The Sermon on the Mount

Day 9: Divorce Practices Censured

Matthew 5:31-32, Genesis 2:20-25, Malachi 2:10-16, Matthew 19:1-12, 1 Corinthians 7:10-16


“Today you enter into a covenant, not a contract. If this were a contract, either party could walk away when the circumstances change.” This was our pastor’s first comment to us in our wedding ceremony. His words were a warm reminder of the covenantal nature of marriage, a lifelong monogamous relationship between a man and a woman.

This truth addresses a profound misunderstanding that our society has regarding the sanctity of marriage, a problem the ancient society had as well. The fact that Jesus makes reference to a “certificate of divorce” in the Sermon on the Mount indicates that divorce and remarriage were somewhat accepted and practiced during His time (Matthew 5:31). However, Jesus is unmistakably clear, “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 5:32). The reason is simple: in God’s eyes, marriage should be a permanent union of a man and woman as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:20-25; Mark 10:8).

Just prior to His statements on divorce, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter in asserting that those who lust have committed adultery in their hearts (Matthew 5:27-28). It is not just the fruit of adulterous desires that Jesus warns us about, but the seeds of those desires as well. Jesus is not removing the distinctions between sin of intent and action; He is simply elevating lust as a matter that Christians must fight with the same amount of seriousness as adultery. This not only speaks to how one should react to temptation, but it is also a proactive truth that warns us before we encounter temptation.

For married men, there are times when our sexual desires rage and we are tempted to turn to other means of sexual satisfaction apart from our wives. In these circumstances, we are tempted to functionally treat our marriages as a contract in order to fulfill our self-centered desires. “She is not upholding her end of the contract, so I will look elsewhere.” Unmarried men are tempted to pursue the same sort of sin—sexual satisfaction outside the bonds of marriage.

Whether single or married, it is important to remember what God had in mind when He declared that to be united to someone through a marriage covenant is to be bound by promise, or oath. A marriage covenant is not only a declaration of present love but also a mutually binding promise of future love, regardless of the circumstances. What God has joined together, let no one separate—not by action or intent.

Written by Matt Capps