In the late-19th Century, an American couple married and had five children.  He was career military and was deployed overseas many times.  She was left at home with her parents while he was gone.  Even though he was gone most of the time, he routinely visited the family.  His wife and children loved him and he appeared to love them.  The man and his wife were incredibly poor but both were Christians and attended church faithfully as a family.

The first child (a boy) died of typhoid fever when he was five, and the third child (also a boy) was born footling breach.  The wife almost died during that birth and was totally paralyzed from the waist down after the experience.  She spent most of her time in a wheel chair or in bed and never walked again.  Yet it seemed that each time her husband came back from his overseas duty, she became pregnant with another child until she had given birth to five.

Every time he visited she begged him to get a job and remain at home to help her rear their children, but he claimed the only work he knew was the Army.  She continued to press him more and more until he finally told her he had another family to tend to overseas and could not be bound in one place.

Of course there was a huge quarrel and she demanded that he never return, even to see his children.  Eventually the divorce was final and she determined to rear the four living children by herself.  Her understanding of Matthew 19:9 and Matthew 5:32 was that neither party had a right to a marriage after having failed in the first one.  She believed that a divorce was allowed because of adultery, but remarriage was not allowed for any reason.

Her physical condition made it impossible to work and provide for her children, but she did embroidery, sewing and such like to bring in some income.  The first year she was truly alone (her mother died and her father moved away), she and the children lived in a tent in central Texas and barely had enough to eat.  They were cold and often sick during the winter months, so she determined to adopt the younger three to families in the community—none of whom were Christians.  Only the older daughter (~ age 11) remained to care for the invalid mother.

  1. Was this lady’s understanding and moral conviction correct regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage?  A careful analysis of the sentence construction of Matthew 19:9 and Matthew 5:32 will be necessary.
  2. Nobody seemed to know when her husband had married the wife overseas.  How would knowing who was the first wife have made a difference?
  3. If this abandoned mother had married again and defiled her conscience, would she have had favor with God?  Explain with a scripture.
  4. During those days there were no laws to force the husband to pay for his children’s upbringing or for his invalid ex-wife’s support so this poor lady was forced, out of poverty, to give her three younger children out for adoption.  QUESTION: If a widow is required to marry only in the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39), would it be reasonable to think the children should also be given to Christian families when they have to be given out for adoption?
  5. What can you predict happened to those three children’s training when they went to non-Christian homes?