Adultery and Divorce
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:27-32, NIV)
Between the time of God giving the Law to Moses and when Jesus came to earth as a man, many of God’s instructions had been twisted or bypassed, often to make life easier. Jesus acknowledges that many people listening to Him teach have severe gaps in their scriptural knowledge. Jesus frequently begins a portion of His teachings with “You have heard that it was said…” He then follows that up with, “But I tell you…” Jesus is explaining to the people that the interpretations of the law given to them by the Pharisees and scribes were incorrect or incomplete. Additionally, Jesus is also demonstrating and claiming His authority to explain God’s Law.
God designed marriage as between one man and one woman. For centuries people have been attempting to circumvent God’s intentions. In the Old Testament, many participated in polygamy – adding another person to the marriage. Today, we talk about opening up the marriage, allowing each spouse to date other people. Neither is endorsed by God. Some people attempt to circumvent God’s command against adultery by attempting to clarify what exactly it is, arguing it can be different for every couple.
Divorce, and remarriage, is another way to circumvent God’s perfect plan for marriage. Today, about one-third of all marriages end in divorce. Too often, the couple simply claims “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the divorce. This is a broad and vague claim, and not in accordance with God’s plan. In God’s eyes, divorce does not end the marriage. Divorce and adultery are linked.
Jesus strongly warns against both adultery and divorce. Jesus clearly states adultery is not the physical act, but a sin committed in the heart. Even if you never act on your desires with a man or woman who is not your spouse, you have still sinned in your heart by looking with lust. Jesus is harsh in this passage. Adultery cannot be permitted to flourish, even if others have no idea it is occurring. God sees, and God knows.
The Pharisees and the scribes were the legal authorities of their day. Yet, here is Jesus, saying that what they are teaching is wrong. Who are the legal authorities today? Could they be wrong? Whatever we are taught, we should always return to God’s word. Cross-examine the teachings. What is really being said? Words, phrases, and entire passages can have their meanings twisted. Go to God. Pray! Seek His wisdom!
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