The Price for Breaking God’s Law
It pays to keep within the bounds God set for his creatures.
WE CANNOT escape it. We are moral creatures subject to God’s law. We were created with the faculty of conscience, of distinguishing between right and wrong, and so are accountable to God the Creator for our actions.
If we violate God’s law we pay a price, even as His Word warns: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit. So let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Gal. 6:7-9.
In this man differs radically from the brute creation. Moral issues do not exist for them. Ability to think or reason and the ability to speak go hand in hand, and brutes have neither. As evolutionist Hooten admits in his book Up from the Ape: “All of the anthropoid apes are vocally and muscularly equipped so that they could have an articulate language if they possessed the required intelligence. . . . There is nothing about a snout that prevents its possessor from speaking; but there is something about the brain that goes with a snout that makes speech impossible.” It also makes appreciation of moral values beyond the reach of a beast.
Modern man appears to try to escape from the responsibility of facing moral issues, and not a few psychologists would persuade him that moral questions are unimportant, but more and more the fact is being driven home to them that for man’s own well-being he must make peace with his moral nature. It is even as God’s Word tells us: “Whenever people of the nations that do not have law [that is, people that do not have God’s law through Moses] do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having [God’s] law, are a law to themselves. They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them and, between their own thoughts, they are being accused or even excused.”—Rom. 2:14, 15.
Why is this so? Because man alone was created in God’s likeness, being endowed with a measure of those attributes that his Creator has in their infinity and perfection, namely, love, justice, wisdom and power. These qualities make man accountable to God, and so when man violates any of God’s laws he pays a price therefor in one or more ways. Thus when man breaks God’s law it makes for bad relations with his Creator, with his fellowman, with himself and even with the lower animals. Further, breaking God’s law results in pain, mental, physical or emotional; it results in harm to his personality and eventually it brings about his death.
For an initial illustration let us take the very first instance, that of the first human pair, Adam and Eve. Some may object on the ground that the record is based on a myth. But note that Genesis is not the only Bible book that presents Adam as the primogenitor of the human race. The writer of the book of First Chronicles likewise gives him that distinction, even as do both the Gospel writer Luke and the apostle Paul. The disciple Jude implies the same thing in speaking of Enoch as “the seventh man in line from Adam.” And the Lord Jesus himself referred to the Genesis account concerning Adam and Eve as authoritative.—Gen. 3:17; 1 Chron. 1:1; Luke 3:38; 1 Cor. 15:45; 1 Tim. 2:13; Jude 14; Matt. 19:4, 5.
BAD RELATIONS WITH GOD AND WITH FELLOWMEN
What happened in the case of that first human couple? When Adam and Eve sinned they lost God’s favor, it brought about bad relations with their God. This is apparent from the very tone of the words God addressed to Adam and Eve upon their transgression: “From the tree from which I commanded you not to eat have you [Adam] eaten?” And, “What is this you [Eve] have done?”—Gen. 3:11, 13.
We cannot escape it. Breaking God’s laws brings with it bad relations with our Maker, Jehovah God, and especially so when there is negligence or even willfulness, as in the case of Adam and Eve. Well did the psalmist state: “You—fear-inspiring you are, and who can stand before you because of the strength of your anger?” It is the utmost folly to incur God’s anger, for “we are not stronger than he is, are we?” Wisdom dictates that we guard against breaking God’s law, so that we might be the recipients of his loving-kindness, his favor, which “is better than life.”—Ps. 76:7; 1 Cor. 10:22; Ps. 63:3.
Secondly, breaking God’s laws makes for bad relations with our fellowmen. How did Adam feel when he saw that Eve had taken from the fruit that was forbidden and was now forcing him to make a decision by offering him some of it? Evidently not very lovingly, as can be seen from his later remarks, referring to her as “the woman” and blaming her—”she gave me fruit from the tree and so I ate it.” And how must Eve have felt when she heard these words blaming her instead of hearing Adam stand up like a man and shoulder his own blame? Truly their mutual transgression had resulted in poor relations with each other.—Gen. 3:12.
So it has been ever since. Transgressors of God’s laws often pay the price of bad relations with their fellowmen in that they get on one another’s nerves, or become bitter toward one another. Also, society or their particular group may take action against them as when they are fined, put in prison or are excommunicated. If not always such extreme penalties, there invariably is dishonor, shame or disgrace. The one breaking God’s laws may try to keep it secret, but in vain, for “there is nothing . . . secret that will not become known.” “Honor is what the wise ones,” who keep God’s law, “will come to possess, but the stupid ones are exalting dishonor.”—Matt. 10:26; Prov. 3:35.
BAD RELATIONS WITH ONESELF AND WITH BEASTS
Bad relations with oneself in the form of a guilty conscience are a further price paid by the one breaking God’s law. Both Adam and Eve immediately had guilty consciences upon breaking God’s law; that is why they hid themselves. “All things are clean to clean persons,” but they no longer felt clean, due to their sin. (Titus 1:15) When man knowingly breaks God’s laws he, in effect, rebels at the degree of freedom God grants him and goes beyond that, only to become a slave to a bad conscience, so having less freedom than before.—Gen. 3:7.
