Fear of man and fear of God


Have you ever found yourself distracted by other people’s opinions of you, afraid of their disapproval? Recently I found myself dealing with some dealing with some anxiety over a situation and began to suspect that fear of man was the root of it. In my search to understand the topic, I learned that this fear can mean to be afraid or intimidated, but it can also mean to revere or respect. Scripture gives us some markers we can use to know whether we fear God or fear man:

Markers that indicate agreement with fear of man/lack of fearing God:

  1. Decisions motivated by the approval of people. What we fear reveals who we love and whose approval matters most to us. In an article entitled, Lay aside the fear of man|Desiring God, {9.16.16} author Jon Bloom explains it this way: “The person(s) to whom we ascribe most authority — to define who we are, what we’re worth, what we should do, and how we should do it — is the person(s) we fear the most, because it is the person(s) whose approval we want most. God designed us this way, for it reveals who and what our heart loves.” See also 1 Samuel 15:24
  2. Taking Flight when the heat is on can also indicate when fear of man is present. Examples of this would be when Elijah (normally a man of great courage) ran from Queen Jezebel (1 Ki 19:1-3) or when the Israelite army ran from Goliath. (1 Samuel 17:23-24)
  3. Passivity when doing the right thing would require action.
  4. Mistreating others, exploiting their weaknesses/handicaps (Lev. 19:14), taking advantage of others because you can, (Lev. 25:15) treating subordinates ruthlessly (Lev. 25:43) or withholding kindness from a friend in distress (Job 6:14).
  5. Tolerating controlling behavior in our relationships
    • Allowing others who do not have God-given authority in your life to act as if they do (posturing authority) (1 Sam. 15:24)
    • Allowing someone who does hold a legitimate position of authority in your life to over-step. When this is the case, there is a breakdown of mutual respect and healthy boundaries.  In Esther 3:5 we see Haman attempting to control Mordecai, (demanding that he bow down to Haman) but Mordecai refused because he feared God rather than man.

Markers of agreement with the Fear of God:

  1. Decisions are motivated by approval from God rather than people. Examples would be the midwives who refused to obey the King’s command to kill the newborn Israelite babies (Exodus 1:17-21)and Queen Esther going before the King in order to save her people at the risk of her own life. (Esther 4:15-16)
  2. Finding refuge in God (Psalm 31:19-20; 55:19;61:5) The reality that everyone needs refuge at times seems to be assumed in scripture. Not only do these individuals recognize their need for a refuge, but they tended to verbally express their need to God.
  3. Obeying God’s commands, even in the face of danger. (Eccl. 12:13-14, Job 1:9)
  4. Hating evil (Job 1:9)
  5. Idols in your life have been cast down (2 Kings 17:33-37)
  6. Treating others with justice and honor (Lev. 25:17; 19:14;25:35)

How to come out of agreement with Fear of man:

  1. Repent if you have allowed the fear of others’ reactions keep you from obeying God.
  2. Forgive those who have intimidated, threatened or harmed you.
  3. When you need courage to face your fears, tell God how you feel. Ask Him for the courage you need.
  4. Do the right thing even if you’re afraid of how others will react. Even if you have to do it shaking in fear, press through. Fear of man weakens its’ hold on us each time we confront our fears.
  5.  Seek out Bible verses that build your faith and courage.

Scriptures for overcoming fear of man:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety.” Proverbs 29:25

“…when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4

“I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.” Luke 12:4

“So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

““I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass,…” Isaiah 51:12

“Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” Isaiah 2:22

“Nevertheless, many of the leaders believed in Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue, for they loved praise from men more than praise from God…” John 12:42-43