Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Divorce and the Pharisees

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Luke 16:18).

Jesus had just told the Pharisees that they needed to love God more than money (Luke 16:13). In typical fashion, they scoffed at Jesus’ words because they could not recognize that they were lovers of money. Jesus warned them that though they were expert in looking good in the eyes of men, they were actually evil in the eyes of God.

He went on to tell them that, since the time of John the Baptist, the Good News was being preached throughout the land and everyone was “forcing his way into it” (v. 16). The Pharisees, unfortunately, did not see any need to press into the kingdom Jesus was proclaiming.

Jesus told them that if they truly kept the Old Testament law, they would recognize the kingdom. One major problem for the Pharisees, though, was that they had set aside the written law of Moses in favor of their traditions, which they fondly imagined came from “oral laws” passed down from Moses. Jesus directly attacked this oral law tradition. One example of this attack was upon their views of divorce. The Pharisees, who were the supposed righteous pillars of the faith and Law, were actually violating that law every day, especially in marriage. Why? Because they had capitulated to the whims of the people. Under Rabbi Hillel’s leadership, they had permitted divorce for the slightest reasons, claiming the oral law permitted it.

Jesus defines the original intent of marriage as monogamy until death. God never intended for any marriage to end in divorce, and thus in creation, no provisions were made for it. But, because of sin’s hardening of hearts, God did condescend through Moses to permit it upon the grounds of adultery and abandonment only.

In order to obtain the people’s favor, the Pharisees became poor stewards of the very law they were charged to keep. They became an abomination in God’s sight for the manner in which they negotiated the Law of God.

Is there a parallel today with church leaders granting divorces for unbiblical reasons? Just because it is “legal” to seek a divorce, is it “morally permissible” for believers to do so? By what authority does your church and pastor counsel those whose marriages are failing?