February 5

Text: Matthew 5:31, 32

 "And it was said, 'WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; 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. (NASB)

Do not assume the circumstances Jesus addressed are our circumstances.  First, first century women in Jewish society had few rights.  Second, only husbands could divorce wives.   Third, divorced women had few options to earn support.  Fourth, divorce then was more simple to get than divorce is now.

In rare cases a Jewish wife could insist that her husband divorce her—for example, if he was going on a long, uncertain journey that would prevent her from knowing if he was alive, or if he had a significant but hidden personal defect prior to marriage, or if he was in an offensive occupation.  Still, though he was the offender who stressed the relationship, only he could divorce her.

The “writ of divorce” enabled a Jewish woman in early antiquity to know if she was an unmarried widow or a wife.  An undesired divorce often reduced a former wife to prostitution as her only access to income.  The unfairness of ancient divorce could render a woman helpless with few options—no one wanted her!  Many divorced women were regarded as liabilities by their own parents!

We need to be aware of the influence our personal decisions have on the people around us.  Our society is increasingly self-centered. Decisions are increasingly focused on “what I personally want” with little consideration on how “what I want” affects those around me.  Thus, if “I” get what “I” want, and “you” suffer because of “my” decision, tough—but that is the way life goes!

The righteous person cares about how his/her decisions affect other people.  The righteous person’s joy is not founded on other people’s misery.

Suggestion for reflection: Do your decisions bring other’s joy or misery?  (Read Psalm 15.  Note the last of verse 4.)

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 Copyright 2011 David Chadwell