Why Does Jesus Hate Divorce?

How to read Matthew 19:8-9

In the modern church we think we treat women well. We tell ourselves that we are enlightened, educated and respectful. But in the very next breath we tell women they can’t preach or teach and it would best if they remain silent in our services.

What’s wrong with that picture?!

God made Eve a queen, yet we don’t treat her daughters like princesses. Just look at the shame we dispense to those who are divorced.

A pastor who goes to prison for manslaughter can be rehabilitated and welcomed back into the pulpit, but a woman who has been abused and divorced has zero chance of leading a church.

“Hold up there, Paul. You’re confusing several issues. There are scriptures forbidding…”

Actually, there are no scriptures forbidding divorced women from doing anything. But there is certainly an ancient prejudice against the daughters of Eve. (I discuss those scriptures you’re thinking of elsewhere.)

For now let’s focus on one question: Why does Jesus hate divorce?

Jesus doesn’t hate divorce because it’s a sin or because it breaks God’s rules. He hates it because it hurts the people he loves.

And in the first century, most of the people hurt by divorce were women.

Divorce in the bad old days

In the patriarchal culture of ancient Israel, there was a law that said a man could send his wife away with a certificate of divorce if she no longer found favor in his eyes.

Yes, that’s actually in the Bible (see Deu. 24:1-4).

Under the law of Moses, if your wife got old and wrinkled, you could trade her in for a younger model. It was allowed because, you know… wrinkles.

By the time of Jesus, the rabbis and sages had added a raft of other reasons for divorcing your wife.

You could divorce her if she spoke with a loud voice, fed you untithed meat, or talked to men in public.

If she didn’t produce children within ten years, you could divorce her for breaking the commandment to be fruitful and multiply.

If she went to a friend’s feast when you had told her not to, you could divorce her for that too.

These divorce laws were unfair to women and Jesus hated them.

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:8-9)

In other words, stop kidding yourself. If your partner is faithful and you trade her in for a younger model, you’re the unfaithful one.

Just because it’s lawful and everyone’s doing it, that doesn’t mean God is happy about it.

Yet the situation was even worse because some men were sending away their wives without giving them a certificate of divorce. Maybe they were trying to hold onto dowries or perhaps they were just lazy. In any case, it was an evil practice, for it meant women were being sent out into the cold without any means of support.

Those same men would then carry on like they were single and remarry. It was a national disgrace and Jesus called them out on it.

Whosoever sends away his wife (without a certificate of divorce) and marries another, commits adultery. (Luke 16:18)

Jesus defended women by calling their deadbeat husbands sinners and law-breakers. “You’re breaking the seventh commandment.”

When Jesus laid down the law

Why did Jesus hit these sinners with the law when he gave grace to so many others? Because they were hurting people weaker than themselves and they were doing so under guise of God-fearing religion. They were acting like law-keepers when they were really law-breakers.

This is vintage Jesus. He is not fooled by the silly traditions men invent to cover their poor behavior. He sees through all hypocrisy and cuts right to the heart of the issue.

“You think you are clever with your legal loopholes, but you are going against God’s plan. You are mistreating women.”

I imagine Jesus would say similar things today regarding our habit of discriminating against women in ministry. And he would certainly have something to say about the unkind way we treat women (and men) who are divorced.

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More articles about marriage and divorce.

More articles about women in ministry.

News: In two weeks I will be releasing my new ebook on original sin. Announcement coming on August 2, 2022.

15 Comments on Why Does Jesus Hate Divorce?

  1. You are adding text to Luke 16:18. It does not necessarily follow that Jesus is making a provision for committing adultery as long as a certificate of divorce is in place. Paul the apostle only allows divorce BY an unbeliever TO a believer. Only then may the believer remarry, “only in the Lord”. Childlessness or “wrinkles” as a reason for divorce as long as a certificate is in place are hardly good examples particularly in today’s world. What is a problem is running to the state for resolution (1Cor 6:6), rather that working in the church to give counsel toward marital harmony.

    Also, this is certainly not exclusive to women who among myriad other things vote and hold office. Men can have their hearts broken too and many suffer financial loss in addition to heartbreak. Remember too that this is a response to an entrapment question by Jesus’ spiritual adversaries. So rather than giving a complete treatise on the subject of marriage and divorce, He is putting them in their place by contronting them with their hardness of heart.

  2. Good stuff Paul. Love it! Isn’t Jesus – SIMPLY THE BEST!

  3. Sir, Thank you for encouraging believers with your writings on the good news of God’s grace. I believe concerning Dt. 24:1-4, that the Lord was pointedly showing the religious leaders that they have been deliberately misinterpreting it. It was ONLY on the grounds of sexual immorality that a man was permitted to divorce his wife. “no favour… because he hath found some uncleanness in her”

    Many times the word translated “uncleanness” (Kjv) was used in the OT it alluded to sexual immorality. May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength! Thanks.

  4. The passage from Deut. Its worth noting it is protective of women by prohibiting a man from”remarrying” a woman he has sent away.

    What this meant is if a man chose to send his wife away, so he could bag a better / younger etc new wife, and suddenly realised he had made a mistake sending away a woman he suddenly valued then he couldnt bring her back.

    This gave the woman the dignity of not being a toy to throw out of the cot and then scream for when the new toy suddenly isnt so shiny as it first appeared. She was able to move on with some level of dignity and consequences came home to roost for the man.
    The alternative to this divorce law was men likely to do away with wives they no longer wanted and couldnt rid themselves of. Yes polygamy was allowed but if you cant afford multiple wives then knocking off the first one so you could afford the second was a real option.
    An example of our Holy God showing mercy in the face of intractable sin and more evidence of His huge regard and love for Eves daughters.

  5. Brandon Petrowski // July 21, 2022 at 1:50 pm // Reply

    Yes and amen!

  6. I agree with what is being said in the article, especially that we shouldn’t look down on anyone who is divorced. I also believe another reason Jesus hates divorce is because marriage is a picture of our relationship with God and divorce misrepresents that relationship. Not that He’s upset with people, He just wants to see us enjoying God’s quality of life. It’s senseless that the same people who attack those who are divorced believe God will divorce you in a second if you mess up. As if God is less faithful than men.

    • Good point, LJP. Marriage, done well, is an advertisement for the sort of relationship Christ desires with all of us. Which reminds me of something I heard many years ago: A good marriage is a taste of heaven on earth, while a bad marriage is a kind of hell on earth.

  7. Paul, thank you. After years of bad experiences in the church, I wondered a long time why God created me (& other women) if He had so little value for us. Thank you… your blogs help me tremendously in my relationship with the Lord.

  8. Larry Cooper // July 29, 2022 at 6:05 am // Reply

    Dear Bro Paul, thank you very much for Scripturally exposing the evil inventions of some men who ,in the devil’s deceit, behave unlovingly to their wives, by divorce or otherwise. If you wish to know, I’m a Christian husband — loving but very imperfect — to a devoted wife for over 50 years. God bless you.

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