FEAR OF MAN
Anyone who is familiar with the Word of God knows that there is a fear that is righteous and leads to righteousness. In fact, the fear of the LORD tendeth to life, and he that hath it shall abide satisfied... (Prov 19:23). So, nothing said in this short article is intended to discount the necessary emotion of fear toward God, or even the natural fear of real danger that is a God-given safety mechanism in every human.
The concern of this article is that which is found in Proverbs 29:25, The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. This fear is either that anxious concern created by a particular person in one’s life, or simply that anxious concern resident within a man because of an awareness of unwanted possibilities in life that may or may not occur.
Most of us can identify very quickly with that fear that is produced by a relationship with another person. A child knows the feeling of trembling knees when he has been found out by his father or mother. An employee knows the feeling of extreme uneasiness when being confronted by his boss over a major error made at work. Most are familiar with the extreme feeling of uneasiness that accompanies some major appointment to deal with some serious matter in life. Fear of man in this sense is very recognizable to us all.
So, it is no great leap in our thinking to understand that fear of this kind may indeed be a great snare. It may keep us from facing a parent or a boss with the truth, for fear of the consequences. It may keep us from a doctor’s appointment for fear of the news that may be given. Fear can negatively affect us in many ways in day to day living. It may keep us from making a move or changing jobs, which might be an improvement for our lives.
Fear of man is a great snare to us in our walk with the Lord. Fear of man may keep us from praying in public before a meal or speaking up for our Lord before strangers. This fear may be the cause of keeping us from going forth with the gospel. It may also be the reason why we give in to the ungodly pull of our acquaintances or family members. Fear of man, including what someone might say or do to us, has a very negative impact upon our lives. We are very familiar with this aspect of the fear of man.
But there is another way of viewing the fear of man in this text. The Holy Spirit may actually be referring to the sinful fear that is found in man that leads him into a snare. Since the latter part of the proverb speaks of putting our trust in the LORD, it seems reasonable to conclude that the first part of the verse is referring to the opposite. The snare referred to in this verse has more to do with the result of fear that exists in the heart of a man that is not putting his trust in the LORD.
When a person is not trusting the LORD, he is trusting something or someone else, like himself. When life gets difficult and things are not going as smoothly as one might like, fear grips the person’s emotions and decisions are made that are motivated by fear of man.
When the fear of man rules in our hearts, we can be assured that we will move to one extreme or another in our decision making. One extreme will be to seek to establish our own boundaries and to control our own lives and that of others as well, since we are not satisfied with God’s boundaries and His control. If we were truly putting our trust in the LORD, we would not see the need to implement laws beyond His. We would not see the need to manipulate situations or circumstances to establish our own way. We would be content with following His word and trusting Him for the outcome that pleases Him.
Another extreme is in the opposite direction, but the root is the same. Because of fear of man, some relax God’s law and His truth in hopes of not losing what one hopes to be able to have or gain. Fearing the possibilities of negative outcomes, often there is the loosening of moral standards, an increase in tolerating worldliness, or an increased openness to false teaching.
In neither of these extremes is the fear of God the motivating factor in decision-making. The fear of man has been enthroned in one’s life and the result is disastrous – a snare! This fear leads one to a joyless and burdensome life. There is no liberty to serve the Lord. There is no freedom to make choices that are right before God. Only if one concludes that the consequences will not be too harsh will he choose to follow the Lord in righteousness.
When you are motivated in your life primarily by seeking to control people, attitudes, or situations in life by the choices that you make, fear will bring a snare! You will not be free to live as God intended, for His glory, regardless of what others may or may not think or say.
If you are putting your trust in the living God, then you will live above the snares of fear. You will not fear what man will do to you. You will not fear the loss of position, prestige, pals or possession. You will not fear failure. You will take the next step in your life with full confidence that obedience to the LORD is the most important concern. If He is pleased with your choices, then you can be satisfied and fearless of whatever else may or may not happen.
The fact is, as we live our lives with an ultimate love for God, then we will fear Him above all else and our lives will show it. We will make choices that will not be liked by all. We will not be living to satisfy the opinions of others, and therefore will have the liberty to actually live to the glory of God.
The possible loss of our children to the world is not going to be a fear that will control our family decisions. We will put our trust in the LORD and train them up in His fear, resting in Him for the outcome. Should they choose to rebel against us as Israel rebelled against God, who was a Father to them, then so be it. We will not allow such possibility to keep us in fear, moving us to make decisions that are seeking to do what God alone can do. We will put our trust in Him.
If we are putting our trust in the Lord, rather than being controlled by the fear of man, then we will enjoy freedom from trying to impress a boss in order to save our job or to get ahead. We will not have to make bad financial decisions to secure what we fear we might lose. Simply put, we will not be seeking to control the details of life in order to get a desired end. We will make decisions according to the light of God’s word, all the while putting our trust in Him.
Can you feel the freedom already? Fear of man is such a restricting and controlling emotion. It does not bring honor to the living God. Charles Bridges quotes a Mr. Scott in his commentary on Proverbs, “It is (often at least) the last victory the Christian gains. He will master, by that grace which is given of God, his own lusts and passions, and all manner of inward and outward temptations. He will be dead to the pleasures of the world, long before he has mastered this fear of man.” And then, Mr. Bridges concludes, “Oh! For a free deliverance from this principle of bondage; scarcely however to be expected, till we have been made to feel its power!”
Have you felt the power of the fear of man as you have considered this sin? Has it gripped your life? Put your trust in the LORD and you will be safe, lifted above this awful snare. Walk steadfastly in the liberty, wherewith Christ has made us free!
Kyle White, Pastor