Freedom Enjoyed by Worshipers of Jehovah
1, 2. (a) What kind of freedom did God give the first human pair? (b) Mention some of the laws that governed their activity.
WHEN Jehovah created the first human pair, they enjoyed freedom far surpassing any that humans have today. Their home was Paradise. No illness marred their enjoyment of life. Death was not waiting for them. But respect for God’s laws was an important factor in their continuing to have such freedom.
2 Some of those laws may not have been stated in words, but Adam and Eve were made in such a way that it was only natural to obey them. Thus appetite signaled the need to eat; thirst, the need to drink. The setting of the sun encouraged them to get needed rest and sleep. Jehovah also spoke to them and gave them an assignment of work. Actually that assignment was a law, because it would govern their course of action. But what a kindly, beneficial law it was! It gave them work that would be thoroughly satisfying, enabling them to use their faculties to the full in wholesome ways. They were to bring forth children, exercise dominion over earth’s animal life and gradually extend the borders of Paradise until it covered the globe. (Gen. 1:28; 2:15) God did not burden them with unnecessary details. Ample leeway was allowed for them to make decisions. What more could anyone ask?
3. How could Adam have been helped to use wisely his freedom to make decisions?
3 Of course, when Adam was granted the privilege of making decisions, that did not mean that just any decision he might make, no matter what it was, would produce good results. His freedom to make decisions implied responsibility. He could learn by listening to his heavenly Father and observing His works, and God had given Adam intelligence that would enable him to apply what he learned. Since Adam was created “in God’s image,” his natural inclination would be to reflect godly qualities when making decisions. He surely would be careful to do that if he truly appreciated what God had done for him and wanted to please God.—Gen. 1:26, 27; compare John 8:29.
4. (a) Did the restrictive command given to Adam deprive him of freedom? (b) Why was it a fitting requirement?
4 As a reminder of man’s dependence on his Creator and Life-Giver, Jehovah laid this command on him: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” (Gen. 2:16, 17) Did that law deprive man of freedom? Certainly not. Adam was free to obey or to disobey. The prohibition imposed no burden. He had an abundance to eat without touching that one tree. However, it was only fitting that he recognize that the earth on which he lived belongs to God and that, as the Creator, God is the rightful Ruler of his creation.—Ps. 24:1, 10.
5. (a) How did Adam and Eve lose the glorious freedom they had? (b) What took its place, and how have we been affected?
5 But what happened? Motivated by selfish ambition, an angel deceived Eve by posing as a true guide, assuring her of something contrary to God’s will. Rather than obeying his Father, Adam joined Eve in transgression. By grasping for something that did not belong to them, Adam and Eve lost the glorious freedom that they had. Sin became their master and, as God had warned, death positively awaited them. As a result, what inheritance was passed on to their offspring? Sin, manifest in an inborn tendency toward wrongdoing, in weaknesses that make one susceptible to disease and in eventual deterioration through aging. Also death. The inherited inclination toward wrongdoing, aggravated by Satanic influence, has produced a society in which life has become precarious for everyone. What a contrast to the freedom that God gave mankind at the beginning!—Rom. 5:12; Job 14:1; Rev. 12:9.
Where Freedom Can Be Found
6. (a) Where can real freedom be found? (b) About what kind of freedom was Jesus speaking at John 8:31, 32?
6 In view of conditions today, it is no surprise that people long for greater freedom than what they have. But where can real freedom be found? Jesus Christ said: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31, 32) This freedom is not the limited kind that men hope for when they reject one political ruler or form of government in favor of another. Instead, it gets right to the core of human problems. What Jesus was discussing was freedom from sin, slavish bondage to sin. (See John 8:24, 34-36.) Thus if a person becomes a true disciple of Jesus Christ, this results in a notable change in his life, a liberation.
7. (a) In what sense, then, can we be free from sin now? (b) To have that freedom, what must we do?
7 That does not mean that at present true Christians no longer feel the effects of the inborn tendency toward sinful conduct. On the contrary, they have a struggle because of it. (Rom. 7:21-25) But if a person really lives in harmony with Jesus’ teachings, he will no longer be an abject slave to sin. Sin will no longer be to him like a king that gives orders that he obeys. He will no longer be trapped in a way of life that lacks purpose and that leaves him with a disturbed conscience. He will enjoy a clean conscience before God because past sins have been forgiven on the basis of his faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Sinful inclinations may try to assert themselves, but when he refuses to act on them because he calls to mind the clean teachings of Christ he will show that sin is not his master.—Rom. 6:12-17.
8. (a) What further freedom does true Christianity give us? (b) How should this affect our attitude toward secular rulers?
8 As Christians we enjoy great freedom. We have been liberated from the effects of false teachings, from bondage to superstition and servitude to sin. The grand truths about the condition of the dead and the resurrection have freed us from the unreasoning fear of violent death that causes men to suppress their conscience. Knowledge that imperfect human governments will be replaced by God’s righteous Kingdom frees us from hopelessness. But such freedom does not justify disregard for law or disrespect for governmental officials on the premise that soon the old system will be gone.—1 Pet. 2:16, 17; Titus 3:1, 2.
9. (a) How does Jehovah lovingly help us to enjoy the greatest measure of freedom now possible for humans? (b) In making decisions, how can we show that we clearly understand what resulted from Adam’s abuse of his freedom?
