sake; or, as in Luke, “for the kingdom of God’s sake”; that is, for the sake of the Gospel, and a profession of it. Not that believing in Christ, and professing his name, do necessarily require a parting with all worldly substance, and natural relations, but when these things stand in competition with Christ, he is to be loved and preferred before them; and believers are always to be ready to part with them for his sake, when persecution arises, because of the word. All these things are to be relinquished, rather than Christ, and his Gospel; and such who shall be enabled, through divine grace, to do so

shall receive an hundred fold.

(For this reference, a further three commentaries and 21 different Bible versions, see: here [Internet Archive link])

[November 3, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to November 3, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to November 3, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to November 3, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (November 3, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]

38 thoughts on “Why don’t authors address Matt 19:29 when teaching on divorce for abuse?”

  1. Thank you for posting such cogent arguments about this topic.

    I guess my first thought in scrutinizing the passages would be “What does ‘for my sake’ or ‘for the sake of the kingdom of God’ really mean?”

    I don’t know that it necessarily means just for the peace of the abused target (but I’m not saying that it doesn’t mean that). Peace is certainly a fruit of the Spirit, and I do know that in my own situation of abuse, I lacked peace for a long time. Still do to some extent (now that abuser and I are no longer under the same roof), but it’s getting better.

    It’s good to ponder such things to come closer to God through prayer and iron sharpening iron. I pray that God elucidate His Word here for us all.

    Please know I’m not saying that leaving an abuser would not be for the sake of the kingdom of God. That’s not what I’d say at all, but I just wonder because….well, I guess I need to read these passages in context to think more on it. Thank you for presenting this opportunity to delve more into God’s Word.

    I never looked at these passages that way before, and as you rightly ask (male target of abuse), why have these not been examined in this light before….? Certainly staying as a target of oppression under the thumb (or fist or middle finger) of the anti-Christ is not furthering the kingdom, but actively suppressing it.

    You know, thinking more on this as I type, I wonder…. These passages really aren’t treated at all by the “church” today, are they? Like unto these passages are those that Christ said

    “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ (Matthew 10:34-36 [NIV])

    (I don’t read gender-specific language as strictly “man” here, but meaning a “person’s” enemies….)


    1. SR – at a minimum, Jesus’ words in this passage make it clear that we must be willing to leave a marriage for His sake. Regardless of what is meant by ‘my sake’, it is clear that under some circumstances leaving is God’s perfect will. That’s a far cry from the message projected by many who falsely proclaim divorce is never God’s will.

  2. Probably the reason this verse is never applied to teachings on divorce for abuse reasons is because no one is teaching on divorce for abuse. This is an excellent post that blesses my heart. I not only had to leave my abusive X, but also had to leave my daughter, as she wants to live with him, not seeing his covert abuse. It is a lot to lose. So yes, this verse comforts my soul. And the fact that it is in the context of Jesus’ teaching on divorce. Thank you.

  3. Good post, and I completely agree!

    The inclusion of ‘wife’ in some texts is interesting and supportive of your argument, but not essential. Whether or not ‘wife’ (or ‘husband’) is specifically included, it is very clear that Christ’s intent is for us to be willing to sacrifice any and all other relationships (including close family) in pursuit of a deeper relationship with Him.

    You might also enjoy my post on a related passage: Relational Idolatry [Internet Archive link]

    Thank you for the excellent post!

  4. I just want to thank you for having a male survivor of domestic abuse on your blog. I’m the child of such a union, & there is simply not enough literature or support for families that were in my situation. I pray that this man finds healing & peace, and I wholeheartedly agree with his argument here. I pray that God protects him against any lies about his masculinity, against any threats to his skill as a husband & father, & that God hides him & his children under the shadow of His wings until they’re whole again.

  5. Still Reforming – as your recovery from the abuse continues, your thought process will clear. I can tell just from your writing style, you have had years (decades? a lifetime?) of exposure to what I call ‘abuser speak.’ Keep digging into God’s word and reach out to free and recovering survivor’s – the peace will deepen.

