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Faith at Work Network

Faith at Work Network

What is true wisdom?

    St. Augustine says that true wisdom is the fear of God. Ecclesiastes echoes this idea throughout the entire book, always coming back to the need to fear God. Yet what is fear of God? If God loves the world so much that He sent His only son, then what does it mean to fear Him? Throughout the Old Testament there is imagery of people trembling in fear before the awesome power and majestic holiness of God. The idea of fearing the Lord is also echoed in the New Testament as well. Yet today the idea of fearing God is rarely talked about in church, and when it is no one really knows what it means to fear God, or even how to do it.

    Yet this idea is mentioned in the Bible, both what it means to fear God,and even how to do so. The reason to fear is God is found throughout the Bible,but for this we will look in Ecclesiastes and in Luke. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 states “Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey His commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” These verses give the impression that we should fear God for He judges us for everything that we do, including everything that we do in secret, both good and bad. But is this idea just found in the Old Testament, or does Jesus also reinforce this idea in the New? Well,in Luke 12:4-5 He does in fact support this view when He says “Dear friends,don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they can’t do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and throw you into hell. Yes, He’s the one to fear.” See, Jesus also believes that we should fear God for He has the power of judgement over us, the ability to kill and destroy us forever, by throwing us into hell.

    This is how we should fear God. To fear Him in the sense that He has the power of judgement over us and sees everything that we do. When you live in such a way that you are aware of this knowledge then you are living in fear of Him. It is said in Psalm 111:10 that “the fear of the LORD is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey His commandments will grow in wisdom.” In living in the knowledge and fear of God’s power, we are doing as the Psalmist says and fearing God in order to find true wisdom and obey His commandments.

    Yet, there is something more you must keep in mind. Something very important as followers of Christ for us to remember. In Luke 12:6-7 Jesus tells us “What is the price of five sparrows-two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Here He is telling us that we do not have to be afraid of God.Yet how are we supposed to reason this with the aforementioned fear of God? Does it mean that we should not fear God? What is the deal with this apparent contradiction?

    Nothing! Jesus is not contradicting Himself here, in fact He makes perfect sense. He says that you should fear God because He has the power to destroy you forever. Not that He will. Yes, if you do not believe then that is what to expect, but if you turn to John 15:12-14 you will find that Jesus supports not needing to fear when He says “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” When compared to Luke, you will find that Jesus is stating that you need not be afraid of being cast into hell for all eternity, for Jesus laid His life down for His friends, and His friends are those who follow what He commands. Therefore, as follows of Christ who follow His commandments we have nothing to fear from God. As 1 John 4:18 says “such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment,and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love.” Yet we must always keep His power of judgement in mind and live in fear and awareness of it, complemented by our belief in Christ. Only then will we be able to find true wisdom.