I want to be very clear in my answer to the question asked in the title of this post, “Is fear a sin?” I don’t know for sure, but my sense is that maybe it is and maybe it isn’t; it all depends.
I’ve never run the numbers myself, but I have heard from multiple sources that “fear not” appears in the Bible 365 times – one for each day of the year. The repeated instruction “fear not” is clearly something Christians need to hear and take seriously.
I read a article yesterday by Megan Briggs in which she reported “the Bible verse most shared, bookmarked, and highlighted on the YouVersion Bible app during 2020 is Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Through the years I have used that verse many times in funerals I have conducted and other difficult situations. It is a comforting and encouraging statement relevant to many situations we face in life.
But there are other passages in the Bible that instruct us to fear. Most readers probably are familiar with Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Not everyone will remember the book, chapter, and verse; but most readers will have heard Ecclesiastes 12:13 and 14: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”
Which is it? Are we to fear or are we not to fear? My answer is both. To fear God doesn’t mean we cower in fear of him, but rather to respect, honor, and worship him for who he is and what he has done and does. In Luke 12:4 and 5 Jesus tells us more: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”
Sometimes Christians overstate the maxim that faith overcomes fear. Faith certainly helps us face and deal with fear, but it doesn’t always melt our fears. Two definitions I read that make sense to me are “fear is threat of harm, real or imagined,” and “fear is one of the most basic human emotions,”
I’m pretty sure the reason the most popular Bible verse(s) of 2020 tell us “not to fear” or “fear not” is the Covid-19 pandemic. In the interest of transparency, I have been fearful at times of being infected. And I’ve also been fearful of what the outcome could be for me if I did become infected.
Here’s the point I want to make about this subject of fear: to not fear does not mean because we are Christians everything will always go well for us. Nor does to not fear mean we can be irresponsible, overly casual or reckless, take risks we don’t have to take, or think we are somehow not vulnerable to problems, illness, tragedies, pain, and many other things both unbelievers and believers fear.
Because of our deep and growing faith we should appropriately fear God and continue to trust him as we experience and deal with the many fears of which we may be vulnerable. And when we do realize we are fearful, we might remind ourselves that our Heavenly Father is a God of grace and forgiveness.
Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this post on Facebook.
photo credit: Quetzalcoalt0 Chilling under the table via photopin (license)
Bob, Thank you so much for this timely and appropriate lesson. It reaffirms what I have learned from your teaching and my reading of the Bible. I do believe it is right to have a healthy respect for the lord God. But in the case of COVID 19 to use the gifts of discernment and knowledge that he bestows upon us. While our souls are covered by the blood and covenant of Jesus our time here on earth is to be subject to a fallen world. We get sick and have troubles here but can rejoice that someday we will be free of a sinful world. Thank you again and may God bless you in this season of joy! Gil
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I needed to read this blog and I thank you and thank God for its timely dissemination. I found it interesting that so many people are turning to Isaiah 41:10 during this year of much uncertainty. I, too, have highlighted this in my Bible and shared it with many friends.
I appreciate what you shared about the two types of fear. I also appreciate your candor in sharing your own fears with regard to the possibility of being exposed to COVID19. I think many of us can relate this; I know that I can.
I do agree that a thoughtful, measured response is what is called for in facing this particular fear.
I most definitely will be sharing this post with many of my friends.
Thank you again for sharing what my heart needed to hear this morning.
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I think 1Peter5:7 puts it in perspective: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you “. We have to remember that God is in charge, there for he will do what is best for you. Herman
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