God quite obviously created man with the ability to disobey him. While the reasons that God did this are not entirely clear, it might be argued that God did this because as regrettable as sin is, it was more important to God for man to have the ability to make that choice, even if that choice happened to be something other than what God would want.

However, Matthew 5:30 has Jesus saying quite bluntly, "if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off, and throw it away from you." Putting aside the implications here that Jesus may appear to be advocating self-mutilation for some greater good, it seems that Jesus is very obviously suggesting here that it is actually preferable to have the choice to sin ripped away from you by force than it would be to engage in said sin.

But these two premises are completely at odds with eachother. Either it is somehow better than man has the freedom to choose, even it means to sin, or it is better to not have the choice in the first place than do something God does not want. If it is actually better that we do not have the choice than it is to sin, then why would an omniscient God have ever made us with the ability to? And if it is more important to have the choice, even if that somehow also means that we may possibly sin, then why would Jesus use such an example which suggests the opposite?

How can this apparent contradiction be resolved?

  • Your first sentence is incorrect. Man only disobeyed God because a spiritual entity influenced him to do so - the 'god of this world'. Man still obeyed god - a spiritual god. But he disobeyed God, the Lord of all. It can be argued that man only ever obeys that which can be called 'god'. And that, therefore, man has no free will whatsoever.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 15, 2019 at 8:22
  • 1
    @NigelJ How does "God quite obviously created man with the ability to disobey him" contradict "he disobeyed God, the Lord of all" It doesn't. Nov 15, 2019 at 12:17
  • 1
    Your third sentence isn't about disobedience to God. Who is the God you're thinking of? Nov 15, 2019 at 13:36
  • 3
    The cutting off of the hand is not something imposed, but is a free will choice of the person accepting Jesus' words. So it's not about whether you have free will, but about how to use it (cave in to sin or avoiding it even by drastic measure).
    – Bit Chaser
    Nov 15, 2019 at 19:54
  • 1
    If only one hand is cut off, the other hand can sin. Likewise the eye(s). Jesus is quite clearly not making the point you are trying to infer.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 15, 2019 at 20:09

4 Answers 4


I'll try to answer from a Catholic perspective, so, for example, I'll take for granted that we actually do have free will.

Now why is free will a good thing, even though it makes sin possible? The reason is that it also makes it possible for us to love God and to freely obey Him. The intention is not that we permanently remain undecided between sin and obedience; the real good of free will arises from our free choice of obedience. And that is what Jesus is recommending, in rather dramatic terms. We should exercise our free will, not remaining in state of perpetual indecision between obedience and sin, but rather choosing obedience, and choosing it so decisively that we are willing to give up just about anything, including our right hands, in order to remain obedient.

This is not a matter of having "the choice to sin ripped away from you by force" (which would negate free will) but rather exercising your own free will to choose obedience rather than sin. In other words, Jesus is not recommending that I cut off your right hand to prevent you from sinning (and thereby overrule your free will); He recommends that you cut off your right hand if necessary as part of your free choice of obedience.


Your first sentence is incorrect. Man only disobeyed God because a spiritual entity influenced him to do so - the 'god of this world'. Man still obeyed god - a spiritual god. But he disobeyed God, the Lord of all. It can be argued that man only ever obeys that which can be called 'god'. And that, therefore, man has no free will whatsoever.

the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. [II Corinthians 4:4, KJV.]

As to those who believe, they also have no free will in the matter at all. It is God who appears to them and overwhelms them to such a degree that, out of love and faith, they can do no other than be obedient to him.

Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. [Romans 8:30, KJV.]

Saul of Tarsus, Paul, is a prime example of this fact.

Paul's enslavement is seen in Romans 7:18 [KJV] :-

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

And Paul's obedience is seen in Acts 9 verses 5 and 6, KJV :-

And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus

And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?

Paul yields up his will to Jesus Christ. Only then is there a Will which can perform any good within Paul himself.

It is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me, [Galatians 2:20, KJV] . . . . . . .

. . . is not an expression which boasts of any free will within itself.

