(A series of short reflections on Christianity.)
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. - Timothy 1:7
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil - Psalm 23:4
What does it mean to say that you are God-fearing?
On the surface it really means just that, you fear God’s judgement and you are humbled before Him. If you ask ChatGPT you get something similar:
Being “God-fearing” typically refers to a person’s strong reverence, respect, and awe for a higher power or deity, often rooted in religious beliefs. It signifies a deep sense of humility and obedience before the divine, along with a sincere desire to live in accordance with the moral and ethical principles set forth by one’s religious faith.
Certainly humility and reverence are virtues worthy of expressing, but an air of meekness and subjugation is left unchecked.
Now if we take God to mean that which is highest and truest, then fearing God just means that your sense of fear is appropriately oriented. Why must fear be appropriately oriented? Because fear (and love) are what paralyze or motivate you, therefore fear can drive action. Fear in the moral sense awakens in us when we feel that we are not living up to our ideals. In this sense, fear becomes a guide for proper action in the world. For proper action we therefore need properly oriented fear.
Turn to Mark 12:17, “[g]ive to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” and replace Caesar with Pharaoh (the archetypal tyrant) and you have the other side of “fear of God”. The assertion in question is in fact equipping you to face tyranny, injustice, and evil in all its forms by fearing God above all else. To embody these forms we use the Pharaoh but the pattern of tyranny exists from the societal to the individual level. Who is better suited then to face the tyrant than the man who fears God’s judgement above the Pharaoh’s? You can also see that a not fearing the Pharaoh is not sufficient as this would lead to insubordination without reverence or direction towards the Good (aka you become the Pharaoh) and without the guiding principle to identify the true Pharaohs.
Now the fear of God fosters properly oriented meekness as well as courage; a cross and a shield.