The Trap of the Fear of Man

Proverbs 29:25:  Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

  • Are you a people-pleaser?  Prone to say or do things just so that others will be pleased with you?
  • Do you struggle to say the word ‘no’ to people, because you don’t want them to be disappointed with you?  You’re afraid of what they might think?
  • Are you hesitant to confront or engage in deep conversation with someone who you love because you fear rejection or conflict?
  • When criticism comes your way, are you crushed?
  • When coming to a decision, do you second-guess yourself basically trying to find the answer that will please everyone?  (Good luck with that one btw.)
  • Do you tell small, white lies or exaggerate slightly so that you look better in front of another?

What we fear the most controls us.  So when you see the small spider, and you lose your mind, that small spider is controlling you.  Or the small mouse, and you go running for high ground on furniture as if it will attack you like a grizzly bear, yeah, that small mouse has controlled us.  And as irrational as those fears may be, they sure feel rational and justified in the moment.

If we fear man, then we allow man’s opinions or assumptions to control us.  So what they think is more important than what your Lord thinks.  We allow them to determine what we do, who we are, and how we live, instead of allowing God to determine what we do, who we are, and how we live. Fear of man can make God appear small, and your circumstances large.  It is impossible to live fearing God and someone else at the same time.  We can’t serve both of those masters.

In our culture, we have given another phrase to the ‘fear of man’ and that is ‘peer pressure.’  And peer pressure is not unique to children and teenagers.  We don’t leave it behind when we graduate high school.  It just becomes more subtle, and yet just as potentially dangerous.  Here are three different types of snares that we can get our hearts caught in if we are not careful.

The fear of man can lead to the snare of remaining quiet.

So when God gives us an opportunity to talk about Him, or to stand up for our faith in Christ, we shrink back, and remain quiet.  Or someone begins to gossip, and instead of shutting it down and saying this is not right, we are prone to silence.  And the root cause of that action in us is the fear of man.  We’re not speaking because we’re crippled by the questions of what will they think, will we face rejection, will we look silly, etc.

The fear of man can lead to the snare of following the crowd.

Jesus compared two roads.  One narrow that leads to life, and one broad that leads to destruction.  The fear of man can cause us to start following the crowd, which is on the wide road that leads to destruction.  So instead of fleeing temptation, we fall into it, because we think to ourselves, “Well, we don’t want to look like the odd guy or the one who will stand out.”  We justify our actions with the phrase, ‘well, everybody else is doing it.’

If you’re a parent, your children need to know that their parents are a safe place to land.  That when they have absolutely blown it by following the crowd, they can find grace and truth in the context of a safe and loving home.  That when they come home with a snare around their ankle, hurt, and bloodied from the trap’s teeth, they have a parent who will help them recover, be restored, and get lose from the trap.

The fear of man can lead to the snare of standing still as well.

It can cause us to not move or go when God calls us to move and go.  So when God is saying, you need to let go of that relationship, or habit, or routine, we find ourselves staying still, rather than moving and changing.  In the Old Testament, God called that action being ‘stiff-necked.’  We are tempted to stay still because the people around us will notice that we are moving and following the ways of God, rather than culture’s ways.  In those moments of hesitation and disobedience, we have found ourselves elevating the opinion of others, at the expense of elevating our Father in Heaven who has our best interests in mind, and whose heart for us is freedom, joy, and hope.

The beautiful truth of the Good News is that we are accepted, loved, forgiven, and saved through Jesus,simply because of His grace.  So no matter what rejection we face here on this earth, we know that we are accepted and loved unconditionally in Christ.  Knowing who we are in Jesus sets us free to serve and love Him no matter what the crowd thinks.

Fear of God and fear of man can’t coexist in the same heart, and yet one is the cure for the other.  The antidote to the fear of man, is the fear of God.  As our view of God increases, then our fear of man will decrease.  The fear of God has the spiritual power to overwhelm and overpower any other fear that may capture our hearts.  We want our children to be in awe of God, but not in awe of the opinions of those around them.  We want them to be in awe of how God views them and their identity in Christ, but not how others might view them.

It takes a continual fight for the control of our hearts.  What will rule our heart?  The fear of God, or the fear of man?

Paul Tripp said this in his book, Dangerous Calling, “Wise, stable, and fear free living doesn’t require you to deny what you’re facing, but rather looks at whatever you are facing from the perspective of a gloriously freeing and motivating fear of the One who rules all the things that you would otherwise be afraid of.  A functional awe of God really is the key to your heart not being ruled by fear.”