    And, yes, men can be abused and ashamed to admit it – browbeaten for years. This past Saturday, I had a complete stranger proudly boast to me (and everyone in earshot) of being married 51 years and then SHE proceeded to publicly demean, degrade and verbally abuse her husband. 51 years he has endured this abuse! I pray his eyes, ears, and heart are opened — and that their horse-back riding daughter (and any other children) understand this is NOT a marriage relationship to emulated or boasted about. I pray their children break the ‘sins of the mother, sins of the child’ inter-generational habit of abuse.

  6. Well, I would say that the Lord spoke to you (male survivor) directly using this verse for your situation. That’s why hearing the Spirit of the Word (life) instead of relying on the letter of the Law (death) is so important. I often wondered about this verse and realized that not all the time I saw the word “wife” and it baffled me, but not enough to do a study like you were led to do.

    What I do know is that God calls us to seek peace at all cost. Living in a toxic and destructive environment makes it almost impossible to live in that peace. Sure, we can find “a peace in the storm” but, if you really think about it, that’s still not this kind of peace. I remember in the beginning of my process a very wise pastor said to me, “Your husband is hindering your relationship with God.” He didn’t explain much and he didn’t tell me what to do about it, but then mentioned Abigail. So, I studied her for awhile. Anyway, it’s an awesome thing when the Lord is able to speak to each one of us in ways HE only knows how. Keep seeking HIM.

    [Paragraph break added to enhance readability. Editors.]

  7. Great post! Matthew 19:29 understood in the manner taught here perfectly complements 2 Corinthians 6:14:

    Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? [ESV]

    Thank you to our Guest author for this post.

    1. Another powerful yet overlooked Scripture that supports the divorcing of a cruel unrepentant spouse, in pursuit of the true kingdom of God within his / her heart. Truly it is better to serve God than man.

  8. I am glad to see a man’s addition to this blog. I know there are men that also endure for a long season with a wife that bleeds them of their relationship with Christ and their very soul. I will never be able to understand it fully, not having lived it. It has always been the other way for me. Thank you for coming here and shedding light to other Scripture and its interpretation. Most of all I pray that your relationship with Jesus grows stronger through your search for truth.

    Yesterday, I had words for a man who didn’t seem to understand that the church is not often safe in matters of abuse even though he testifies that he lived in a home filled with it during his childhood. His apparent disdain for those who do not agree with his idea to always go to the church to initiate discussion of abuse in the marriage got me riled after having many days on the mountain top. Although I felt the questions I addressed to him were good and his comments disturbing to DV victims who could be reading that thread of the blog and not necessarily commenting, I felt drained in spirit after having done so. Anyways, I am glad to know another man understands the dynamics of abuse and is speaking out.

    1. Brenda R,

      I have to agree that it’s refreshing and healing to have men affirm the experience of abuse, not that we want ANYONE to suffer it. But there’s a special comfort in having that affirmation or validation from men, be they the targets of abuse themselves or particularly graced with wisdom by God without the experience of abuse. I suspect that because many — likely most — of us here are women who are naturally designed by God as physically weaker than men and susceptible to abuse all the more, it’s a special comfort to have men come here and validate our experience.

      That said, I think there is likewise a unique kind of suffering that only men must have when they suffer this abuse, given the dynamics of male-female relationships and how unlikely men are to be believed and supported. Maybe even all the more because they’re men and very few imagine that men are abused (and it’s largely a male dominating female scenario). That brings along with it a whole ‘nudder set of problems, I would imagine. It might seem like a different kind of shame to bring it out in the open, along with the suspicion that they won’t be believed. All of it I would imagine takes a special man graced by God (like Jeff C, Pastor Dave, joepote1, etc.) to affirm and validate and stand beside the men such as AbusedHusband who come here. I’m thankful for them all. They really enrich this site.

