The teaching on divorce is one that many would rather stay away from. Interestingly enough, Matthew 19 begins more on a theme about marriage than he does about divorce. Jesus states very clearly his understanding of what marriage is supposed to look like. Look at verses 4-5: “the one who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” Jesus’ view of marriage according to our standards is the most traditional one could find.
His view on divorce was even more strict in his day than it would be today. Back in the 1st century a Jewish man could divorce his wife if he woke up one day and found her displeasing. He could write her a certificate of divorce, she would have to leave the safety and the security of the house, she would have no income, she would be shamed and shunned by her family as a divorced woman, and more than likely she would need to prostitute herself in order to survive. Jesus saw an injustice in what was happening in the 1st century and told the religious leaders: “You are not to divorce for any reason except for adultery.”
It is a hard teaching, but it is a sound teaching. It is a teaching which applies for us today. Divorce leaves its scars on all who are in its wake. No one is left unaffected, and no family today is immune from divorce. No family. His disciples rightly say that it must be better to not marry at all. Even Paul states that it is better to be a servant of God unfettered by the marital bond. But not everyone, in fact very few, are capable of being “eunuchs” for the Lord. It was certainly not my calling, and I am quite grateful to the Lord that he blessed me with the calling of being in a marriage relationship and provided the perfect partner, Stacy my wife, for that calling.
Jesus then launches into a blessing of the children followed by the very famous warning for those who are rich. “It is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” He commands the rich young ruler to sell all of his possessions. There are some difficult teachings in this chapter that don’t necessarily make us merry. The teaching on divorce is personal to many of us. The teaching on wealth is personal to all of us. Jesus didn’t shy away from personal teachings. Thanks be to God for that. Now if only we would take it personally.