ECCLESIASTICAL VOICE

Biblical Concept of Divorce

By Revd. Dr. Idowu Ibitoye

Divorce could be defined as the legal ending of a marriage. During Old Testament era, divorce was in practice even before the time of Moses, Deut. 24:1 states: “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house”. Some think that the above passage supported divorce, but this was not the case, it simply recognizes a practice that already existed in Israel community. It was affirmed that if an indecent thing is found in a woman and such thing makes her displeasing to her husband, such husband may give her a letter of divorce. Though the passage (Deut. 24:1) does not state what the woman could do before she can be divorced, but biblical interpreters stated that the phrase meant unlawful sexual behaviours even though adultery is a behaviour punishable by death (Deut. 22:22-24). However, two earlier passages have indicated that divorce was forbidden in certain circumstances (Deut. 22:19, 29)

There are two situations in which divorce is forbidden; when a man has falsely accused his wife of pre-marital unfaithfulness (Dt. 22:13-19). And when a man has had sexual relation with a girl and her father has compelled him to marry her. (Deut. 22:28-29; Ex. 22:16-17). Prophet Malachi taught that God hated divorce that is “putting away” and condemned severely any man who dealt treacherously with the wife of his covenant. Divorce was in practice during the time of Malachi among men; they were disloyal to their wives and ignored the wedding vow earlier made before God. By this, the purpose of rearing Godly children was being defeated, so God told them “…be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful” to the wife of your youth (Mal. 2:14-16). One will ask why God affirm His hatred for divorce, it is because He wanted families to raise God-fearing children (2:15). Polygamy, separation and divorce is not a conducive atmosphere for nurturing children in the fear of the Lord.

The New Testament concept of divorce was addressed in Jesus’ teaching on divorce, this could be found in Matt. 5:31-32; 19:3-9, Mk. 10:2-12, and Luke 16:18. Jesus forbids divorce, and that the man who initiates divorce, anyone who marries a divorcee or me who then remarries another woman commits adultery. In examining the words of Jesus in the passages quoted, one will find that He frowns at divorce and marriage after a divorce. This is adultery in the teachings of Jesus.

Fornication is given as the sole ground on which a man may put away his wife. Jesus affirmed except for marital unfaithfulness no man could divorce his wife, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marry another woman commits adultery”   Matt. 19:9; cf 5:32.

However, if God made male and female into one flesh, then neither the male nor the female should divorce and remarry (Mk. 10:11-12), to do so, it is adultery. When Jesus was answering questions on divorce, He said it was the hardness of heart of Israelites that made Mosaic legislation necessary, (5:28; 19:8). Paul in his teaching reaffirmed Jesus’ prohibition of divorce and remarriage “To the married I gave this command (not I, but the Lord): a wife must not separate from her husband if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife” I Cor. 7:10-11. He further admonished believers to be contented and remain in the marital state they had entered, before they joined the church as a result of their conversion experience (7:17). There was no ground for divorce, as divorce is opposed to God’s standard on marriage.

Broken Homes

A broken home is one of the greatest tragedy in marriage; it is the situation wherein the husband and wife no longer live together, and the children are at the mercy of relatives or neighbours. Broken home is the separation from one another of couples. It may be deliberate, where either the husband or wife refused to co-habit with the other spouse. This practice is becoming an acceptable norm in the society in contemporary time as for couples no longer live together, which is a dangerous trend. The sanctity and values of marriage must be restored.

However, several reasons are adduced for this ugly trend of broken homes, it can be traced to economic factor, and the lack of understanding among spouses. Also some broken homes result from unresolved differences or health problems; while others choose to abandon each other technically over undisclosed reasons.

Children from broken homes are sometimes left with relatives, friends, maids and teachers for care, forgetting that there is a place for parental care and upbringing of children. How can we expect good children, disciplined children, wise and normal children, as heritage of God from good household; from a scenario that is scattered. Instead of disciplined and honest children, the country will most likely experience, hooligans, 419 Youths, cultists,  examination malpractice culprits, assassins, robbers, banditry, prostitutes e.t.c that cannot contribute to the development of any nation, as a result of broken homes.

Broken homes or separation should be the last option at solving marital problems, because of its implications for the couples and the children. It must be noted that society is not always spared, as it was observed above because resources will be spent on maintaining law and order, from the excesses of children who have grown to become enemies of peace, who are full of vengeance and bad influence. Broken home problem may arise from disagreements about money, tension over loyalty to extended family, cultural differences, which may result into separation of couples.

Finance in Marriage

Finance is a very crucial aspect of the family and in marital relationship. No day passes without a family spending money either directly or indirectly. Finance constitutes a great percentage of the problems in marriage, and most of the time its lead to divorce.

The world is daily becoming more challenging to live in, as employments are not easy to come by, with some married husbands forced to desert their homes in search of economic fortunes or greener pastures. The economic downtown in many parts of the world, mostly Africa and sub-Sahara African nations, has forced couples to separate, and sometimes abandon each other in search of greener pastures, in Asian and Western countries. In contemporary days not many marry couples stay together, but are in relationship as long as they are comfortable with their employments and sources of income, even when they are several kilometers away. This sometimes leads to loss of affection and intimacy between spouses (and children) who are far apart from each other. The desire and prayer of every family is to experience financial buoyancy and not have conflict with spouses on financial matters.

Families may find themselves in financial hardship and conflicts, at times money may be available but there could be conflict on its management or handling. Below are some of the causes of financial crisis in families:

  1. Mismanagement- This is the improper use of money, which can manifest in various forms. Some are extravagancy, uncontrolled appetite or desire for things that would make one to just acquire them for the sake of it. Others includes reckless spending on wine, party, pools and lottery, impulsive buying or spending for things not planned or budgeted for. Also buying on credit can also cause financial crises in the home. These should be carefully avoided by couples.
  2. Stinginess- If one of the couples is stingy, such that he or she always complains when money is to be spent on anything including essential things. He or she may always consider certain things as being too expensive, this may lead to quarrel and breakdown of peace in the home if not properly handled.
  3. Non-disclosure of income – If one of the spouses or both of them refuse to disclose their income, due to lack of trust, ego, and inordinate desire to spend it on other things it can become a problem. It was also observed that some men refuse to disclose their income due to cultural beliefs and thinking that men should not allow women to know their secret. The type of men with this orientation may spend money recklessly outside, while leaving their family members to suffer in hunger and lack of essential things. This may eventually lead to family breakup.
  4. Laziness- This is a situation where work is available and a person either refuse to do it or it is being done with un-seriousness. Whether a person earns a salary or is self-employed, laziness will lead to poverty and want. A lazy person will surely not contribute to the family upkeep as expected. This can bring serious conflict and fight in the family, “…the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” II Thess. 3:10

Finally, G.R. Collins said, family and marital problems may increase because of financial pressures, and that marital relationships may disintegrate because a person becomes greedy, envious, embarrassed by debts, etc. Financial problems may put spouses under stress, which can result in physical illness, anxiety, discouragement, interpersonal tension, and inefficiency as a result of financial crisis.

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