Introduction: Do you ever wish that God would sit down with
you and explain exactly what He thinks you should and should
not do? No need to be in doubt. Now you can know! I’ve had
those thoughts many times. Sometimes Jesus’ teachings are
confusing. On the other hand, I know myself well enough
that sometimes I like a little ambiguity. That way I can do
what I want and still hold on to my self-deception that I’m
doing God’s will. This week we look at some sayings of Jesus
that, if we understand them correctly, challenge us to a
very high level of obedience and a very high level of trust.
Let’s dive into our lesson and learn more!

  1. Divorce

    1. Read Matthew 19:3. Why do you think this is a test
      for Jesus? Wouldn’t it be natural for Him to say,
      “Of course, you can’t divorce your wife for any
      reason!” (There were two schools of thought among
      the Pharisees. The liberal school of Hillel taught
      that a man might divorce his wife for trivial
      reasons: such as burning breakfast. The
      conservative school of Shammai thought you could
      only divorce your wife for immodest or indecent

    2. Read Matthew 19:4-6. Did Jesus endorse either of
      the two prevailing views among the Jewish leaders?
      (Jesus says that the model is marriage for life.)

    3. Read Matthew 19:7. Did Moses, being lead by God,
      allow divorce? (Read Deuteronomy 24:1-4. This is
      the source of the two schools of Jewish thought.
      Logically, the “indecent” conduct would be
      something less than pre-marriage fornication or
      adultery, because death, not divorce, was the
      penalty for fornication or adultery. Deuteronomy

    4. Read Matthew 19:8. Moses is not off on an
      adventure of his own. He wrote under the
      inspiration of God. How does Jesus explain the
      difference between what He (God) is saying directly
      and what God said through Moses? (He says God
      accommodated the sinful hearts of the people. The
      Wycliffe Bible Commentary says that Moses’
      regulation was “a protection of wives from men’s
      caprice, not an authorization for husbands to
      divorce at will.”)

      1. Let’s stop and consider this a moment. Are the
        rules against sin subject to being bent? Will
        a righteous God compromise on sin?

      2. If hardness of heart is an excuse, are those
        who are hardhearted today excused?

    5. Read Matthew 19:9. What does Jesus say about
      divorce apart from “marital unfaithfulness?”
      (“Sexual immorality” is the way this Greek word is
      often translated.) (Jesus says it is adultery!)

      1. As we have seen, the penalty for adultery was
        death. It is one of the Ten Commandments
        ( Exodus 20:14). Jesus confirms casual divorce
        is a major moral problem. Isn’t sin, sin for
        all times? Why was divorce “okay” in Moses
        time and not “okay” in Jesus time?(What I see
        in this is grace. Jesus does not equivocate on
        the standard, the ideal. But God showed grace
        to His people.)

        1. I’m sure some of you are saying, “Wait a
          minute! What about grace to the women who
          were divorced for trivial reasons?” (In
          Jewish culture only men could divorce. God
          shows grace to sinners. These women were
          not sinners in this context. God’s ideal
          was that they not be divorced by their

    6. Read Matthew 19:10. How would you summarize the
      disciples reaction? (They were shocked. If the
      rules are going to be that strict, it is best not

      1. What does this tell you about the state of
        marriage in those days?

    7. Read Matthew 19:11-12. What you think this means?
      To which “word” is Jesus referring?

      1. Is Jesus teaching that those who cannot accept
        His strict teachings on divorce are released
        from them?

      2. Or, is Jesus teaching that only those who can
        follow the rules should get married?(If you
        look at the context, Jesus is saying the
        second – don’t get married if you cannot
        follow the rules. The disciples just got
        through saying “It is better not to marry.”
        Jesus then goes through a list of reasons why
        a person might choose or be forced to refrain
        from marriage.)

      3. Is there a logical application of Jesus’
        statements to the argument that homosexuals
        are born that way and therefore homosexual
        marriage is a natural right? (Yes, although
        the logic is not perfect. Jesus says that some
        were born with barriers to marriage, some were
        made that way by others, and some make that
        decision to please God. There are a number of
        reasons, some involuntary, why some people
        should not marry.)