      1. SR,
        You are right about that, “we don’t want ANYONE to suffer abuse”. I hope the Guest writer doesn’t think I was saying otherwise. Whether it is the man or woman who is the aggressor, A Bruised Reed is right, the reason this verse is not looked at is no one is teaching divorce for any reason. There is a lot of teaching going on about “keeping the family together at all costs”, but that is very unrealistic in lieu of what is happening in the world. I’m actually surprised there are not more divorces. Until listening to Ps Jeff’s sermons on abuse, I had never heard another speak of it at all. It was such a relief to hear the first one. An entire series — wow, what amazing stuff that is.

        The former h called me a nag so often that I didn’t speak unless spoken to. Heaven help me if I said the sky was blue. I wonder when it goes the opposite way if the husband does the same thing. Does he loose his voice the way a woman would? Does he stay because of the children? Are female abusers more likely to be physically aggressive? I only know of 3 men that have been abused in marriage. Two are still married and trying to stay well with boundaries set. They don’t speak much of their stories, or make too many comments. It would help us ladies to be able to show greater empathy if we understood the situation from the other side.

      2. Brenda,

        Thank you for mentioning Pastor Jeff’s series of sermons on abuse. I haven’t researched his sermons other than making note of the series Barbara recently mentioned regarding the psychology and mentality of sin. I’m going to make a note on the abuse sermons as well so that when I’m able to come up for air from preparation for impending dates for mediation and maybe court I’ll focus on these sermons.

        It’s been so long since I’ve heard edifying, challenging, truth-affirming sermons that aren’t more fluff than substance. (I confess that for the past half a year most sermons I’ve heard in church lose my interest so quickly that I open my Kindle to read Pastor Jeff’s book during that part of the service. Thankfully the current church I’m in doesn’t have a pastor who gets LOUDER and YELLS when he thinks one isn’t paying attention. 🙂 )

      3. UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


        The abuse sermon series is the same thing as the one I mentioned. As a recall, Ps Jeff titled the series “The Psychology and Methods of Sin”, and in it he covered all kinds of sin — but he found that the best example of sin was domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is the perfect exemplar of sin’s mentality — it ticks all the boxes.

      4. UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


        SR, when you’ve finished Jeff Crippen’s sermons, you might like to try Martin Lloyd-Jones’s sermons. They are all avail now at mljtrust.org.

        I’m working my way slowly through his series on Romans. I listen to one each day first thing in the morning while doing my exercise routine. At last, exercise is something I WANT to do because my brain has something decent to engage with while doing the physical exercise. 🙂

      5. Barbara,

        What an excellent idea! I had to drop my exercise routine in Autumn (well, Spring where you are 🙂 ), and normally I turned the music off of the workout DVD and put captions on so I could follow. I could kill two birds with one stone if I listened to Jeff’s sermons at the same time and got back into exercising. (Thanks to Jeff’s recommendations, I’ve got Martin Lloyd-Jones on my phone now, but haven’t had a spare minute to listen. I appreciate the encouragement to do so.)

        Last night I listened to Jeff’s first sermon on the psychology of sin. Boy, it was good, although hard to listen to the examples given at first — and frustrating because in the listening I wanted other pastors to hear it and recognize the sin for what it is. Pastors tolerating the abuser staying in church is akin to Paul recognizing the sexual immorality of the Corinth church and allowing it to remain. I kept wondering as I was listening to Jeff speak why he is the only one I’ve heard speak this way. Pastor Dave at “Grace for my Heart” has started posting mp3s I think, so there may be two now — at least from the pulpit.

        It may be a side topic, but….well, perhaps part of why there are so few speaking up about abuse and sin especially as it hides in the church is (dare I say it?) a dumbing down of the church at large? There are pockets of good instruction to be sure and resources available online for Reformed Theology that are marvelous, but I’ve noticed in the past few churches I’ve either visited or attended at any length that good Bible studies and real serious exegesis are few and far between. I went to a women’s Bible study last night for the first time at a new church I’m attending, and it was so….”pithy”. We’re supposed to mark key words by highlighting them with little hearts or different colors and the “study” is less study and more questioning, like, “What must David have been feeling to write this?” kind of stuff. It’s disheartening. I have to find a way to engage in serious study of the Word in spite of the general lack in a local assembly for same. I’m thankful for online forums like this one so we can engage one another in discussion of the Word — such as the topic of this post — because as believers we need that.

