What did Jesus say about Divorce?
“Happy is the one who finds no cause for stumbling in me.”—Matthew 11:6
[Prompted by Study 18 from ws 5/21 p.2, July 5 – July 11, 2021]
What did Jesus say about Divorce?
It is wise to take a little time to meditate upon what Jesus said about divorce. The account in Mark 10:2-12 states “Pharisees now approached and, to put him to the test, began questioning him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. 3 In answer he said to them: “What did Moses command YOU?” 4 They said: “Moses allowed the writing of a certificate of dismissal and divorcing [her].” 5 But Jesus said to them: “Out of regard for YOUR hardheartedness he wrote YOU this commandment. 6 However, from [the] beginning of creation ‘He made them male and female. 7 On this account a man will leave his father and mother, 8 and the two will be one flesh’; so that they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God yoked together let no man put apart.” 10 When again in the house the disciples began to question him concerning this. 11 And he said to them: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if ever a woman, after divorcing her husband, marries another, she commits adultery.”(See also Matthew 5:31, Matthew 19:3-11).
Now thinking about what Jesus said, firstly, was it a commandment? No, there is no evidence that it was a commandment. Did Jesus forbid divorce? No. Did he not rather say, let no person be the cause of splitting a marriage. (“what God yoked together let no man put apart.”). Further, the issue Jesus actually mentioned was that if someone divorced their spouse, whether it was the husband or the wife, and then remarried, the one remarrying committed adultery. Matthew 19:11 reads similarly “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.”
However, it is very important to note that this verse again talks about remarriage being adultery, unless the spouse had committed fornication. The only time the spouse could have committed fornication was before marriage with it being unknown to their spouse at the time of the marriage. It would be adultery if the spouse had sexual relations with someone else after marriage.
Compare this with the pronouncements in the Organization’s literature, such as *** w20 July p. 3 par. 4 Do Not Think More of Yourself Than Is Necessary *** “We realize that the only Scriptural grounds for divorce is sexual immorality. (Matthew 5:32) “. Based on your examination of Jesus words quoted and cited above, this statement is highly inaccurate. It should state “Jesus said that the only scriptural grounds for divorce and remarriage was sexual immorality on the part of the spouse before marriage”. Yet most witnesses I know and probably whom you know, will repeat that statement from the Watchtower verbatim. I will readily admit I did.
When we take time to think about what Jesus was saying, do we really think that both a loving God and a loving Christ would prevent divorce in circumstances such as where the divorcing spouse is in fear of their lives because of a violent spouse. Or what about the scenario where a spouse that refuses to provide for them at all, perhaps drinking or gambling away all the income of the family? True, a scriptural case could be made that someone who divorces should not remarry, (unless the spouse is immoral), but certainly Jesus did not command that they cannot divorce except on the grounds of the infidelity of the spouse.
Remember too the context of Jesus’ answer in Matthew 19 and Mark 10. He was answering the Pharisees who allowed divorce on every sort of grounds. Surely it is reasonable therefore to understand that Jesus was putting the record and the balance straight, i.e. that divorce should only take place on serious grounds rather than frivolous grounds.