Certificate of Divorce
CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE
The passage that was read is one of the most difficult and most controversial passages in all of scripture…and the subject matter elicits some extremely strong emotions in people because of the way that the have been affected by it.
- Before we get into this lets go back just a little.
Back in vs. 20 Jesus tells us that “unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisee, we will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
- Now that is a pretty strong statement…and one that catches my attention because I want to go to heaven.
And because He wants us to go to heaven…to help us understand what it means for our righteousness to exceed the scribes and Pharisees…He gives us 7 examples of what the scribes and Pharisees were doing.
- And to point out the contrast between what they were doing and what they should have been doing…what they were doing and what we must do to exceed their righteousness…what Jesus does is He says, “You have heard that it was said”….then he will say, “But I say unto you…”
- He will point out that righteousness is not just about keeping the letter of the Law…but it is also about keeping the spirit of the Law.
So Jesus begins in verse 21 and He says, “You have heard that he ancients were told, “You shall not commit murder…
- The letter of the law….”you shall not commit murder.” (commandment 6)
…but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court.”
- The spirit of the law…”don’t even be angry!”
- Deal with your anger and stop it before it gets started.”
- If you are angry with someone…or they are angry with you…you go to them and do what you can to be reconciled…you resolve the issue and then you come back and worship God.
Then Jesus meddles a little more…He gets a little more personal.
“You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery…”
- The letter of the Law….(commandment 7).
- Do you think anyone in the crowd got a little nervous over this?
“…but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
- The spirit of the Law…”Don’t even look at a woman improperly.”
Do you see the pattern?
- Letter of the Law…Don’t murder; Spirit of the Law….Don’t be angry.
- Letter of the Law…Don’t lie with another man’s wife; Spirit of the law…Don’t even think about it! Get it out of your mind and out of your heart…remove it!
Do you see how the scribes and Pharisees played with the Law?
- “Pharisee, in this matter of adultery, how are you today?”
- “Oh, I am good…I haven’t slept with my neighbors wife yet. Now I think about her all day long but that is OK because I am in the letter of the Law…I haven’t broken the Law. You know, the Law doesn’t say you can’t think about it. The Law just says, “Don’t do it.”
Jesus is saying, “I have a higher righteousness for you. I don’t even want you to think about it.”
- And notice that Jesus doesn’t put this off on the other person…on the neighbor’s wife.
- He puts this off on self. This is something that is your responsibility to do yourself.
Now, what do you think Jesus is going to mention next? He has just spoken of adultery…what almost always follows problems with adultery? Divorce!
And it was said, “Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce…”
- The letter of the Law…
- Where was that said? Deuteronomy 24. This is not a 10 commandment.
- But still, the letter of the Law said that Jewish men could divorce their wives but they had to give them “a certificate of divorce…”
- It was mandatory.
But now, look at the spirit of the Law: But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
- Notice the exception: “everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity…”
- This gives you a pretty good idea of what the scribes and Pharisees were doing and teaching.
- They weren’t divorcing their wives only for unchastity…they were divorcing their wives for any reason they could justify!
Let’s look at the passage in Deuteronomy 24 where this law or this command is stated: “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, 2 and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.
- Now in the first verse notice what the justification is for writing your wife a certificate of divorce: “she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her.”
- Guess what the scribes and Pharisees spent their time debating? What is an indecency?
- One Rabbi said, “Is she burns your dinner and that displeases you…out she goes.”
- Other Rabbis interpreted this teaching in a more conservative way and said it had to involve some indecency like adultery, or some immoral activity.
- Jesus said, “Except for unchastity”…do you think He is talking about divorcing her because she burnt supper…or because of some immoral activity?
But the scribes and Pharisees weren’t focusing in so much on the cause of the divorce…they were focusing more on her “not finding favor”…no being pleasing anymore and just making sure they kept the letter of the law….”Give her a certificate of divorce.”
- It doesn’t matter what she did or didn’t do…just as long as you “give her a certificate of divorce.”
“Mr. Pharisee, I heard you divorced your wife?’
- “Yes I did. She burned my toast for the third time this week and I just had it. I got rid of her! Not only that she had put on a few pounds…and some of her beauty had begun to fade. But that is OK because I gave her a certificate of divorce!”
- “What are you going to do now?”
- “Well, now that I am single I am going to have a good time. I have already been checking out my neighbor’s wife down the street…and now that I no longer have a wife…I might try to move in on that.”
- It was all OK…it was all justified…get rid of her for any reason at all just as long as you give her a certificate of divorce.
But Jesus calls us to a higher righteousness: Vs. 32 …but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
- “unchastity” – adultery, fornication, harlotry, incest….that is justification for divorce…but not all these other reasons you are using.
What Jesus is saying here is “Stop playing games with marriage!” “Stop making your marriage so cheap!”
- There is no such thing as a “disposable wife”…get tired of one, just get rid of her and get another.
- Have some integrity!
- “Stop disrespecting God….stop disrespecting God’s institution of marriage…and stop disrespecting your wife.”
- “Get your heart right!”
This teaching is about protecting women from men who would cheapen them and their covenant, not only with their mate but with God…men who would toss their marriage aside in order to satisfy their selfish desires…and feel justified in doing so all because they obeyed the letter of the Law and gave her a certificate of divorce.
- And Jesus says, “It is not just about keeping the letter of the Law…it is also about keeping the spirit of the Law…you make your marriages work!”
- “You keep the covenant you entered into…you keep the vows you made before God…things are not going to be easy…things are not going to be perfect…there will be times when you will not be happy…but you work through those things…and you keep your marriage in tact…and only in the case of unchastity, adultery, immorality do you dissolve the marriage.”
- “You have a righteousness that exceeds the scribes and Pharisees.”
- Now how do you feel about being a disciple of Christ?
Look at what Jesus says again: …but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
- What does that mean?
- How do you make her commit adultery…and if she has a certificate of divorce and you marry her…why is it you commit adultery?
- Can a divorced woman never remarry even though it is not her fault that her husband divorced her?
- What does all of this mean?
I have about 7 or 8 books in my office that I have read on this…and it seems that everyone has their own idea about what Jesus is saying here…and those who wrote those books are more studied on this topic than I am…and if they can’t figure it out…it is for sure that I can’t either.
- But maybe that is Jesus’ point.
- Maybe Jesus is saying, “When you divorce your wife, except for the cause of unchastity…you affect your kids, your grandkids, you affect your wife, you affect your family…you affect the woman you marry afterward…and you affect her kids and family…
- …you make a huge, long lasting mess of things that may never be straightened out…and that can have all kinds of serious consequences!
- In short, when you put your wife away so you can chase another skirt down the street…it is a sin…it is wrong…and you cannot even imagine the problems you have created.
So, Jesus, can I murder? No.
- Can I be angry and hate? No.
- Can I commit adultery? No.
- Can I think about committing adultery in my heart? No.
- Can I write on a piece of paper and end my marriage? No.
- Man up! That is what Jesus is saying. Have some integrity! Be strong! And you take care of your marriage…and your wife….and wives…you take care of your husbands….and your marriage…and you respect and honor God…because the truth is, if your righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees…you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023