      6. Still Reforming, having come from the environment you describe of unsatisfying Bible study, I am very pleased with the theology and serious Bible study in the “Confessional Lutheran Church”, specifically LCMS [Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod]. This radio station has great no-nonsense teaching and I recently found insightful material for a women’s retreat session where I was asked to speak on Deborah. Now Judges is one of my favorite books! You will find a changing mix of theological and current event issues to choose from here: Issues, Etc. [Internet Archive link]

        As a sidenote, I learned that Deborah encouraged the faithless Barak in the name of the Lord. Essentially the evangelical church with its “pithy” studies for women is promoting the opposite. They are not equipping women with the strength of knowing the Lord through his Word, but rather leading women astray with false teachings of subjectivism, moralism and legalism. The sheep are weakened and easy prey for the wolves within and without the flock. Without discernment or the strength from knowing the truth, they are easily persecuted by the false marriage doctrine of these churches. Could this be their agenda? Keep the women starved through false teaching so that they won’t have the strength to fight against it?

      7. TPW,

        Thank you! I will check that out. I found one local Lutheran church and liked their service very much. It was a bit stiff and formal for my daughter though, but maybe we need to try it again. I tire so of weak theology in churches. Seems like most real study is best accomplished on one’s own, but we are not to neglect the assembly locally. I just find it hard to really connect when people seem so accepting of weak if not downright erroneous theology. I’m asking the Lord to humble me so that I don’t expect so much from the church in way of receiving as much as giving and doing the latter with grace. Perhaps I need to be more careful and thoughtful in approaching the church to receive what is there that is correct and graciously try to reason with others where possible with respect to error or uncertainty, if they are interested and willing. I appreciated what Barbara said recently with respect to her differences with the teaching in her local church and that the pastor occasionally asked for her thoughts – and then she shares.

        FWIW, I purchased a Lutheran Study Bible (ESV) about a year ago and it’s one of the three I turn to most often for study (the other two being the Reformation Study Bible — also ESV — and the NET Bible).

      8. Still Reforming, for years I knew that subjective teaching was present in my PCA church through ecumenical activities, books by modern authors like Piper and Keller, and women’s Bible studies that I have now come to realize were heavily influenced by New Age and mystics. I didn’t know what other church I would go to since I studied the Reformation and classic teachers and wanted to be in a church with a historic foundation and confession. Thinking there was no better choice, I stuck my head in the sand and spent years teaching children to avoid the shallow adult studies and conversations.

        I did my own Bible study and reading from the greats like Martin Luther and Martin Lloyd-Jones. This seemed to work well until the crisis of bringing my husband’s sin to the church made it evident to me that the church was not equipped to deal with it biblically. They obviously did not have a cohesive theology, either. The fact that they immersed themselves in foolish and false teaching for so long came back to bite me. I think that if you are in a church with bad teaching you are surrounded by people who accept that false teaching. The whole environment is toxic. If a person doesn’t have a choice, that is one thing. But if there are other options, I suggest checking them out.

        I was basically an exile from the PCA when I showed up at the LCMS. Because of the Reformed bias against Lutheranism I had a suspicion of them myself. Although the worship was different, I came to find that their doctrines do not enable abuse nor further legalism or any of the other doctrines I hated in the other church. The adult classes are actually on a seminary level and fascinating. I was really surprised that God used such a terrible situation and turned it into this blessing for my family. I have to wonder if the whole ordeal in dealing with the PCA was a means God used to bring me to be a Lutheran. If so, it was all worthwhile. 🙂

      9. if you are in a church with bad teaching you are surrounded by people who accept that false teaching.

        It’s obvious when you state it like this, PersistentWidow.

