Fear of the Lord
BY KAREN EHMAN
For most of my life, I’ve tended to be a people pleaser. I know that I’m not alone. From the school playground to the corner office, many of us struggle with living life based upon the opinions and expectations of others.
However, one day I realized something eye-opening: It wasn’t that I just liked to please people, but I was actually afraid of them. Maybe not afraid that they were going to do something to harm me physically but afraid of what they might think of me. Or afraid of what they might say about me to others. Or afraid of looking incompetent in their eyes. Or afraid of disappointing them or making them ticked off at me. However, if we’re gripped with fear of what others might think of us, we’re placing the unhealthy fear of humans over the proper fear — meaning holy reverence — of God.
Proverbs 29:25 warns, “The fear of mankind is a snare, but the one who trusts in the LORD is protected.” You might know the definition of the word snare in English. It means “a trap,” much like one set to catch an animal. But the word snare, as it’s used in this portion of Scripture, carries a meaning that goes far beyond critter catching.
In Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament, the word translated in English as snare is the word moqesh. Moqesh does refer to a trapping device for prey, but it also conveys the concept of bait or a lure. It indicates an animal, object, or person that is enticing, causing another animal or human to stop what they’re doing and insert themselves into a dangerous situation because of the prize set before them. The next thing you know, they’re hooked. Caught. Held captive. And it isn’t a one-time catch. This alluring bait continually entices, reels in, and then drags its victim away.
Have you ever been enticed to say something you didn’t really mean? You know, give your coworker an untrue compliment or rave about your neighbor’s new ginormous garden statue that you don’t really care for but that you know he’s obsessed with? Are you tempted to say yes to requests when you’d much rather say no just because it’s easier than facing the uncomfortableness of turning down the asker? Have you been in the situation where everybody present is gushing over something you don’t find oh-so remarkable, but you chime in and claim it is anyway? Is there a relationship in your life where your heartstrings are constantly tugged and you never want to upset this person because so much of their life is filled with sadness and you aren’t interested in adding more disappointment? And perhaps, worst of all, is there someone with whom you have a dysfunctional relationship, and you dread ever making them upset, so you constantly take the bait and give in, just to please this person? (I’m not speaking of situations of danger and abuse. If that applies to you, please seek help immediately.)
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you, my friend, have been caught in a moqesh. And sadly, but truthfully, in many of the instances, we don’t merely fear what other people might think — or even fear we may hurt their feelings — we actually fear them more than we fear God.
Second Timothy 1:7 reads, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” Let’s tap into this spirit of courage, harnessing its power, truly loving people by being honest with them, and disciplining our minds to choose the fear of the Lord over the fear of others’ opinions. We need not let timidity reign. We can walk upright and with integrity, knowing that the fear of the Lord leads to wisdom and grants us knowledge.
We must be careful how we live our lives. Our lives are made up of our actions. Our actions result from our thoughts. Our thoughts are formed when we respond to others’ behavior. And our responses must be in line with God’s Word, carried out with confidence not timidity.
It’s time we started living God’s agenda for our lives rather than letting others call the shots. •
Karen Ehman is a New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including Settle My Soul. She speaks for Proverbs 31 Ministries and is the mom of five — three by birth and two bonus children-in-law. Married to her college sweetheart, Karen resides in rural central Michigan.