Fear Has Its Place
FEAR can be both beneficial and harmful. An unhealthy fear may give rise to digestive troubles, blood-pressure problems and other serious bodily malfunctions. It can, in fact, be death-dealing. Says the Illustrated Medical and Health Encyclopedia: “In all life there is nothing so destructive to happiness and longevity as fear.” A wholesome fear, on the other hand, can be life-preserving, restraining a person from dangerous, foolhardy action.
Yes, like other strong emotions, fear has its place. But just what is that place? What makes fear good or bad? The Bible is most helpful in determining the answers.
“The fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom,” says Proverbs 9:10. As to the manner in which this proper fear is expressed, the Bible tells us: “The fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad.” (Prov. 8:13) This hatred is based, not on human standards of what is bad, but on God’s standards, contained in his Word.
The “fear of Jehovah” is therefore a wholesome, beneficial fear. As the Creator, Jehovah God knows what is in the best interests of humankind. Since he is a God of love, he has outlined moral standards that promote the highest good for those who follow them. The famous English jurist Blackstone acknowledged that fact, saying: ‘God has so intimately connected, so inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual that happiness cannot be attained but by observing God’s law; and, if God’s law be punctually obeyed, it cannot but induce happiness.’ A wholesome fear of God is indeed the start of wisdom in that it prompts one to act in a way that contributes to the enjoyment of a meaningful and happy life. Consider:
Servants of God are admonished: “The time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches.” (1 Pet. 4:3) Real benefits come to those who heed these words because they have a wholesome fear of God.
They avoid the shame, injury and heartache that result from excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages. In the United States alone alcohol abuse is implicated each year in a million serious traffic accidents, one fourth of all the suicides and half of all murders. Many thousands die each year from ailments caused or aggravated by excessive drinking. Alcohol abuse is responsible for shortening the life-span of individuals by about twelve years, on the average. So in avoiding alcohol abuse, the fearer of Jehovah God may actually be adding years to his life.
Regarding morality, the Bible counsels: “Abstain from fornication; . . . each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in covetous sexual appetite such as also those nations have which do not know God; that no one go to the point of harming and encroach upon the rights of his brother in this matter.”—1 Thess. 4:3-6.
How different things would be in the world if more people would have a wholesome fear of God in this area of life! Think of the mental and emotional pain that could be avoided. Cases of venereal disease, unwanted pregnancies, abortions and broken homes would certainly be less frequent than they are today. Even those who condone marital unfaithfulness are forced to acknowledge that serious problems can result therefrom. A leading science-news reporter in the United States wrote: “If you do opt for extramarital activity, remember to be very cautious about any decision to tell your spouse. Regardless of how sophisticated you think your marital partner may be, regardless of the number of times you have discussed the problem in the abstract and have said that it wouldn’t matter, most experts agree that in almost all cases it does matter.”
Another benefit for the person who fears Jehovah God is that he preserves a clean conscience. He does not have to worry about the possibility that his conduct will be exposed, bring disgrace or give rise to other serious problems.
A proper fear of the Creator even eliminates what is generally viewed as the greatest unwholesome fear—a morbid fear of death, especially of a violent death. This fear of death has been a tool by which ruthless men have controlled many people. Succumbing to fear of torture or execution, many men and women have gone against their conscience and obeyed the orders of dictatorial superiors to commit horrible atrocities against their fellow humans.
This has not been the case with fearers of Jehovah God. They know that the present life is not all there is. Even though men may kill them, they do not doubt God’s promise of a resurrection. They, therefore, act in harmony with Jesus Christ’s words: “Do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more. But I will indicate to you whom to fear: Fear him who after killing has authority to throw into Gehenna,” that is, a symbolic place representing total annihilation. (Luke 12:4, 5; Matt. 10:28) Yes, not man, but God can destroy in Gehenna a person’s title to be a living being.
There is nothing uncertain about death in the case of those who truly fear God. The Bible says: “His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.” (Ps. 146:4) So death is simply a state of total inactivity and unconsciousness—a sleep from which an awakening is possible.
Accurate knowledge of the Bible is thus seen to have a part in liberating a person from many damaging fears. It is of interest that medical men acknowledge that the greatest fears are prompted by lack of knowledge. The Illustrated Medical and Health Encyclopedia says: “We do not fear what we can see or what we can understand nearly so much as we fear the things we do not see or that we cannot understand.”
For this reason study of the Holy Scriptures is needed to rid one’s mind of unwholesome fears, replacing these with a proper regard for the Creator. Hundreds of thousands have done this in recent years and rejoice in the fine results from a proper fear of the Creator. Are you among those persons? Would you like to be? Then take the time to find out how helpful the Bible can be to you.