“Trembling at Men Is What Lays a Snare”
JOHN and Helen followed with interest the information presented by the Witness talking at their door on a Sunday morning. They were thrilled to read these words of Revelation 21:4 from their own Bible: “He [Jehovah God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” Being peace-loving persons themselves, they wanted to know how they could enjoy living under such wonderful conditions. A Bible study was immediately arranged.
During the three succeeding Wednesday nights, it was a delight to see the young couple asking and answering questions as a Bible study was conducted in their home. Alas, this happiness lasted just three weeks! The fourth week, their door did not open to the knock of the Witness. John and Helen had decided to stop their Bible study. Why? Was it because they had lost faith in the power of God? Had they started doubting the Bible’s authenticity and truthfulness? Were they no longer interested in living under better conditions? No. These were not the reasons. They stopped their study because of trembling at men. Yes, they were ensnared by fear. Many centuries ago, the inspired wise man warned against that fear, saying: “Trembling at men is what lays a snare.”—Prov. 29:25.
True, all of us have a natural desire to be liked by others, to be spoken well of by our neighbors, friends and acquaintances. However, for us to let the standards of others influence the most important decisions in our life is very dangerous. If a person feels that he must live up to the expectations and standards of his community in all respects, he will become a slave to conformity. And a strong desire to gain the approval of others can be a real obstacle to a person’s taking positive steps in becoming a servant of God.
Many people today do not love, respect or fear God. They either have no desire to learn about him, or they question that he even exists. Therefore, because of showing interest in the Bible, a person may become an object of ridicule and lose esteem in the eyes of others. Obviously, in the face of such pressure, fear of man would make it very difficult for a person to continue making spiritual progress.
The serious consequences of giving in to the fear of man are well illustrated in the case of King Saul of ancient Israel. When the prophet Samuel confronted him about his failure to carry out divine instructions in a campaign against the Amalekites, Saul admitted: “I feared the people and so obeyed their voice.” What resulted from this course? He was told: “You have rejected the word of Jehovah, and Jehovah rejects you from continuing as king over Israel.”—1 Sam. 15:24, 26.
If we do not want to be rejected by the Almighty, it is vital that we strive to be more concerned about our standing with him than with men. The Bible says: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom.” (Ps. 111:10) Such a fear is wholesome and stems from a heartfelt desire not to displease the Most High. It is comparable to the attitude of an obedient son toward a loving father. The son does not want to do anything that might make his father unhappy or that might bring reproach on his good name. Rightly, then, fear of God includes hating what he hates, and loving what he loves.—Prov. 8:13.
To have a proper fear of God, a person needs to keep in mind that no human can give him everlasting life and care for him at all times and under all conditions. The inspired psalmist put this matter in the right perspective when he wrote: “Do not be afraid because some man gains riches, because the glory of his house increases, for at his death he cannot take along anything at all; his glory will not go down along with him himself.” (Ps. 49:16, 17) “Those who are trusting in their means of maintenance, and who keep boasting about the abundance of their riches, not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” (Ps. 49:6, 7) The Supreme Sovereign, however, can sustain a person through very trying circumstances and even provide escape from death. (Ps. 49:15) In fact, God gives us this assurance: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.”—Heb. 13:5.
Even if men were to kill us, they could not prevent our being raised from the dead. They cannot take away our title or right to be living persons. Only the Almighty God can do that. For this reason, Jesus Christ said to his disciples: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”—Matt. 10:28.
Surely, then, we have even less reason to fear the reproaches or ridicule of mortal humans. Jehovah’s word through Isaiah provides strong encouragement to this end. We read: “Listen to me, you the ones knowing righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law. Do not be afraid of the reproach of mortal men, and do not be struck with terror just because of their abusive words. For the moth will eat them up just as if a garment, and the clothes moth will eat them up just as if wool.”—Isa. 51:7, 8.
When we consider the greatness of the Creator and contrast this with man’s littleness, we are aided to break free from the fear of men. In the eyes of Jehovah God, all the nations are but a tiny drop of water in a bucket or a thin film of dust on the scales. (Isa. 40:11-15) How unreasonable it would be to fear a minute particle of water or of dust more than the Maker of the awesome universe!
We can also draw encouragement from the fact that others have successfully resisted succumbing to the fear of man. The Christian apostle Peter reminded fellow believers that “the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world.” (1 Pet. 5:9) Yes, we are not alone in standing firm for Jehovah God in the face of pressure from men.
It would indeed be a great folly to tremble at men, to try to please men while displeasing the Almighty Creator. Because John and Helen did not trust in Jehovah, they lost their happiness. We hope that one day before the coming “great tribulation” they and others like them will gain strong confidence in the Most High and express themselves like the psalmist, who said: “Jehovah is my light and my salvation. Of whom shall I be in fear? Jehovah is the stronghold of my life. Of whom shall I be in dread?”—Ps. 27:1.
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Will ridicule stop this study of the Bible?