“Your Word Is Truth”
How Do We Show We Fear God?
“BE IN fear of God.” This is what the apostle Peter counsels Christians. (1 Pet. 2:17) Just what is this fear of God? Why should we fear God, and how do we show it? By our knowing the answers to these questions we can conduct ourselves in a way that will please our Creator, Jehovah God.
Some persons have been taught that God will torture persons in a fiery hell after death. To them, the possibility that God might consign them to this dreadful place is the reason why they fear God. However, the Holy Bible does not teach such a God-dishonoring idea, so it could never serve as the basis for godly fear. (Jer. 19:5; Rom. 6:7, 23; Ezek. 18:4) Nor should we fear Jehovah God solely because he has the power to punish wrongdoing. Godly fear is based on faith in God. It is closely tied in with love and trust. It is a healthy fear that benefits the individual.
We can liken such healthy fear of God to that of a young child toward his kind, loving but firm father. This child is confident in his father’s justice, and he senses his father’s warm, loving interest in his welfare. He is also aware of what his father requires of him and he knows that his father will discipline him if he misbehaves. He does not live in morbid fear of his father’s ability to punish him but abides in a climate of comparative freedom, aware of the limitations imposed on him. Such limitations may be: not playing in the street but in the backyard; not playing with matches but with his toys. The healthy fear that a child has actually benefits him, for it serves as a protection, keeping him out of danger.
This helps us to appreciate why we should fear Jehovah God. Turning to Proverbs 8:13, we read: “The fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad.” Yes, by hating bad, we carefully avoid engaging in any works against which Almighty God warns us in his Word the Bible.
This is an evidence of wisdom on our part. As the Bible declares, at Psalm 111:10: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom.” This is because a person who fears Jehovah will endeavor to use the knowledge he has acquired in a right manner. Yes, his fear will act as a guide and move him to act wisely. It will help him to make wise decisions on matters involving his life and his relationship with his Creator.
However, it is quite evident that the majority of persons in this system of things do not fear Jehovah God. They flagrantly practice what his laws condemn. And what has this produced? The ever-worsening moral breakdown, the relentless rise in crime and the shocking reports of violence by persons who profess to be Christian fearers of God! The hearts of many in this world have “become fully set in them to do bad.” They forget Jehovah’s warning that “although a sinner may be doing bad a hundred times and continuing a long time as he pleases, yet . . . it will not turn out well at all with the wicked one, neither will he prolong his days that are like a shadow, because he is not in fear of God.” Destruction will eventually overtake such ones.—Eccl. 8:11-13; Titus 1:16.
True Christians, who really fear Jehovah, appreciate that his laws are for their welfare. He did not make them just to strike fear into men’s hearts. These laws act as a hedge, confining man in an area of comparative safety and freedom. The sanctions for violating them are for man’s own good, for they help keep him in this safe place. Thus the true Christian’s fear of disobeying God acts as a safeguard from spiritual and even physical danger.
We noted that love is closely tied in with the fear of God. How is this so? Remember the child who is aware of his father’s authority but who also loves his father dearly. Will he not endeavor to do that which would make his father happy? So with true Christians. They love Jehovah God, their heavenly Father, and have so much for which to be thankful to him. They would not want to do anything that would displease him or hurt his good name. So they always seek to be a cause of happiness and joy to him.—Prov. 23:15; 27:11.
And when it comes to attempts by men to cause them to do that which would displease God, they remember Jesus’ words at Matthew 10:28: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him [God] that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” No matter what type of pressure is brought against them, they know that their prospect for eternal life lies in God’s hands. Their keen awareness of God’s power over life and their faith in his promise of a resurrection enable them to have the courage to overcome fear of man.—Heb. 13:6.
All this presents us with a fine way to see how we show our fear of God. Some may deceive themselves into thinking that they do fear God, but fear of man may dominate them in many subtle ways. Ask yourself, “If I know something is right, do I hold back from doing it because of fear that my neighbors might not approve?” A person may not engage in violence or immorality, but if he holds back from doing good because he is afraid of what his neighbors might think, he is not really showing that he fears God. If God wants us to do something, it must be right and that should move us to do it no matter what others might think.—Prov. 29:25.
Fear of man often strongly asserts itself in matters of religion. Suppose you found clear evidence that the religious organization in which your parents reared you was not teaching God’s truth but that another group of people were really practicing the true religion. Would you have the courage to identify yourself with the true religion? Do you really fear God? Yes, would you do this even though you might have to face opposition from your relatives or friends? Persons who fear God have done it, and Jehovah God has blessed them richly for their courageous action.
Think, too, of that rich young man who wanted to follow Jesus but who was afraid to do so because it meant changing his economic condition. (Matt. 19:16-22) If necessary, would you be willing to make material sacrifices to serve Jehovah God? It takes faith to do this, faith coupled with a fear of God.
Only by studying the Bible, God’s Word, can you develop the needed faith. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to do this vital thing? Accept the six-month home Bible-study course offered without charge by Jehovah’s witnesses. If you do, you will put yourself in position to be richly blessed by God.—Ps. 147:11.