Fear is both an interesting word and emotion. As a word, fear can refer either to reverence in a good sense or to terror in a bad sense. As an emotion, fear can either be positive or negative, liberating or enslaving. Proverbs 1:7 positively states that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. . .” while Proverbs 29:25 declares negatively that “The fear of man bringeth a snare. . .” In the former case, a reverential fear is meant; in the latter case a trembling fear or terror is suggested. Obviously, these passages refer to different kinds of fear.

A reverential fear toward the Lord is positive in every way. Good things are said about those who fear the LORD. They both hate evil and depart from evil by the fear of the LORD (Prov. 8:13; 16:6). The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10), prolongs days (Prov. 10:27), and is a strong confidence as well as a fountain of life (Prov. 14:26, 27). It leads to riches, honor, and life (Prov. 22:4). Nothing negative or harmful results from the fear of the Lord.

A trembling fear or terror of man, however, is always negative. Nothing but torment ever comes from this kind of fear (1 John 4:18). Bullies and terrorists use fear as a weapon to torment and control people. The reason this tactic works is that people fear man instead of God. Goliath terrorized every man in Israel’s army with his size, threats, and challenges (1 Sam. 17:11), except a young lad named David who was not afraid of the giant because he feared the LORD. All forms of evil are prevailing in our day in this great country because people fear men more than they fear God. If this trend continues, we will be held hostage by both international and domestic bullies and terrorists. The fear of man indeed is a snare which entraps and enslaves men to those who create their terror.

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