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What Does the Fear of God Mean?

by | Apr 22, 2021 | Faith-Based Recovery | 0 comments

An individual’s motivation for power, especially for those in faith-based addiction treatment, is to acquire control over his environment. A certain amount of controlling behavior is a healthy, natural survival instinct, but after a point it becomes harmful. 

When that happens, normal survival is no longer the motivator. Underlying the quest for power is fear, and the desire for power is to eliminate fear. The more fearful a person is, the more control over their environment they believe they need to feel safe.

In her book, Freedom from Fear, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi said, “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”

Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Saddam Hussein were all raised by brutal parents who frequently beat them. Growing up, they lived in daily fear. All of them went on to become dictators, who maintained complete control over their people through the use of fear-inducing terror.

Is fear a good motivator?

It can be very effective at certain times in parenting. Rooms get cleaned, not out of a personal sense of ownership, but out of fear of consequences. 

When it comes to finances – on one hand, you save money for fun and a preferred future, but on the other hand, you save money for fear of not being able to provide for my family. 

Fear is important. 

It’s our internal alarm system, triggering fight or flight. Hairs stand up on our arms to alert us of danger, adrenaline pumps into our body to charge our system for a hard fight or a fast run from danger. Critical to our survival. Fear removes us from danger and helps us make our way to comfort.

So what about the fear of God?

Does God need to use fear to control us? Scripture uses the word fear in context with God over 300 times. 

Are we to be literally afraid, or is it used more in context to respect and reverence? 

The subject becomes even more mysterious when we read something like 1 John 4:18 that says that “perfect love expels all fear.” So how do we marry this dichotomy? How can we fear God while he expels all fear?

The answer lies in simplicity: in child-like faith.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14

God is your father; He said so. So it has to be true. 

If you’re a parent, do you want your children to fear me?

If they fear you, they won’t come to you. 

If they fear you, they will resent you. 

If they fear you, they will keep secrets from you.

If you feed fear, it gets hungrier. 

 For those that want to dig deeper, here are a few resources:

Psychology Today article about Fear vs. Power

Wharton School article discussing if fear motivates workers or makes things worse.