  • I'm not sure how you come to the conclusion that my first statement was incorrect. If man did not have the ability to sin, then how could he have? God clearly created humanity with that capability, even if it was never his intent that man utilize it.
    – Mark
    Nov 15, 2019 at 19:48
  • Do you believe that man had no choice but to do what he was told to do?
    – Mark
    Nov 15, 2019 at 19:51
  • It would appear that we come from completely different philosophical backgrounds. The suggestion that man has no free will is not an entirely ridiculous one, but it does run up against some no less valid philosophical objections that are themselves quite grounded in scripture. God commands us to love, for instance, but if love were not a choice, then what would be the point of commanding it, if we are only determined to do whatever we are predestined to do?
    – Mark
    Nov 15, 2019 at 20:08
  • Obviously. My point is that love itself is a choice, which seems to necessitate the existence of free will.
    – Mark
    Nov 15, 2019 at 20:13
  • Nigel, I don't understand your sentence : Paul, is a prime example of this fact. Paul "trembling and astonished" is because God controls him to tremble and astonish. "what wilt thou have me to do?" is because God controls him to ask like that. "It is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me" is because God controls him to say that. Please see Fence man answer : God controls everything. So, it's not a fact, but an illusion.
    – karma
    Nov 16, 2019 at 16:38

Human free will and God's sovereign rule of all things is incredibly hard to reconcile, but because it's mentioned in scripture it must just be accepted.

Consider this quote from Romans 6:20-22:

20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

And Romans 6:16:

16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Man's will is bound to the posture of his heart, and cannot preform contradictory to his nature. In verse 20 mentioned above, it says you were free from the control of righteousness when being slaves to sin. And verse 16 says that, as a slave, you will obey. Within that will though, I can choose whatever I want to do. That is my free agency, and those choices are entirely my choices. God still uses my choices in a mysterious working of His providence to bring about whatever He wills, but this doesn't take away any of my freedom to choose things.

I don't exactly understand how you reconcile sin first being introduced into the world in relation to human will. But it is clear that the story of Jesus dying for us was apart of God's plan in eternity past to bring more glory to Himself.

For the Matthew 5:30 quote, Jesus definitely isn't saying mutilate yourself! It's simply an exaggeration which means that you ought to be killing sin, or it will be killing you. Rip, tear, pluck, throw your lust away for good, because it ultimately leads to death. Do whatever is necessary... but that doesn't mean chop off your hand :)

I wouldn't try to use the case of Adam and Eve as normative when understanding the implications of God's commands to us though. We know that God's law is not burdensome, 1 John 5:3. And that, having been saved from our sin by grace, we should delight in serving Him as well. The theological implications of Adam and Eve's transgression is massive, and making that a starting place gets hairy real quick.

I would also check out the idea of hyper-calvinism. It's a heretical belief dealing with salvation, and it ultimately over-emphasizes God's sovereignty and under-emphasizes man's responsibility in the work of salvation. It might answer your question in a round about way since your question is principally dealing with man's choice and how it relates to God's sovereignty.


So many crazy answers..

  1. man doesn’t have free will..
  2. God controls everything.. knows what we are gonna do before we do it..
  3. 3) can’t have prophecy with free will. It’s all designed.. and all ready done and set.

The scripture about cutting off ones hand? Not literal. It means remove what the sin is-it’s a Hebrew idiomatic (saying) which we today aren’t familiar with. We aren’t Hebrews.

We read the phrase over and over again: GOD CHOSE. GOD OPEN HIS OR HER SPIRIT.

God chooses. We do not chose God. One can’t choose what one doesn’t know, or have knowledge. God chose Israel above all the other families of the land.

  • 1, then there is no responsibility for man as 2 shows that all God's responsibility. 3, then it's not a prophecy at all. A screenplay writer where he himself is one of the actor of the play and after the play begins, in the middle of the play he (as the actor) say "your mother will die in three days hit by car", is just acting on what he wrote about his part (telling a "prophecy") in the play. And of course he's not omniscience at all. The next thing before continue to the part "after three days", he prepare a car driven by other actor to hit the mother. He controls everything.
    – karma
    Nov 16, 2019 at 16:28
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