        I have sat so many years in churches that fitted that description in various ways. Sensing the false teaching, I would sit there hoping that some other people in the pews were sensing it too, and I was not entirely alone. And I’d try to tentatively send out feelers, one-on-one in the coffee time at the end of the service, to see whether the other person sensed it too. So often that’s like trying to pick up stitches in the very dim light. Even if I DID seem occasionally to have touched a point of commonality of discernment with another person, I couldn’t be sure because I’d always have to assume that the other person, like me, was guarding their back and hold their doctrinal concerns close to their chest, to remain inconspicuous in the congregation and to keep presenting as a nice, polite, genteel, non-gossiper to others.

        Now I think about it, that’s a bit like living in Russia under communism — everyone being afraid of the KGB and not knowing who to trust….

      10. Now I think about it, that’s a bit like living in Russia under communism — everyone being afraid of the KGB and not knowing who to trust….

        That is true, Barb. I have been told to be careful who I told my story to within the church. I see it as much a lie as pretending that everyone was ok and leaving the building knowing that the abuse would start as soon as we left the building.

      11. TPW,

        I didn’t realize that there is a Reformed bias against Lutheranism. On what is that based? I would have thought the two fit like hand in glove, just based on the little independent reading I’ve done to date from both Bibles (RC Sproul’s Reformation Study Bible and the Lutheran Study Bible), as well as various texts.

        Given the history of the Reformation (of which I know very little really) I would think that Lutherans and Reformed groups would be practically one and the same.

      12. I think that male victims of domestic abuse may experience some difficulties that women victims don’t experience, or if women experience them, they come in a slightly different guise.

        I suspect that some women who have been abused by men, and some (not all) of the feminist movement that advocates for abuse victims, take a cynical attitude to ANY claim that a male is a victim. The scoffing this can produce would be hurtful for male victims.

        So many male perpetrators pretend to be victims rather than admitting they are perps, that it is kind of understandable why female victims and some of their allies might scoff at any man’s claim that he is a victim of abuse from his wife or girlfriend. This would make it harder for the genuine male victim to receive support and compassion from the community.

        The fact that male perps posing as victims set up “Father’s Rights” groups must (I’m guessing) make it hard for genuine male victims to find other genuine male victims to relate to. If they search for other male victims to relate to, they almost inevitably stumble across the “Fathers Rights” groups and in their sincerity they might assume that all the other males in those groups are like them — genuine victims. But what they’ve stumbled across is a nest of many male vipers, quite a lot of second wives and female partners of those vipers who are passionately siding with their man because they have swallowed the man’s lies, and perhaps a few genuine male victims of abuse like themselves. How a genuine male victim navigates this I have no idea! But I feel for them.

  9. My questions would be…. Why would Jesus be talking about divorce in Matthew 19:1-11, then go on to talking about other things including the rich young ruler then jump back up to divorce? I agree that Jesus wouldn’t want someone to stay with an abusive spouse, but I don’t understand why Jesus would jump back to a different subject like that.

    1. Moodish,

      I agree with you. That’s why I would want to question what it means by leaving “for my sake” or “for the sake of the kingdom”? What did Jesus mean by those things? I suppose they could mean many things, as long as they truly are for His sake and the sake of His kingdom, which could well include (but not be limited to) leaving an abusive, unrepentant (key word there methinks) spouse.

      It’s possible that the “jumping around” has to do more with the recounting of these events years past when they actually occurred moreso than what Jesus said chronologically? I don’t know that that’s true in every case of Scripture or the Gospel accounts, however I believe that’s the case with other books like, say, Revelation, which in the little that I’ve studied it — I’ve read that much of it — is not necessarily chronological. So that may be the case here as well. That said, I find it interesting that the chapter does start with the topic of divorce, which would lend more credibility to the suggestion that leaving for the sake of the kingdom would not be so far removed from divorce in the case of abuse.

  10. The male survivor of domestic abuse met by Barb makes a valid inquiry and is to be commended for seeking the truth in the Word of God earnestly and to get us to search the Scriptures and share.

