Jesus answers a question about divorce. He strongly recommends singleness. A rich young man asks how to get eternal life. [UPDATED]
VERSE 1. When Jesus had finished these words, he departed from Galilee, and came into the borders of Judea beyond the Jordan.
VERSE 2. Great multitudes followed him, and he healed them there.
VERSE 3. Pharisees came to him, testing him, and saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?”
for any reason? Some translations render it like this: for any and every reason. That is a preposterous question. It is a trap.
Troublemakers invent preposterous questions for godly people. They are traps. They are a precursor of persecution to come.
VERSE 4. He answered, “Haven’t you read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,
VERSE 5. and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?’
VERSE 6. So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, don’t let man tear apart.”
VERSE 7. They asked him, “Why then did Moses command us to give her a certificate of divorce, and divorce her?”
VERSE 8. He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it has not been so.
VERSE 9. I tell you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries her when she is divorced commits adultery.”
except for sexual immorality. That is, “unless the marriage is unlawful.”
Many Christians have a mistaken notion that all divorce is a sin. However, Jesus did not teach that. He himself brings up the possibility of a marriage being unlawful.
And so did Paul. In 1 Corinthians 7, he discusses the situation of a Christians believer who is married to an unbeliever. The Christian is not required to remain in the marriage.
1 Corinthians 7:15. Yet if the unbeliever departs, let there be separation. The brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us in peace.
SUMMARY: Many Christians think it is abnormal if somebody does not get married. However, it is their own perspective that is abnormal. According to Jesus Christ, singleness is better, if you can live that way.
VERSE 10. His disciples said to him, “If this is the case of the man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.”
it is not expedient to marry. That is, it is better not to be married.
The disciples grasp what Jesus has said. They see the advantages of singleness. If they had perceived it wrongly, Jesus would corrent them in the next verse. However, he does not.
Not all men. Not all people are able to remain single. Only some are given this ability.
If you have this ability, you have the freedom to choose singleness. Conversely, if you do not have the ability to remain single, then you should get married.
Many people assume that the biblical norm is for people to get married. Sociologically that’s true. However, the Bible holds up singleness as a wonderful choice.
Paul himself was single:
1 Corinthians 7:7. But I wish everyone were single, just as I am. Yet each person has a special gift from God, of one kind or another. (NLT translation)
And Paul recommends that people remain unmarried, if possible:
1 Corinthians 7:8-9. So I say to those who aren’t married and to widows—it’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am. 9 But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust. (NLT translation)
The Lord Jesus Christ recommends singleness if possible:
Matthew 19:10-12. Jesus’ disciples then said to him, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!” “Not everyone can accept this statement,” 11 Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps. 12 Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (NAB translation)
And the prophet Jeremiah was single:
Jeremiah 16:2. The Lord gave me another message. He said, “Do not get married or have children in this place.” (NLT translation)
VERSE 12. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He who is able to receive it, let him receive it.”
born that way. Some people have a natural ability to live without sexual relations.
made eunuchs by men. Some people were altered in such a way that they are no longer capable of sexual relations. In those ancient days, some male children were made into eunuchs, for example.
made themselves eunuchs. Some people are capable of voluntarily renouncing marriage.
He who is able to receive it. This reads as if one is to test it out. You won’t know if you are capable of singleness until you try it out. It is worth a significant test.
Jesus recommends singleness, at least for those who find they can live that way. Singleness is a calling, a vocation. The Lord Jesus recommends it. To be single is not to be a second-class citizen in the Kingdom of God.
Singleness makes possible a greater single-mindedness. The single person can be more single-minded for Christ than the married person. Singleness doesn’t guarantee greater single-mindedness, though.
Jesus does not associate singleness with becoming a nun or brother or priest. He does not mention those things at all.
Paul affirms that singleness is preferable, if it is possible for you:
2 Corinthians 7:8. But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I am.
However, the Old Testament has a very dismal vision of singleness:
Sirach 36:25. A vineyard with no hedge will be overrun; a man with no wife becomes a homeless wanderer. (NAB translation)
VERSE 13. Then little children were brought to him, that he should lay his hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them.
VERSE 14. But Jesus said, “Allow the little children, and don’t forbid them to come to me; for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to ones like these.”
Allow the little children. The Lord Jesus Christ welcomes all children:
Matthew 19:14. But Jesus said, “Allow the little children, and don’t forbid them to come to me; for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to ones like these.”
Luke 18:16. Jesus summoned them, saying, “Allow the little children to come to me, and don’t hinder them, for God’s Kingdom belongs to such as these.
VERSE 15. He laid his hands on them, and departed from there.
VERSE 16. Behold, one came to him and said, “Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
VERSE 17. He said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
Why do you call me good? Or “Why do you ask me about what is good?”
VERSE 18. He said to him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder.’ ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ ‘You shall not steal.’ ‘You shall not offer false testimony.’
VERSE 19. ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ And, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
VERSE 20. The young man said to him, “All these things I have observed from my youth. What do I still lack?”
VERSE 21. Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
sell what you have, and give to the poor. Many of us Christians wonder how much money we should give to poor people. The Lord Jesus provides a very clear answer. Read more »
VERSE 22. But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions.
he went away sad. Many Christians think he went away sad because he was greedy and did not want to sell his possessions.
However, we believe he went away sad because he knew how much hard work would be needed. Can you imagine how many yard sales it would take to get rid of all your worldly possessions?
Have you ever considered getting rid of (at least some of) your worldly possessions? Check our articles on Simplifying Your Life.
VERSE 23. Jesus said to his disciples, “Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty.
VERSE 24. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into God’s Kingdom.”
VERSE 25. When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
VERSE 26. Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
with God all things are possible. Call to me, and I will answer you. We often forget that God is limitlessly powerful. We often ask such trivial things of him. But he delights when we ask great and mighty things. Read more »
VERSE 27. Then Peter answered, “Behold, we have left everything, and followed you. What then will we have?”
VERSE 28. Jesus said to them, “Most certainly I tell you that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on the throne of his glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
VERSE 29. Everyone who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive one hundred times, and will inherit eternal life.
VERSE 30. But many will be last who are first; and first who are last.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.