One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “As a divorced woman looking to remarry someday, I’m curious about a passage of scripture that has always puzzled me. Can you explain Luke 16:18 please?
Oh, boy. The dreaded divorce/remarriage question. This is one of those questions where I probably should take the easy way out and just say, “I don’t know” – but I’ve never been known for doing things the easy way, so here goes:
- As someone smarter than me has said, “A text without context is a pretext”, and when you look at the context of Luke 16:18 it’s quite obvious that Jesus was chastising the Pharisees for ignoring what Scripture said in order to do what they wanted to do. (The discussion started about money and materialism, but then Jesus abruptly used divorce and remarriage as another example of the same issue – ignoring what Scripture says to please ourselves.)
- What is clear in Scripture is that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), although that statement also must be explained further. God does NOT hate divorced people! And He doesn’t hate divorce arbitrarily. He hates divorce because of the effect it has on people, much like He hates cancer for what it does to people, or He hates car wrecks because they hurt people, etc.
- As far as I can see, every time Jesus mentioned divorce in Scripture, it was in the context of how people had abused God’s allowance of divorce. In other words, God’s clear intent from the beginning is that marriage is meant to be lifelong! (see Matthew 19:3-9, and especially notice verse 8) Instead, with the blessing of some rabbi’s in Jewish history, a man could divorce his wife for virtually any reason – even if he just didn’t like her cooking! (Oh, by the way, ONLY a man could get a divorce; women were not allowed to divorce their husband for any reason!)
- So, in Luke 16:8 and Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:3-9, Jesus made it clear that divorce was not what God wanted for marriage; He still wants a lifelong commitment! (To which his listeners responded in Matthew 19:10, but I digress.)
- As to your specific question about remarriage, I not only read each NT passage and looked at what the commentators have said about them through the years, but I also read the conclusions of some contemporary pastors about this thorny subject, to prepare my answer today. I found that some men absolutely believe that ANY remarriage after divorce is sinful. I learned that some pastors submit any case of remarriage after divorce to a council of elders at the local church to determine whether the remarriage is ‘acceptable’ under the ‘rules’ of their congregation. Of course, it also depends on one’s ‘status’ at the time of the divorce, since sins we committed “B.C.”, before we came to Christ were already forgiven and judgment begins from the time of our conversion – so a person who divorced prior to knowing Christ would be treated differently than a believer who divorced his or her spouse. There are also differences made for whether the believer sought the divorce, or was put away by their spouse. It seems the possible scenarios are endless, which has led many pastors, including myself, to judge each situation on its own merit.
- I know that this issue is a slippery slope, lest we also fall into the Pharisees practice of doing what we want without regard to what God has said – but as a pastor, I cannot find agreement that God would require a man or a woman to spend their lifetime alone simply because of a failed marriage in their past. All have sinned. But Jesus paid the price for our sin.
I hope this helps, although I realize it may still be confusing, because there are so many factors involved that, in my experience, each situation must be judged on its own merit. Bottom-line: I have personally known godly believers who were remarried after a divorce, and I do not believe they are living in adultery as a result of their decision to remarry.
Feel free to join the conversation below, especially if you have insight from Scripture on this complicated subject. OR just Ask the Pastor your own question in the ‘comments’ below-