    Regarding this chapter in Matthew, we have to picture in our mind the whole context as we read the account starting with Matthew 19:1 in parallel with Mark 10 and Luke 18. Jesus is by the Jordan (before He departs for Jericho on His way to Jerusalem) where multitudes have followed Him whom He heals and teaches. People take their turn to seek an audience with Jesus. We are given a sample of people coming to Him, no doubt there would have been many more. Jesus answers every specific concern / need. He is not addressing a particular topic. Of course a delegation of the Pharisees is there to corner Him with their questions (Matthew 19:3, Mark 10:2). We also see Jesus and His disciples interacting about each case.

    So after the conversation between the rich young man, the disciples plead their case to Jesus stating how they did what He told the young man to do i.e. they left everything and everyone to follow Him. Jesus continues to explain what a true disciple of His looks like. He had already commended the dedication of voluntary eunuchs and the simple and humble faith of children. He is raising the issue of total and radical commitment to Him and His cause, not about divorce. It has its roots in the 1st commandment of not having other gods (Exodus 20:3). You see this is exactly where Adam failed. He was the very first man who put “a sibling” (his wife) above God. He preferred to join in the fate of Eve instead of leaving her case in the hands of God and be committed and obedient to God through love for Him. This is in stark contrast with Jesus, the 2nd Adam, who left ALL willingly, sacrificially for the salvation of earth and the universe!!

    Here are various scenarios of having to part with property and siblings because of one’s commitment to Christ (list not exhaustive):
    1) Christian couples / families whose members love one another dearly are separated, torn apart because of external persecution or manipulation from within or without the church.
    2) God’s call in order to preserve / purify the faithful as with Abraham out [of] Chaldea.
    3) Persecution that scatters believers and contributes to spreading the Gospel as in Acts with the early Christian church.
    4) At conversion and afterwards, often estrangement in various degrees occurs as siblings disagree, ignore, persecute the believers, the righteous –– Joseph and his 9 brothers.
    5) Missionaries called by God to go to faraway lands to proclaim the Gospel.

    This said, yes abuse by a spouse will often lead to leaving the abuser, first and foremost because of the cruel debilitating effect of abuse, not necessarily because of the commitment to Christ by the target. Not every target is a believer in Christ or a believer at all, and yet has to lose all.

    In conclusion, Jesus addresses the issue of total commitment to Christ to live a godly life and proclaim the Gospel (Mark 10:29) no matter who and what, and it is not linked to the question of the Pharisees whose purpose was to trap Jesus with a difficult matter and that could have been on any other topic. Jesus’ reply exposed the selfishness of their hearts and their biased knowledge and wicked use of Scriptures.

    We see that the disciples compared themselves with the rich young ruler and thought they had given up everything for Jesus, but in reality their hearts and minds were not fully with Him and single to His cause, as verified later when they denied and abandoned their Master. Thus Jesus was teaching them the real price of commitment because He was preparing them to His soon coming crucifixion. They were not ready at all as we see later in the texts they were debating who among them would be the first in Christ’s government which they wrongly perceived would be on earth then. Jesus painstakingly worked at ‘de-brainwashing’ them from the distorted ingrained doctrines and traditions of the Jewish leaders.

  11. I suspect the passage is a reference to Lot, whose wife would not follow him to safety, and perished with the people of Sodom. I’m not so sure it is any kind of endorsement of men leaving their wives to go into missionary service. I’ve met a few “MKs” [Missionary Kids] and “PKs” [Preacher’s / Priests Kids] over the years who felt abandoned by their dad who put “the ministry” before family.

    1. Hi, Ken, I agree that some men have put their ‘ministry’ before their family’s needs and this has harmed the kids and the wife. However, I think you might be missing the point of this post. This post is about two Scriptural passages:

      (Matthew 19:29 NIV) And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

      (Luke 18:29-30 NIV) “….I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

      The author of the post was raising the question of whether these texts could be applied to situations where a wife is abusing her husband. The author wasn’t trying to argue that the texts pertained to men putting their ‘ministry’ before their family.

