What Does the Bible Say About Divorce?
Written by Jenn Arman | August 15, 2012
I’d like to preface this article by saying that my own parents have been divorced for 15 years. What follows is not my opinion, but the research on what Scripture says about divorce.
Currently, the divorce rate in the United States is around 50 percent. That means that for every two couples that get married, one will get divorced at some point. Some of the most common reasons people give for divorce are:
- “I fell out of love with my spouse.”
- “We just don’t have anything in common.”
- “He/She/I would be happier without me/him/her.”
- “We are incompatible.”
- “He/She isn’t a Christian”
Many people rush into marriage without realizing that marriage is not all sunshine and roses; marriage is hard work. So is it okay for couples to divorce due to the reasons listed and others like them? Let’s look at what God’s word says.
‘Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘and him who covers his garment with wrong,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously’ (Malachi 2:15b-16).
I think this verse in Malachi makes it pretty clear how God feels about divorce–He’s not a big fan. God considers divorce as dealing treacherously with one’s spouse. The Bible does, however, give a few situations in which divorce is acceptable.
Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?’ And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’ They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery’ (Matthew 19:3-6).
According to this passage, the only reason God ever allowed any provision for divorce was because of our sinful and stubborn hearts, but divorce was never God’s intention. Jesus makes it very clear that divorcing for any reason other than immorality (sexual abuse, physical abuse or adultery) and getting remarried is the same as committing adultery.
But what if one person is a Christian and their spouse is not?
Well, as we’ve seen from the verses above, Jesus says that only immorality is grounds for divorce. The Greek word that the Bible translates as immorality is “porneia,” from which we get the word “pornography,” and it means illicit sexual intercourse with anyone or anything that is not one’s spouse. According to the verse in Malachi, one is not to deal treacherously with their spouse and I can’t imagine much that is more treacherous than any kind of abuse.
Jesus didn’t say, “If your spouse doesn’t believe in me, then go ahead and leave them,” or “if you’re unhappy then get a divorce.” He said not to divorce for any reason other than immorality.
Paul gives his own thoughts on this in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. Paul makes it clear that these are his own thoughts on marriage between believers and unbelievers: As long as the faith of the husband or wife is not a problem for the unbelieving spouse, then the believer should remain in the marriage.
Since God did not provide a specific provision for the marriage of believers to unbelievers, we’re probably safe taking Paul’s advice regarding this issue. Peter also takes this view of marriage between believers and unbelievers, saying that the conduct of a believing wife will win her husband to the Lord (1 Peter 3:1-2).
The conclusion we can draw from this is that there are few Biblical grounds for divorce, and many divorces today do not meet the criteria set forth by God to allow for divorce.
What do you think about what the Bible says regarding divorce?
What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate (Mark 10:9).