Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)
Those who bend the laws of God and teach others to do the same… who could Jesus be talking about? Firstly the Pharisees and scribes and priests and whoever invented manmade laws which actually flouted or ‘trumped’ the laws and precepts of God. Secondly, those who had a laissez faire approach to the law (“she’ll be right mate!” as we Aussies say). And both of those groups were suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21-22)
Abusers: when you insult your victims, whenever you call them fools or fruitcakes or dimwits, you are making yourselves liable to the hell of fire. The same goes for all those church leaders who dismiss the reports of victims.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother [or sister], and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:23-26)
Jesus is speaking to abusers here, not to those who are rightly accusing the abusers for their wrongdoing.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [Husbands who are indulging in porn, Jesus is talking about you!] If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:27-30)
Porn users must do whatever it takes to quit indulging to porn. If they don’t, they can’t be received into the Kingdom of God.
It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)
Jesus was pouring scorn on the scribes and Pharisees: Okay Pharisees, you think you’ve found a loophole in Deuteronomy 21:1 that allows you dismiss your wives at will? Your loophole doesn’t wash with God. You’ve cherry-picked verse one and twisted it out of all recognition. In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Moses didn’t condone male divorce, let alone make indulgent concessions to men. Moses knew that men were divorcing their wives despite all God’s guidance about how personal relationships ought to be conducted. He only narrated the ‘case study’ in verses 1-3 which mentioned the practice of male divorce in order to promulgate the law in verse four. Moses’s regulation was to prevent an abominable end-product that sometimes ensued when men hard-heartedly engaged in divorce.
Moses didn’t give this teaching in Deuteronomy 24 to license male divorce. He gave it because men were divorcing in hardness of heart and he was trying to restrain an abominable end-product of such conduct. From the beginning it was not so. Listen up, religious leaders! The point of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is not verse one, but verse four. If the rabbis (both Hillelites and Shammaites) had faithfully interpreted Deuteronomy 24 in the light of Genesis 2, they would never have drawn the conclusions they had. They only created this interpretation to serve themselves.
Can you hear Jesus’ outrage at the Pharisees? He wasn’t siding with the Shammaite school, as so many commentators have supposed; he was pouring scorn on both schools of Pharisees, the Hillelites AND the Shammaites. No wonder the disciples were so dismayed that they said, “If that is the case, it would be better for a man not to marry!” The Pharisees had crafted loopholes of male privilege from Deuteronomy 24:1, and Jesus had just closed the loopholes tight. Jesus’ declaration left no wriggle room. If any Pharisee had a mite of conscience left, he would have been red faced. But most of the Pharisees probably just burnt with inward fury.
… You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matthew 5:38-41)
One way that victims can maintain their dignity and personal power in the face of oppression is to give the oppressor more than he demanded. This demonstrates that he has not cowed you and you still have the power of choice in your own actions. And by giving him exceedingly more than he demanded, you are subtly mocking his demands.
Now, kindly allow me now to paraphrase our Lord’s sermon style…
You have heard that it was said “God hates divorce,” but I say unto you that is a notion invented by your religious leaders. Scripture says:
…the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.
So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
(Malachi 2:14-16, NIV 2011; emphasis added)
Isn’t adultery the only ground for divorce?
10 thoughts on “You have heard that it was said “God hates divorce,” but I say unto you…”
An excellent post, Barbara! Thank you for rightly dividing the word of God!
I find it incredible to the point of ridiculousness that so many biblical scholars and commentaries correctly understand Matthew 5:20-30 as an indictment against the legalistic religion of the Pharisees, but then turn right around and interpret verse 31 as Jesus adding yet another layer of legalistic rules and loopholes above and beyond the law given to Moses. In effect, these scholars are reading verse 31 as Jesus doing the very thing He had just denounced the Pharisees for doing in verses 20-30.
Throughout this entire passage, Jesus is clearly demonstrating that righteousness can never be attained through rigid adherence to a system of external rules, nor can guilt be avoided through application of legalistic loopholes. Rather, righteousness is a condition of the heart that can only be attained through the person of Jesus Christ.
I like how you said:
Yes! Neither of those paths leads to righteousness. In fact, both are founded in legalism…just opposite ends of the same false assumptions. Both of those paths are rules-oriented. One says the way to appease holy God is through following a rigid set of rules. The other says following the rules is impossible, so just ignore the rules. Both are too focused on the rules and not focused enough on wholeheartedly pursuing the heart of God.
The only way to attain righteousness is by accepting the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ on our behalf, by entering into covenant relationship with Him, by being clothed in His righteousness, and by pursuing God’s heart through walking in the Spirit.
The rules are not an end to themselves. They cannot be our primary focus, nor can they be ignored. The law was given for the purpose of revealing the nature of God…and that nature is only fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
As Paul said in Galatians 3:24-25:
Conclusion: Yes, continued, persistent, hidden porn usage IS grounds for divorce, for it reflects an adultering heart, a hardened heart, and a covering of the wife of one’s youth in destructive treacherous violence. One that her spirit simply cannot hold up under, much less flourish. A man not yielded to Christ cannot lead his wife to Christ nor wash her to present her clean.
As I think on these things I get comfort. I know God hates what my husband is doing and I know what He does about what He hates. God is my comfort.
I believe I remember that God issued Israel a certificate of divorce at one point…
I have resolved to initiate divorce proceedings against my husband. The last straw was when I found out about his affair. He did not have the decency to own up but instead shifted blame to me saying that I had pushed him to have the affair. In our 15 years of marriage, my husband had:
–indulged in porn habitually;
–looked at other women and commented on their looks when I was with him;
–praised other women’s looks but never complimented me, not even on our wedding day;
–withheld sex for at least 11 years of our marriage; If I asked him for sex, he would say that he could not bear to have sex with me, meaning I was that unappealing;
–he refused to even discuss how things could improve in the marriage, including in the area of sex;
–did not work most of the time and used my money;
–he controlled what we did with the money I earned;
–he did not criticize me constantly but he would berate my femininity if I approached him for intimacy.
For years I thought that it would be a sin if I divorced my husband for any of the above reasons. I was not even aware if these reasons would form emotional abuse. I have a good degree from a good university and I hold a good job and earn well by the grace of God and yet I was so deceived by my husband.
Dear Resolved — welcome to the blog! And thank you so much for sharing. 🙂
I understand. We understand. Well done for having survived and for making the resolution to seek divorce from this unrepentantly abusive and selfish man.
I changed your screen name to Resolved because it looked like you may have used your first name, which is not a good idea if you are running the gauntlet of separation and divorce… abusers can be sleuths on cyberspace…
If you want us to change the screen name to something else, just email The woman behind the curtain: firstname.lastname@example.org — she will be more than happy to assist. 🙂
We always 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.
Thank you for this post. In agreement with previous commenters.
The verses that say something like, “You have heard…… But I say to you……” are great!! It’s like Jesus is saying men’s teaching is this, but they are wrong. Let Me tell you directly what I mean.
God without the filters.