Conntecting the Dots

Fear of God versus Fear of Man

In kids’ language, we call it peer pressure. In Christianese, we label it fear of man. Different terms that mean the same thing. It’s all about buckling in our behavior in order to achieve man’s approval or acceptance. What are some examples of falling into the fear of man?

  • A coworker pilfers office supplies for personal use but we refuse to speak up because, after all, we have to work with her and we want to make that as easy as possible.
  • A married girlfriend is getting emotionally involved with a guy she met online. We don’t say anything to her because “it’s none of our business.”
  • We refuse to practice hospitality because household organization isn’t our strong point. We’d rather not let anyone in for fear they’ll think less of us.

I’m sure you can think of other examples; the list is endless. But here’s one that tells the flipside, when the fear of God won over the fear of man. Do you remember when Pharaoh commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill all the Hebrew newborn males? (Exodus 1) He issued the edict because he viewed the Hebrews’ growing population as a threat to his power. He expected the midwives to obey him as dutiful slaves ought, but they refused. Why? Because they feared God more than they feared him.

Exodus 1:17 says, “But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders.” What enabled the women to respond this way? They understood God’s character. They knew He was a righteous God who valued human life, and they were not about to defy Him by killing babies. They also knew He was bigger than Pharaoh and could defend them if they chose to act in a way that honored Him above the earthly ruler.

I’ll bet they also knew Pharaoh could kill them for their disobedience. But that real danger wasn’t enough to deter them from honoring God first. They feared Him more than they feared the wrath of an angry king. ‘Way to go, girls!

How did God respond to them? “So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own” (vv. 20,21). Obviously God likes it when we choose to honor and trust Him.

Who do we fear more? Whose blessing do we value more? Whose approval means more? God’s or man’s – it’s our choice.

Can you think of more examples that demonstrate the fear of man in real life?

2 Responses to “Fear of God versus Fear of Man”

  1. Evelyn

    I definitely fall flat on this one. I think sometimes people equate sin with how much they see it affect others. A lot people refuse to acknowledge cheating, self-righteousness, etc as sin because it does not affect others. I think the term sin has been watered down to fit other people’s needs.

    • Grace

      Sorry for the delayed response. Learning to do life in a wheelchair while meeting book deadlines trumped everything else 🙂
      I totally agree with you–sin has been watered down to fit people’s needs. Perhaps to make them comfortable with whatever they’re doing even though their conscience says it’s not right. We humans are so in need of Jesus.


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