Matthew 19 begins with Jesus tackling a very difficult subject – divorce. The Pharisees are testing Him once again in front of the large crowds that are following. They ask if it is “lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause”? Sounds like they were in favor of no fault divorce, certainly as men. Jesus responds as He most often did. He turns the table and asks them a question, and He also quotes scripture to give them the answer as well. Of course these were religious leaders who knew what God’s Word said, so they tried to trap Him with the words of Moses who had spoken on divorce. It is a messy subject. God’s plan for marriage is pretty straightforward. “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”. That is the picture of what a marriage should look like. We both leave the past and create one future together. So what goes wrong with His plan? We don’t put aside the past – we focus on self and allow self to be in the marriage. There is no room for me in marriage. Andy Stanley does a great series called the “I” marriage. When I get in the middle of marriage – things go bad quickly. Jesus goes on to say “they are no longer two but one”. That is what a marriage should look like. Not two individuals living together under one roof. But a couple who lives, breaths and acts like one. Does that mean we give up our individuality and squash who we are? No – God created us as unique beings. But it does mean that as we live and do life – we do it together and the needs, desires, expectations and wishes we address are that of our mate. We don’t do 50/50 – we do 110/0 all the time. Marriage is not about me. It is about living as one under God. Jesus also gives these strong words: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate”. They were probably part of your wedding ceremony. Marriage is God’s institution – created by Him – to meet the needs of the human species He designed and created. We need to recognize that He takes it seriously, even if the world around us does not. I won’t pretend to know the details of when divorce is ok, whether remarriage is in God’s plan, or any of a host of other questions that people debate today. I do know that divorce is not God’s plan – His plan is for us to get married to one person for life – become one flesh – and learn to get over ourselves and grow together as a couple to become like Jesus. What all the specifics are that lead to changing that design – that is for someone much wiser than me to interpret. But make no mistake – His plan is for you to love your spouse as Christ loved the church and live together til death do you part.
Matthew goes on to capture the stories of the children coming to Jesus and then the rich young man. We saw this through another writer’s pen but I want to focus on the interaction around money and things that Jesus had with this young lad. Jesus tells him “truly I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven”. Is he talking money here? Certainly that is part of it. But He is talking all stuff. He is talking to you and me about what matters in our lives. We all accumulate a lot of stuff and over time begin to put faith in that. We have 401K plans, a house and garage full of stuff we have bought, maybe a savings plan for rainy days and on it goes. We begin to believe we are self-sufficient which is a very bad place to be. When we lose track of the reality that we are totally dependent on God for everything, we are vulnerable to this truth – that is it like getting a “camel to go through the eye of a needle” when we consider our ability to enter the Kingdom of God. Is that because God wants us all to be poor and not have anything? Nope. That is not the issue. God wants us to depend on Him as the source of all things – to have the realization that He alone is our provider. He wants us to know this truth: “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”. That is a truth that we need to cling to. But we need to keep it clear. Things can happen with God. But when we take control and believe we can do it all on our own – well it just isn’t going to happen. God alone sits “on His glorious throne”. He alone is the creator and provider. We must never lose sight of that. Money and stuff won’t keep us from the Kingdom. It is how we view it and the place it holds in our life that is the problem. It is when we worship it rather than the One who gave it to us that matters. We need to recognize it all comes from God and it all belongs to God and we are merely stewards He may entrust it to. It is not yours or mine. It all belongs to God. That is the key!