“You shall fear HaShem, Your God.” Deut.10:20
The command to fear God is one of the most fundamental in the Torah and is misunderstood by many. The naysayers posit that it seems to contradict the commandment to love God with all our heart, soul and strength. If that is the case then how can we be expected to fear Him? A definition is in order.
To Fear is to ascribe to something or someone the authority to exercise power over you. You may want to read that again!
There are two kinds of Fear according to the Scriptures: the commanded and the forbidden.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, Solomon wrote and repeated in various ways in all of the following verses: Prov. 1:7, 1:29, 2:7, 8:13, 9:10, 10:27, 14:26-27, 15:33, 16:6, 19:3, 22:4, 23:17. That’s quite a list! I think Solomon wanted us to get the point, don’t you?
To fear the Lord is to render Him the awe and respect that is rightly His; and the fruit of that is a healthy fear of offending Him or turning from His ways. This is the ‘commanded’ fear.
The forbidden fear is the fear of man; being overly concerned with what other people think of us. Teens call it ‘peer pressure’; adults call it ‘people pleasing;
psychologists call it ‘co-dependency’. Whatever you call it, it’s a trap.
Prov. 29:25 The fear of man is a trap but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.
Few things can get a firmer grip on the human heart than the fear of man. Simply put, the fear of man replaces God with other people. We are more concerned with what they think than what God thinks. It dictates our values and the yearnings of our hearts; it is a tyrant that inflates the opinions of others, real or imagined, compels us to spend ridiculous amounts of energy trying to establish ourselves as pitiful little gods in our narrow little world.
Furthermore, it’s a trap that comes in two varieties: the snare of the world and the snare of religion.
Seeking worldly popularity is easily recognized. The snare of religion is a bit more devious. Why? Because it focuses on outward observance – how you appear to others in your particular religious community – but ignores the inner person of the heart.
Put another way, fear of man in the religious sense consists of performing your rituals, praying your prayers, doing acts of kindness from one of two-fold motivations: to appear ‘holy’ before others and/or to check of the boxes, as it were, of ritual rather than focusing on developing a personal relationship with the Lord of Glory.
Do we really need the approval of those around us in order to feel valuable?
Do we really need the approval of those bound up in worldly pursuits?
Do we really need to be loved for our ability to flatter or to impress?
Do we really need our neighbor’s envy? Or our co-worker’s?
Has not God give us – graciously – ALL things we need for life and growth? Is it not HIS love for us far more satisfying than the accolades of mere mortals?
In Tune with Torah this week = how much does the fear of what other people think affect our decisions, values and attitudes? Is the Fear of the Lord alive and well in our souls?