9 Jehovah does not leave us to figure out by trial and error which is the best way to live. He knows how we are made, what will bring us genuine contentment and a feeling of personal dignity, and what will be most lastingly beneficial for us. He also knows his own time schedule for carrying out his purpose and, therefore, the activities in which it is most worth while for us to engage. He likewise is aware of thoughts and conduct that can degrade a person or spoil his relations with others, even bar him from the blessings of God’s Kingdom. Lovingly he informs us of these things through the Bible and by means of his visible organization. (Gal. 5:19-23; Mark 13:10; compare 1 Timothy 1:12, 13.) Then it is up to us, using our God-given free will, to decide how we are going to respond. If we have taken to heart what the Bible tells us about how Adam lost the freedom given to mankind at the start, we will make those decisions wisely. We will show that a good relationship with Jehovah is our main concern in life.
Craving Another Kind of Freedom
10. What kind of freedom have some who professed to be Christians reached out for?
10 At times some young folks raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as others not so young, get to feeling that they want another kind of freedom. The world may appear glamorous, and the more they think about it the stronger becomes their desire to do things that worldly people do. They may not plan to get high on drugs, to drink too much or to commit fornication. But they begin to spend time after school or after work hours with worldly associates. Of course, they want to be accepted by their new associates, so they begin to imitate their speech and their conduct.—3 John 11.
11. From where does the enticement to do this sometimes come?
11 Sometimes the enticement to indulge in worldly conduct comes from another person who professes to be serving Jehovah. That was what happened in Eden when Satan seduced Eve, and then when Eve urged Adam to join her. It was also true among early Christians, and the same thing happens in our day. Such persons often love excitement and crave things that bring intense pleasure. They urge others to “have some fun.” They ‘promise freedom, while they themselves are slaves of corruption.’—2 Pet. 2:18, 19.
12. (a) What are the sad results of worldly conduct? (b) If those involved know the outcome, why do they insist on doing such things?
12 The fruitage is not pleasant. Illicit sex results in emotional turmoil. It may also lead to disease, unwanted pregnancy and possibly the breakup of a marriage. (Prov. 6:32-35; 1 Cor. 6:18; 1 Thess. 4:3-8) Drug abuse can produce irritability, slurred speech, blurred vision, dizziness, impaired ability to breathe, hallucinations and death. (Compare Proverbs 23:29-35.) It can result in addiction, which may lead to crime in order to support the habit. Those who get involved in such conduct usually know what the outcome can be. But their craving for excitement and for sensual pleasure causes them to shut their mind to the consequences. They tell themselves it is freedom, but then they find out, too late, that they are slaves of sin, and what a cruel master sin is! Reasoning on the matter now can help to safeguard us against such an experience.—Gal. 6:7, 8.
Where the Problems Begin
13. (a) How do the desires that lead to these problems often get stirred up? (b) To understand what “bad associations” are, whose viewpoint do we need? (c) As you answer the questions at the end of the paragraph, emphasize Jehovah’s viewpoint. Comment on just one question at a time.
13 Stop and think about where those problems often begin. The Bible explains: “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.” (Jas. 1:14, 15) But how do those desires get stirred up? By what goes into the mind, and often this is as a result of association with people who do not apply Bible principles. Of course, we all know that we should avoid “bad associations.” But the question is, Which associations are bad? How does Jehovah view the matter? Reasoning on the following questions and scriptures should help us to arrive at proper conclusions.
Does the fact that certain people seem to be honorable mean that they will be good associates? (Compare Genesis 34:1, 2, 18, 19.)
Could their conversation, perhaps their jokes, indicate whether we belong in close company with them? (Eph. 5:3, 4)
Is there any reason for us to be concerned if they do not happen to believe the same things regarding God’s purpose that we do? (Compare 1 Corinthians 15:12, 32, 33.)
How would Jehovah feel if we chose the association of people who do not love him? (Compare 2 Chronicles 19:1, 2.)
Although we may work with unbelievers or go to school with them, how can we show that we do not choose them as associates? (1 Pet. 4:3, 4)
Viewing television and reading books, magazines and newspapers are also ways of associating with others. Against what type of material from these sources is there special need to be on guard these days? (Prov. 3:31; Isa. 8:19; Eph. 4:17-19)
What does our choice of associates tell Jehovah as to the kind of persons we are? (Ps. 26:1, 4, 5; 97:10)
14. What grand freedom lies ahead for those who faithfully apply the counsel of God’s Word now?
14 Immediately ahead of us lies God’s New Order. By means of His Kingdom mankind will be freed of the enslaving influence of Satan and his entire wicked system of things. Gradually all the effects of sin will be removed from mankind. Eternal life in Paradise will lie before them. Freedom that is in full harmony with “the spirit of Jehovah” will eventually be enjoyed by all creation. (2 Cor. 3:17) Would it make sense to risk losing all of that because of treating lightly the counsel of God’s Word now? By the way in which we exercise our Christian freedom today may we all show clearly that what we really want is “the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Rom. 8:21.
● What kind of freedom did the first human pair enjoy? How does that compare with what mankind is experiencing now?
● In contrast with the world, what freedom do true Christians have? How is this possible?
● What price is paid by those who seek the kind of freedom that the world has?
● Why is it so important to avoid “bad associations”? Unlike Adam, whose decisions as to what is bad do we accept?