Summary: A brief study on what it means to fear man. We need to realize either we fear God or we fear Man.
The Fear of Man
Isaiah 8:12b-13 (NASB) "...you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.
Chris Tomlin has written a great contemporary Christian song, entitled "Whom shall I Fear?" I would propose to you today that everyone of us fears someone. The question I have is who DO you fear? But before we answer that question, we need to have an understanding of what fear is. Martin Luther struggled with that question, and came up with two distinctive fears. The first, he called a servile fear; the second, a filial fear. The servile fear is the kind of fear that a slave would have at the hands of a malicious master who would come with the whip and torment the slave. Servile refers to a posture of servitude toward an owner. The Encarta Dictionary defines "servile" as "being too willing to agree with somebody or to do anything, however demeaning, that somebody wants." Filial fear refers to the fear that a child has for his father. In this regard, Luther had in mind a child who has tremendous respect and love for his father or mother and who dearly wants to please them. He has a fear or an anxiety of offending the one he loves, not because he’s afraid of torture or even of punishment, but rather because he’s afraid of displeasing the one who is, in that child’s world, the source of security and love. Fear is a controlling factor in your Christian life. I would submit that you either are being controlled by a servile love, referred to in Scripture as the fear of man, or by a filial fear known as the fear of God. Simply put, either you are fearing God or you are fearing man, which may include your own self. Someone has said, "we are afraid of others because we love ourselves too much." I would like to examine three reasons why we become guilty of having a servile fear of God rather than a filial fear of God.
Three Reasons why we fear man...
We are afraid of what others may "think" of us.
Many people are very insecure, wanting to be accepted and liked. Insecurity has been defined as the condition that results from placing confidence in people or things that can be taken away.
A man goes up to a group of other men who are gossiping and also speaking inappropriately about certain women in their office. Perhaps he knows that their disparaging comments about the boss are unfair or even untrue. He knows too that speaking of the women in the office using crude sexual imagery and lustful references is wrong. But, because he has walked up to this group and wants to “fit in” he joins the conversation and contributes to what he knows is wrong. He laughs at off color jokes and makes no attempt to steer the conversation in more appropriate directions. He does this because he fears rejection and is more anxious as to what his co-workers think of him than what God thinks. He fears man more than God. That God is displeased with his actions is less of a fear and grief than that any of these men should be displeased.
Some people can't open their mouths to share the gospel with others because they are choked by fear of what that person might think about them.
Some Christian parents don't discipline their children properly because they are desperate for their children's approval.
Some in seeking people's approval lower their standards in order to be acceptable to them or so as not to seem to be odd or have others think they are religious fanatics.
Saul when confronted by Samuel in 1 Samuel 15 is asked in verse 19, "Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?” answers in verse 24, "...I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice."
Some seek approval by being productive and being active in religious/church activities in order to have people not think wrongly of them. They serve but serve for the wrong reasons and with the wrong motivation.
Matthew 23:5-7 "But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’" (NIV - Everything they do is done for people to see...)