      There is nothing in those two Scriptural passages which specifically points to the story of Lot’s wife. In fact, I think you may be making rather a leap there. Lot and his wife were specifically instructed by God to leave Sodom. God gave that directive to Lot and his family for their safety. He didn’t tell them to leave Sodom for the kingdom of God, but for their personal safety so they wouldn’t die in the hail of fire and brimstone.

  12. The post, and Barbara’s comment, raise another question though. What if a man has an abusive wife who accuses him of abuse? Do you just believe the first one to accuse the other, or is there some objective criterion to determine who is the real abuser and who is using abuse as a club to beat the other?

    1. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” when Peter and Susan approached the Professor with concerns about Lucy and her seemingly fantastical tales of a world called Narnia. The Professor simply asked whether Lucy or Edmund was generally the most truthful.

      When they responded that until now they would have said Lucy was more truthful every time, the Professor responded [Internet Archive link]1:

      “Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

      This surprisingly simple test often provides direction. Of these two people with completely different stories, which is generally the most truthful?

      The post Barbara references provides more details, but the honesty test is a good starting point.

      1[November 3, 2022: We added the link to a page containing the C. S. Lewis quote that Joepote01 quoted. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]

      1. Good point, Joe. I am in the situation Ken poses. For a period of time my wife maintained that the physical violence went both ways in our relationship. That wasn’t true. Also, she has also acknowledged abusing me but applied the word “abuse” to my treatment of her, which I suspected — and now know — is not accurate, having read lots about what the different forms of abuse look like.

      2. Yeah, that’s pretty common for the abuser to claim they are being abused. I’m glad you’ve learned to see through the fog of deception. Good for you! 🙂

      3. I love this, Joe!

        I read somewhere that the abuser almost always says the following things about the abused, when the abuse finally comes to light, because he cannot keep her silent any longer and the secret is out:

        “She’s lying.”
        “She’s crazy.”
        “She’s not the real victim here, I am.”

        And since they are abusers, they don’t have any qualms doing this. Often they have been grooming the family, friends, and others for YEARS to see her as a liar, a crazy woman, and / or an abuser of him. Why would the abuser do that? Because he knows eventually he risks exposure and he wants groomed allies all ready to come to his defense and further his above three lies (lying, crazy, not the victim but the abuser).

      4. Thanks, Anon! 🙂

        Yes, playing the victim is a very common abuser tactic. On the surface, one might think this wouldn’t work, because most people who know the abuser also know he often plays loose with the truth.

        However, it often does work.

        One reason it works is what you have suggested….he has been setting up the scenario for years so that it’s not too great a leap.

        Another reason, I think, is our natural tendency to accept as truth what we can most easily fit to our current paradigm. Because of this, it is much easier to believe someone is a little emotional or hysterical than to believe their spouse is a complete monster. One version is a much bigger departure from our current paradigm than the other.

        This is, essentially, the situation Peter and Susan faced in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. They knew Lucy was always very honest while Edmund tended to be less honest. However, to believe Lucy was telling the truth was to believe she had actually ventured to a magical world they could not see. It was much easier to believe Lucy was letting her imagination get away with her….even though this meant believing Lucy was lying while Edmund told the truth.

        Through this story, Lewis challenges us to use the honesty test as the best means of discerning the truth of the situation.

        If you like C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia”, you might also enjoy this post on my blog discussing different abusive relationships from that series: Narnian Abuse [Internet Archive link].

  13. I love this message, and I wish more people would explain this verse.

    I heard about [a] man who quoted Matthew 19:29 to his wife, saying that he would depart from her to fully follow Jesus. It’s appalling that someone can just pick a verse from the Bible and [to?] justify their actions.

    1. Hi, welcome to the blog. 🙂

      That husband was definitely twisting the Bible to justify his selfish actions.

      For safety, I disidentified your screen name and removed some of the details in your comment.

      We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.

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