Very frequently willful breakers of God’s law overlook this matter of keeping good relations with themselves. As a result they suddenly find themselves plagued with a guilty conscience and frequently seek means to relieve themselves of it, by punishing themselves in various ways, or by confessing to a clergyman or a psychiatrist or by prayers or offerings made to a deity. The Bible shows that being concerned about good relations with God leads to good relations with oneself. To get those good relations requires sincere repentance and faith in the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, provided for that very purpose. However, depending upon the degree of willfulness involved, there will be more or less punishment. “That slave that understood the will of his master but did not get ready or do in line with his will will be beaten with many strokes. But the one that did not understand and so did things deserving of strokes will be beaten with few.” But for willful practice of sin after one’s having been enlightened there is no forgiveness.—Luke 12:47, 48; Acts 3: 19; John 1:7; Heb. 10:26.
Breaking God’s law even results in bad relations with the brute creation. At least, that was the effect upon Adam and Eve. As perfect humans they had perfect control over the lower animals, in keeping with God’s mandate to them: “Have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.” An expression of that dominion over the lower animals was Adam’s naming of them. Yes, Adam and Eve came in close touch with the animals, both domestic and wild, with no danger. But today, what enmity exists between man and his lowly, dumb subjects! On the one hand, man in wanton slaughter has decimated if not wiped out many species, and, on the other hand, the beasts have taken the lives of many of their human rulers. However, God’s Word assures us that in His new world the brute creation will again be in subjection to man.—Gen. 1:28; 2:19, 20; Isa. 11:6-9.
CORRUPTION, PHYSICAL AND MORAL
The breaking of the law of God also brings with it corruption of mind and body, aches, pains and psychosomatic ills. Before Adam and Eve broke God’s law life was an uninterrupted pleasure, but now they were to suffer pain. Said God to her: “I shall greatly increase the pain of your pregnancy; in birth pangs you will bring forth children.” And to Adam God said: “Cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat of its produce all the days of your life.”—Gen. 3:16, 17.
What hardship has been the lot of man and woman ever since then! Not only because of the need to eke out a living from the ground, but also because of bodily infirmities and ills. What ills man suffers that can be laid directly to his folly, such as venereal diseases, alcoholism, drug addiction and lung cancer! More than that, call to mind the harm to the body and its health that such injurious emotions as envy, greed, selfish ambition, hate, fear and worry cause. Yes, the body is one, and therefore what affects the body affects the mind, and what affects the mind affects the body; all in keeping with what is known as the psychosomatic principle. The Bible itself recognizes this principle: “A heart that is joyful does good as a curer, but a spirit that is stricken makes the bones dry.” “The spirit of a man can put up with his malady; but as for a stricken spirit, who can bear it?” “The wicked do flee when there is no pursuer, but the righteous are like a young lion that is confident.”—Prov. 17:22; 18:14; 28:1.
Just as breaking God’s law brings with it physical corruption, so it also brings with it moral corruption. To the extent that a person indulges in sin he becomes gross, coarse, hard and tough. He blunts his sensibilities; he cuts down on the ability or capacity for appreciating the beautiful, the clean, the fine and noble things of life. How rapidly Adam deteriorated upon his breaking God’s law! How rank his ingratitude, blaming God, who had given him everything he had, and his wife, with whom he was “one flesh”! Recognizing this tendency, sociologists, even those who have no particular interest in Biblical standards of morality, nevertheless advocate chastity before marriage because the prospects for happiness in marriage are the greatest when both enter it in the virgin state. Yes, sin “conditions” the personality so that once having deliberately committed a gross violation of God’s law one is not likely to be the same even though the repentance may be sincere.
THE ULTIMATE PRICE—DEATH
Finally, there is the ultimate price for breaking God’s law, death. For doing so Adam was to return to the ground from which he had been taken: “Dust you are and to dust you will return.” God had warned: “In the day you eat from [the forbidden fruit] you will positively die,” and Adam and Eve found that warning true. In one of God’s thousand-year days Adam and Eve died, he living to be 930 years old. All their offspring are born sinners and all are dying.—Gen. 3:19; 2:17; Rom. 5:12; 2 Pet. 3:8.
Nothing was said to Adam about his soul’s going to heaven or to a fiery hell, for Adam was a soul, he did not have a soul. “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.” “The wages sin pays is death.” Where we read of fire in connection with punishment for sin the context invariably shows that it is used as a symbol of destruction.—Gen. 2:7; Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 6:23.
Truly the Creator, Jehovah God, is vindicated as the One who is the Sovereign Lawgiver and Judge in his giving his creatures righteous laws and then requiring them to obey these laws. Breaking them results in a bad harvest. Observing God’s laws is the course of wisdom, because it takes note of God’s right to dictate to his creatures by reason of his being their Creator and Owner and by reason of his power. It also gives God credit for knowing what is best and unselfishly wishing what is best for them. Such is the course of true wisdom, for concerning the obeying of God’s commandments and laws we read: “My son, my law do not forget, and my commandments may your heart observe, because length of days and years of life and peace will be added to you.” And with those years of peace goes happiness. “Happy is the man that has found wisdom,” and “those keeping fast hold of it are to be called happy.”—Prov. 3:1, 2, 13, 18.