Does Matthew 5:27-28 give a wife who finds that her husband views pornography grounds to seek a divorce?
Only God understands the pain that many women feel when they discover that their husbands are looking at pornography. Many wives are hurt by this discovery. They become angry and filled with personal doubts.
Women in this situation often find themselves on a difficult road, especially if there has been a pattern and history to their husband’s involvement. Betrayal of the marital trust cuts deep into a woman’s soul, and many have found that it takes time to learn to trust again.
Some have had husbands who slowly re-earned trust by doing whatever it takes to bring an end to the practice, by not blaming their wives for their own wrongs, and by patiently accepting responsibility for the emotional pain and struggles with trust they’ve created for their wives.
It’s never easy for a wife to walk this road. While some are committed to stay married and work through the pain and mistrust, others take a different course by appealing to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28 , citing them as grounds to seek a divorce. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Their contention is understandable. Since their husbands sexually lusted over women while looking at pornography, then they are guilty of the sin of adultery. And because adultery is grounds for divorce ( Matthew 19:9 ), they believe they have grounds to seek a divorce.
They may have a case — depending on the severity and extent of their husband’s problem. A husband who is into severe forms of pornography such as pedophilia or sadomasochism has likely sunken into such a deep level of perversion that it causes just as much devastation as physical adultery. Of course, a husband who refuses to give up his affair with any form of pornography is blatantly betraying his covenant with his wife. Generally speaking, it is only a matter of time before he seeks to act out on the lust he’s been cultivating in his heart through pornography. In such cases, a wife has a basis to appeal to the words of Jesus as grounds for divorce too.
Realistically, however, if Jesus meant to imply that sexually lustful thoughts were grounds for divorce in every case, then every husband could be divorced on that basis. What husband can say that his mind has never wandered into sexual lust of some kind. As we try to understand the implications of Jesus’ words, we must remember the context in which Jesus spoke about sexual lust and adultery. Jesus’ main point wasn’t to give a wife wholesale grounds for divorce. He made the link between lust and adultery primarily to make the point that sin is more than mere behavior: it is also a matter of the heart.