The Morality of Fear (Just A Minute #119)

Andy Bonikowsky
Written by Andy Bonikowsky

Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.'" (Job 28:28)

We often think of fear as merely an emotion or a state of anxiety brought on by some dangerous or potentially harmful situation we face. The word itself may stir up frightful memories of the past, and the terror, panic, or paralysis associated with them will be quite unpleasant to recall. If we are prone to struggle with fear, the mental anguish might be a daily and dreaded battle.

In this passage Job has been exploring the source and value of wisdom. He admits that no miner’s pick has ever touched it below the earth’s surface nor has any falcon’s eye seen it from above. Its worth, he says, is more than the rarest jewels or minerals.

However, perhaps the greatest surprise comes at the end of Job’s eloquent essay, when he concludes that the priceless virtue of wisdom is closely related to fear.

Fear?! Isn't this an ugly enemy that should be expelled from our minds whenever possible?

Not according to God.

True, what we need is a special brand of fear. It is the fear of God.

Maybe it will be easier to understand if we step back and look at fear from a moral standpoint. Notice the parallel statement in the verse: "and to depart from evil is understanding." These words bring fear into the realm of spiritual reality and choices.

Indeed, fearful situations are really spiritual ones. They are not merely physical or mental circumstances. Notice how a few questions easily make the connection.

Why am I terrified . . . if God is in control? Why am I scared . . . if Jehovah is my Shepherd? Why do I fear about what is around the corner . . . if my trust is in the Lord?

Fear is a revealer of priorities. It shows me who or what is at the top of my trust list.

Godly wisdom is fearing only the highest authority, the One over heaven and earth.

When in a scary place, the wise Christian will think spiritually and morally. The truth that has nourished his mind will take over and by faith he will look for God's perspective. His earthly fear may not disappear but it will definitely fade some. He will identify the pressure to panic as what it actually is, a temptation to unbelief. His higher fear of God will show itself in courage (not foolish risk-taking) that resists evil, and even danger, and then refuses to cower before it.

Yes, he fears. He fears the Lord.

What are you afraid of today? Have you been trying to block it out of your mind? Are you doing your best not to think about it? Here is a wiser and more Biblical procedure. Look that fear square in the face and corner it with the moral accusation of unbelief. Then present the matter to the Lord in prayer and ask Him for grace to know what the right response is.

Don't run from your fears. With God's help turn them into wisdom.

Dear Father, You have revealed to me the wisdom of fearing You alone and the utter foolishness of fearing anything or anyone else. Please give me a heart and mind to obey. Amen.