  2. Money

    1. Let’s turn to another difficult subject. Read
      Matthew 19:16-17. So much for righteousness by
      faith! Do you think that Jesus meant what He said?

    2. Read Matthew 19:18-19. What is odd about this list
      of commandments? (It lists only five of the Ten
      Commandments and throws in an extra “summary”

      1. What is left out? (All of the Ten Commandments
        that have to do with our obligations to God.)

    3. Read Matthew 19:20-22. Do you think that this man
      would have gone to heaven if he had sold all he
      had? Would he then have become “perfect?”

      1. Where does Jesus find this “command” to become
        perfect through yard sales? (This summarizes
        the missing Ten Commandments about our
        obligations to God. This young man relied on
        his wealth for his safety and his reputation.
        Jesus invites him to simply rely upon God.)

      2. How about you? On who or what do you rely?

    4. Read Matthew 19:23-25. The disciples are having a
      hard day. They find out they are supposed to be
      married for life and money is a bad thing. Why were
      the disciples astonished about Jesus’ statements
      about wealth? (Read Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 12 and
      Ecclesiastes 10:19. The disciples knew their
      Bible, wealth was a blessing from God! It was the
      answer to everything. Jesus was contradicting their
      understanding of wealth.)

      1. If wealth is a blessing from God, why is it
        difficult for a rich man to enter heaven?
        Should we not expect that all who enter heaven
        will be rich because that reflects the
        blessings of God? (I think this is a very long
        discourse on salvation. We are not saved by
        keeping the commandments. Obeying God does
        bring blessings and wealth. But what brings
        salvation is trust and reliance on God. Wealth
        is a temptation, because it inspires us to
        trust it instead of God. Why? As King Solomon
        pointed out, “money is the answer for
        everything.” Just don’t make it your answer!)

    5. Read Matthew 19:27. Peter says, “Lord, we passed
      that test!” “What do we get?” What do we get for
      reliance on God? (Read Matthew 19:28-29. Jesus
      responds you get heaven, thrones, glory and a 100
      fold increase on your investment!)

    6. Read Matthew 19:30. What does this mean? Does it
      mean that the man who had wealth, and appeared to
      be first on this earth, would now be last?

  3. Work

    1. Let’s move on to the next story. Read Matthew 20:1-2, 9-15. Is Jesus now advocating unfair wages?

    2. Read Matthew 20:16. What is the punch line to this

      1. Have we seen this point before? (Yes. Matthew

        1. If so, how does it apply here? Why does
          mere failure to get up early mean you get
          rewarded? What about “early birds” and

    3. Let’s review these last two stories:

      1. Did the rich man think that he could get to
        heaven by doing something? (Yes. Matthew 19:16
        “What … must I do….”)

      2. Jesus showed him that he couldn’t do enough.

      3. Did the disciples think that they could get to
        heaven by what they did? (Yes. Matthew 19:27:
        We have done everything, what is our reward?)

      4. What does the parable of the laborers tell us
        about the relationship between our work and
        our reward? (There is no relationship!)

      5. What did all the workers do in common? (Agreed
        to work when asked.)

      6. Does this shed light on God’s historic
        teaching on marriage? (God’s ideal is plain:
        Marriage for life, no divorce. But, a life-long marriage does not get you into heaven.)

    4. What does get you into heaven?(Your response to
      Jesus’ invitation to come. Repent and come. Heaven
      is Jesus’ gift.)

    5. What does it take to accept this gift? (This is the
      meaning to the “first shall be last” statement. The
      rich ruler was used to being “better” because of
      his money. The workers were used to getting paid
      more because of their diligence. This is not the
      operating system for the Kingdom of God. The less
      you trust yourself, the more you are likely to
      trust God.)

    6. Friend, will you accept the challenge of trusting
      God? Will you strive for the ideal of holiness in
      your life?

  4. Next week: The Puzzle of His Conduct.