“If the Son sets you free, you will be truly free.”—JOHN 8:36.
1, 2. (a) What are people doing to get freedom? (b) What has been the result?
TODAY, people in many parts of the world talk about equal rights and freedom. Some want to be free from unfair treatment, prejudice, and poverty. Others demand to be free to say what they want to say, to choose what they want to choose, and to live the way they want to live. People everywhere want to be free.
2 To get freedom, people organize protests and even revolutions. But do they really get what they want? No. Usually, the result is more suffering and even death. King Solomon’s words found at Ecclesiastes 8:9 are very true: “Man has dominated man to his harm.”
3. What can we do to be truly happy and satisfied?
3 The Bible tells us what we need to do to be truly happy and satisfied. The disciple James said: “The one who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and continues in it . . . will be happy in what he does.” (James 1:25) The perfect law comes from Jehovah, and he knows best what we need in order to be completely happy and satisfied. Jehovah gave Adam and Eve true freedom and everything else they needed to be happy.
WHEN HUMANS WERE TRULY FREE
4. What freedom did Adam and Eve have? (See opening picture.)
4 When we read Genesis chapters 1 and 2, we learn that Adam and Eve had the kind of freedom that people today can only dream of. They had everything they needed, they were not afraid of anything, and no one treated them unfairly. They did not worry about food, work, sickness, or death. (Genesis 1:27-29; 2:8, 9, 15) But was their freedom without limits? Let us see.
5. Despite what many think, what do people need in order to have freedom?
5 Many people think that having true freedom means that they can do whatever they want without worrying about the consequences. The World Book Encyclopedia says that freedom is “the ability to make choices and to carry them out.” However, it also says that people are free if a government does not limit them in ways that are unfair, unnecessary, or unreasonable. This means that some limits are necessary so that everyone can have freedom. But who has the right to decide whether a certain limit is fair, necessary, and reasonable?
6. (a) Why is Jehovah the only one who has absolute freedom? (b) What sort of freedom can humans have, and why?
6 It is important for us to remember that only Jehovah God has absolute, unlimited freedom. Why? Because he created all things and he is the almighty Ruler of the universe. (1 Timothy 1:17; Revelation 4:11) King David used beautiful words to describe Jehovah’s position. (Read 1 Chronicles 29:11, 12.) In contrast, the freedom of all creatures in heaven and on earth has limits. It is relative freedom. Jehovah God wants us to understand that only he has the right to decide what limits are fair, necessary, and reasonable. From the beginning, Jehovah set limits for his creation.
7. What are some things that we have to do that make us happy?
7 Although Adam and Eve had a lot of freedom, their freedom had limits. Some of those limits felt natural to them. For example, to keep living, they had to breathe, eat, and sleep. Did that mean that they were not free? No. In fact, Jehovah made sure that doing those things would make them happy and content. (Psalm 104:14, 15; Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13) We all enjoy breathing fresh air, eating our favorite foods, and having a good night’s rest. We do not feel restricted when we do those things. Adam and Eve must have felt the same way.
8. What specific command did God give Adam and Eve, and why?
8 Jehovah gave Adam and Eve a specific command. He told them to have children, fill the earth, and take care of it. (Genesis 1:28) Did this command take away their freedom? Not at all! It gave them the opportunity to turn the whole earth into a paradise, making it a home where they could live forever with their perfect children. This was God’s purpose. (Isaiah 45:18) Today, people are not disobeying God if they choose not to get married or have children. Still, people do get married and have children even though this brings some difficulties. (1 Corinthians 7:36-38) Why? Because they expect to find happiness and satisfaction. (Psalm 127:3) If Adam and Eve had obeyed Jehovah, they could have enjoyed their marriage and family forever.
HOW WAS TRUE FREEDOM LOST?
9. Why was God’s command found at Genesis 2:17 not unfair, unnecessary, or unreasonable?
9 Jehovah gave Adam and Eve another command and clearly told them what would happen if they disobeyed it. He said: “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 certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17) Was that command unfair, unnecessary, or unreasonable? Did it take away Adam and Eve’s freedom? Not at all. In fact, many Bible scholars think that God’s command was very wise and made sense. One of them says that it teaches us “that only God knows what is good . . . for humanity and only God knows what is not good . . . for them. To enjoy the ‘good,’ humankind must trust God and obey him. If they disobey, they will be left to decide for themselves what is good . . . and what is not good.” That is something too difficult for humans to do on their own.
