Fear is a powerful motivator that we don’t always recognize. How many of our choices are fueled by what we fear? We fear rejection so we do whatever is necessary to try and fit in. We fear to be vulnerable and unsafe, so we curry favor with the strong or bargain with our foe. We fear to be insignificant, ignored, and unvalued so we puff ourselves up to be noticed. We fear being hurt so we create buffers and space in hopes that they can’t reach us. What we say, what we do, the clothes we wear, even the foods we choose can be motivated by fear. Sometimes we recognize our fears but usually, they are hiding in the shadows of our thoughts.
The book of Proverb is filled with phrases that teach a lesson or provide a warning. One such proverb reads, “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.” (Proverbs 29:25, NLT) Fear and trust, trap and safety. Most of our relationships, even our brief encounters, have some framework of fear and/or trust. We trust the checkout person to give us the right change, or maybe we fear that they won’t and double-check them anyway. We trust that our employers will pay us on time. Yet we may fear to say or to do something that would cost us our jobs.
The proverb says that “Fearing people is a dangerous trap.” It’s easy to look at the world or national events and see how fear has trapped people. Fear is the stock and trade of terrorists as well as the 2-year-old boy throwing a tantrum down the candy aisle. Fear manipulates folks. It is used to shut-down conversation, dialog, and understanding. It is deployed through deception and propaganda, “Fear this or something bad will happen.” But fear also motivates each one of us in small ways every day. We do things or don’t do things because we’re afraid of what someone might think, say, or do. Fearing other people is a trap that keeps us from fully walking with Jesus. The grand irony is that we allow this trap in our lives to feel safe! It’s as if we are saying, “If I appease people then I’ll have nothing to fear from them.” Maybe so, but now you are trapped, they own you.
The other half of the proverb declares “trusting the LORD means safety.” Real safety is only found in Jesus. With His safety comes freedom. Paul wrote, “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (Galatians 5:1, NLT) We can trust Jesus with everything. By seeing these opposites we can understand the peace and steadfastness found in Christ. No matter how much our world shakes, Jesus is still our rock. But that means, of course, that we must trust him in all things.
Here’s the question – does your trust in the Lord outweigh your fear of others? There’s plenty to fear out there. Let me give you some bad news, you cannot place enough buffers, enough foam padding, or create enough space to be free from fear. Fear is not on the outside looking to get in but is found in our own hearts. The only way to find true safety and freedom is by trusting Jesus with everything and everyone. When we do that fear ceases to be the motivation for what we think, say, and do. Maybe someone can do us real harm, but with Jesus, they can’t reach our soul unless we let them.