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Week 28: October 30 - November 29

Fear of Man

Proverbs 29:25

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

The information and all quotes in this devotional comes from the book: “When People are Big and God is Small” by Edward T Welch. This is a helpful resource that will benefit all who struggle with fearing others. 

  • Do you get embarrassed easily?
  • Do you need approval?
  • Do you struggle with saying no?
  • Do you struggle with peer pressure
  • Are you a people pleaser?
  • Do you ever fear being exposed?
  • Do you second guess decisions because of what others may think?
  • Do you lie to cover up a mistake or to make yourself look better?
  • Do you avoid people?
  • When you compare yourself with others, do you feel good about yourself?
  • Are you afraid to share the gospel with others?

If you answered, “yes” to any of these questions, it reveals the deep and universal issue of the “Fear of Man.” We all struggle with this. It is easily seen in the timid, quiet, easily embarrassed teenager who would rather do anything other than mingle with peers. As we grow older it is harder to discern. The person who is so overcommitted because they can’t say no and disappoint others is a slave to the fear of man. The loud, domineering, and often mean personalities use their social force to control situations out of fear of others. The person who acts like a chameleon, and changes to suit whoever they are with, also suffers from the debilitating fear of man. All of these spring from the same well: the fear of man. 

In his book Ed Welch shows us that fear of man “includes being afraid of someone, but it extends to holding someone in awe, being controlled or mastered by people, worshipping people, putting your trust in people, or needing people.” He so bluntly points out “who or what you need will control you.” This problem affects us in one way or another.

Welch points out that the source of this issue is our indwelling sin. The story of Adam and Eve shows us the exact moment shame and fear entered humanity. These excerpts from book perfectly describe our condition: 

The eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked. (Genesis 3:7)

“The eyes of the other person became piercing lights, seeing body and soul, seeing the ugliness of sin.”

“This is the debut of fear of other people. Shame-consciousness.”

“Adam and Eve hid, and we are still hiding today.”

“What was once a blessing - knowing and being known- was now a curse.”

“At the moment of Adam’s sin, shame - that is, “what will they think of me?” and “What will God think of me?” – became a cornerstone of human experience.” 

This is a universal problem. It is a human problem. It is a spiritual problem. As we often do, we resort to earthly solutions to tackle spiritual realities. Our culture and to a degree our Christian community has tried to answer this problem by giving self-esteem to others. This is seen in school curriculum, cartoons, advertising, and in participation trophies. We have a culture of “everybody’s a winner” without really having to do anything to achieve a reward or trophy. All of these things are trying to give someone self worth or self-esteem and trying to answer this internal shame we feel from sin. Welch points out “you can’t simply confer self-esteem upon another person. To assume that other people can control or view of ourselves is what creates low self-esteem in the first place.” We can’t solve this by simply telling people they are good enough, smart enough, and that people like them.

We have to ask the Bible how to solve this problem, not pop psychology or current culture. The Bible doesn’t tell us we are good. The Bible tells us we have a sin problem and we are “enemies of God” (Romans 5:10). We were “dead” in our transgressions (Ephesians 2:1). So what changes us? The Gospel. The first step is actual change through salvation. We are counted righteous and no longer need to live in the fear of punishment for sin. “In Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, through faith he has covered you with righteous robes. He has removed your shame.”

We need to lead our families in understanding the root of insecurity and how to see it in our lives. Salvation and the change in the gospel are the answer. We still live in the flesh and will always want to seek our approval in others. The next step is to learn the fear of the Lord (see next Reach Guide). As we grow to know God more he will become bigger and others will become smaller.

Pray Together

  1. Pray that God helps us see the insecurity in our lives and start the process to root it out.
  2. Pray that God will create an opportunity for a Gospel conversation this week.
  3. Pray that God will develop in you a heart of prayer and dependence on Him.

Further Reading 

When People Are Big and God Is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man. Welch, Edward T.  Phillipsburg, NJ, P &Amp; R Pub., 1997.

Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest. Welch, Edward T.  Greensboro, NC, New Growth Press, 2007.

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