Does Jesus allow divorce for lust in the heart?
Recently I was asked to give advice on this very question. My answer, supported by the Bible and Ellen White’s writings (shown at the end of this blog post), is that we humans are only given authority from God to judge for actions, never for thoughts. This seems very logical, but some of my dear SDA brethren have demurred, quoting the following text: “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28).
Let’s explore the context:
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:21-30)
This makes it much clearer than taking out one verse and trying to apply an application to it. Jesus is obviously saying that what is in the heart, will come out in the actions.
For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (Luke 6:43-45)
If we are angry at someone without cause, or call them a “fool” in our hearts, it is equated to killing them. So, in order to be consistent, if we are freed from our marriage vows to God by what our spouse is thinking, then we must present ourselves to the police whenever we hate someone. And we must inform the police if we see someone we assume is thinking hateful thoughts. If we don’t, we are hypocrites, and God is not fond of hypocrites.
Did God kick Satan out of heaven for thinking prideful thoughts? Or did he kick him out after he had talked out his thoughts to others, encouraging them to join him in his rebellion?
Did God tell Adam and Eve that they would die if they thought about the fruit of the Forbidden Tree? Or was it that they would die if they ate of the forbidden tree?
Did God destroy the antediluvians for thinking evil thoughts continually, or for actually doing wicked things all the time? Genesis 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Did the Israelites bring a man to Moses for thinking about picking up firewood on the Sabbath, or for actually picking up firewood on the Sabbath?
Do any of the Commandments, Statutes, or Judgments ever even hint about us humans being commanded or allowed to judge someone based on what they are thinking?
Did God divorce the nation of Israel for thinking about wanting to kill his Son, or when they actually did it?
1Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
So if God wants to judge the heart, that is his prerogative, as he created it and us. However, if we created beings start judging what others are thinking, we are on Satan’s ground. This idea that we can judge other’s motives is rampant in the world today, for example, a young man in Wisconsin two years ago tried to defend some property with a gun. The current president* of the United States judged him as a “White Supremacist” at the time. A jury later found him entirely innocent.
Breaking your vows to God: “until death do us part” because of what your spouse is thinking, is evil, pleasing Satan.
So what is Jesus telling us in Matthew 5? He is obviously saying, as repeated consistently throughout the Bible, is that what is in our hearts will come out in the actions. So we should be careful what we see, what we hear, and what we think.
—— Writings of Bible and Ellen White on this subject ——
Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Rev 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
Lt50 1895 “Walter Harper did not put his wife away. She left him, and put him away, and married another man. I see nothing in the Scripture that forbids him to marry again in the Lord. He has a right to the affection of a woman, who knowing his physical defect, shall choose to give him her love. ”
” It is a serious matter to part a man and his wife. There is no Scriptural ground upon which to take such a step in this case. He did not leave her, she left him. He did not marry again until she had obtained a divorce. When Laura divorced herself from Walter, he suffered most keenly, and it was not until Laura had married another man, that Walter married again. The one he has chosen I feel certain will be a help to him, and he can be a help to her.”
” I feel deeply over another matter, and that is your visiting Fannie in her tent. I have already decided that you two cannot work together. You are a married man, father of two children. If your wife has obtained a divorce from you, that does not leave you free to marry again, as I read my Bible.” ( I understand this to mean that because the married man gave an appearance of impropriety, he forfeited the right to remarry even if his wife divorced him).
” Those who enlisted themselves in this work to separate the two and make of no account the marriage vow had better been reading their Bibles or engaged in praying that the Lord would give them wisdom and pure hearts and clean hands.”
“Brother Harper, if he has done an unwise thing in suffering his body to be mutilated, has not committed a sin for which there is no pardon,”
“Be it understood, I do not advise or sanction the same process that Brother Harper has gone through to arrive at the results that he was desirous to secure, but this action on his part is not a sin which God marks against him.”
(Seems Mr. Harper castrated himself, and some church members told his wife to divorce him. Ellen White wrote strongly that they were mistaken, and themselves in a worse condition than he was).
“Your ideas in regard to the marriage relation have been erroneous. Nothing but the violation of the marriage bed can either break or annul the marriage vow. ”
“God gave only one cause why a wife should leave her husband or the husband leave his wife, which was adultery.”
“Then let this, God’s institution of marriage, stand before you as firm as the Sabbath of the fourth commandment.”
“I see not a particle of leniency in the Scriptures given either of you to contract marriage, although his wife is divorced. From the provocation he has given her, it was largely his own course of action that has brought this result” (So even if your spouse divorces you, if you were the cause, you cannot remarry).
“You say you did not commit adultery. God charges adultery against everyone who doeth these things, and all who will communicate these vile practices to another are polluting that soul with vile imaginations. Can you not see, can you not understand by your own experience, that you are leading youth into this habit of self – abuse? ”
” You allow a girl to make her body common property for a man to handle, and you break down all reserve, and she will have lustful desires planted in her heart” (SDA minister was exposing himself to kids and handling their privates. Note: while this was a grievous sin, nothing is said about divorce).
“The daily papers are full of notices of divorce and marriage after divorce – the marriage condemned in the words of the Saviour”
“Because of the degeneracy of the people, a divorce law which was not in God’s original plan was permitted. ”