10. Why is free will not the same thing as the right to decide what is good and what is bad?
Only Jehovah has the right to decide what is good and what is bad
10 Some people may think that Jehovah did not give Adam the freedom to do what he wanted. However, they do not realize that free will, or the right to choose what to do, is not the same as the right to decide what is good and what is bad. Adam and Eve had the freedom to choose whether they would obey God or not. But only Jehovah has the right to decide what is good and what is bad. “The tree of the knowledge of good and bad” was evidence to Adam and Eve of that fact. (Genesis 2:9) We do not always know what the result of our choices will be, and we certainly cannot know if the results will always be good. That is why we often see people making choices or decisions with good intentions, but the result of these choices is suffering, disaster, or tragedy. (Proverbs 14:12) Yes, humans are limited in what they can do. By giving Adam and Eve the command not to eat from the tree, Jehovah taught them that they had to obey him to have true freedom. What did Adam and Eve decide to do?
11, 12. Why did Adam and Eve’s choice lead to disaster? Give an example.
11 Sadly, Adam and Eve chose to disobey Jehovah. Eve chose to listen to Satan when he promised: “Your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Genesis 3:5) Did Adam and Eve’s choice lead to more freedom, as Satan said it would? No, it did not. In fact, they found out that rejecting Jehovah’s direction led to disaster. (Genesis 3:16-19) Why? Because Jehovah did not give humans the freedom to decide for themselves what is good and what is bad.—Read Proverbs 20:24 and footnote; Jeremiah 10:23.
12 This is similar to a pilot flying an airplane. To get to his destination safely, he normally follows an approved route, using the navigation tools on the plane and communicating with air traffic controllers. But if the pilot does not follow directions and flies wherever he wants to go, it could lead to disaster. Like that pilot, Adam and Eve wanted to do things their own way. They rejected God’s guidance. What was the result? Disaster! Their decision led to sin and death for them and for all their children after them. (Romans 5:12) Adam and Eve did not gain more freedom by trying to decide for themselves what is good and what is bad. Instead, they lost the true freedom Jehovah had given them.
HOW TO GAIN TRUE FREEDOM
13, 14. How can we gain true freedom?
13 Some people think that having unlimited freedom would be best. But would it really? Even though having freedom has many benefits, can you imagine what the world would be like if there were no limits at all? The World Book Encyclopedia says that the laws of every organized society are complicated because they must protect and at the same time limit people’s freedom. This is not always easy. For that reason, we see so many laws and so many lawyers and judges who try to explain and apply them.
14 Jesus Christ explained how we can have true freedom. He 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) So to have true freedom, we need to do two things. First, we need to accept the truth that Jesus taught. Second, we need to become his disciples. Doing these things will give us true freedom. But freedom from what? Jesus said: “Every doer of sin is a slave of sin.” He added: “If the Son sets you free, you will be truly free.”—John 8:34, 36.
15. Why can the freedom that Jesus promised make us “truly free”?
15 The freedom that Jesus promised his disciples is so much better than the kind of freedom most people want today. When Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be truly free,” he was talking about freedom from slavery to sin, the worst kind of slavery humans have ever experienced. In what way are we slaves of sin? Sin causes us to do bad things. It can also prevent us from doing what we know is right or from doing our best. The result is frustration, pain, suffering, and eventually death. (Romans 6:23) The apostle Paul felt how painful it was to be a slave of sin. (Read Romans 7:21-25.) Only when sin is completely removed will we have the true freedom that Adam and Eve once had.
16. How can we become truly free?
16 Jesus’ statement “if you remain in my word” shows that if we want Jesus to set us free, we need to do certain things. What things? As dedicated Christians, we have disowned ourselves and chosen to accept the limits Jesus set for his disciples. (Matthew 16:24) Just as Jesus promised, we will be truly free in the future when we receive all the benefits of the ransom sacrifice.
17. (a) How can we be truly happy and satisfied? (b) What will we learn in the next article?
17 To be truly happy and satisfied, we have to obey Jesus’ teachings as his disciples. If we do this, eventually we can become completely free from being slaves of sin and death. (Read Romans 8:1, 2, 20, 21.) In the next article, we will learn how we can wisely use the freedom we now have. Then we can honor Jehovah, the God of true freedom, forever.