“Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:8-9)

This is Jesus’ response when the Pharisees asked him:
“Why then, did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” (Matt. 19:7)
The Pharisees were responding to Jesus' instruction that discouraged divorce (Matt. 4-6)

“Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard."

This illustrates clearly that time and circumstance is a critical point in the teachings of God's representative. We cannot take these teachings out of the context of who the instructions are being given to. We can see that Moses' instructions were specific to people whose "hearts were hard." A hard heart - taken from the Greek phrase, σκληροκαρδία (sklērokardia) - relates to a person who is proud and stubborn.

This opposes a person with a soft heart - someone who is humble and empathetic.

By Jesus' statement we can also know that his teachings were also intended to a specific audience and people. He often spoke directly to his students and disciples. Other times he spoke to a large public gathering. And we find the content of his teachings different for each.

So why does a hard-hearted person need the opportunity to divorce? Because when people are stubborn and proud, they will often disagree about the most mundane issues. And sometimes these disputes can significantly interfere in the spiritual growth. Why? Because they become more focused upon their marital relationship than they will about their relationship with the Supreme Being.

Because we are not these physical bodies, our marital relationship ends at the time of death of the physical body. It is not as though we stay married after the body dies. This was confirmed by Jesus:
"Teacher," they said, "Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?"
Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven." (Matt. 22:24-30)
The phrase "they will be like the angels in heaven" confirms as Jesus has elsewhere, that we are not these physical bodies. When the body dies, the spiritual self leaves the physical body.

If a person has re-developed their loving relationship with God they will return to the spiritual realm - as a spiritual person - an angel - while their physical body decomposes.

"But it was not this way from the beginning."

This illustrates that others - before Moses' time - were soft-hearted and were able to maintain their marital vows. They were more agreeable because they were more focused upon their relationship with the Supreme Being.

One who knows the temporary nature of the physical world and knows their relationship with God is eternal has the perspective to understand how marital disagreement is so trivial in comparison.

This perspective allows a person to be more understanding of their mate and be able to work out their marital disagreements.

"I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

This instruction may be difficult for most people in modern times to comply with. And yes, there is significantly more hard-heartedness in modern times, and Jesus was speaking to a particular people at a particular period of time.

This underscores the need to have a living teacher, who was a student of God's representative who can instruct one according to the current society and circumstances.

Because Jesus clearly exhibits this as he compares his teachings to Moses'. This is also exhibited in the teachings of so many of the prophets, and also exhibited by Jesus as he took baptism from John the Baptist.

Yet Jesus also clearly lays down a standard that can be applied from a sense of integrity. The point he is making is that in every case we should be determined to work out our differences with our spouses.

In other words, divorce should not be something that is done simply to seek a new mate. If the other person has been unfaithful, this is a good reason, because the other person has broken their commitment already. We can still be forgiving to such a mate, but since the bond was already broken, divorce is acceptable.

We must not confuse marriage with finding our "soul mate." The Supreme Being is our only soul mate. The reason we look for a soul mate is because we have forgotten our relationship with God.

The reason that many people divorce is because the marriage was based on the assumption that our spouse would fulfill us somehow, either sexually or otherwise. We thought they would complete us. We thought they were our perfect mate.

We were wrong. We found out after awhile that they didn't fulfill us, and they didn't complete us. This is because none of us are perfect mates to each other. God is the only Perfect Mate. He our Soul Mate and Best Friend. He is our Perfect Match.

The central criteria anyone should have in marrying another and in staying together is whether the two help each other grow closer to God, and help each other serve God. This is the intended purpose of marriage.

Two people can assist each other on a practical level as they help each other remember our Best Friend. They can share spiritual insights and share prayer, and glorify the Supreme Being and His Holy Names together. This type of relationship pleases the Supreme Being and Jesus.

Sharing our relationship with the Supreme Being with our spouse makes gives our marriage spiritual context.


 (For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus  - translated from the original Greek texts.)