We have spent the past two weeks taking a look at some of the “frames” that surround our thoughts, words, and actions. We are basically talking about the motivations and expectations that serve as our primary approach towards life.
So far, we have discussed “The Frame of Self-Righteousness” and “The Frame of Guilt,” and we have seen that neither of these frames is effective, much less biblical.
This week, we will take a look at another common “frame” that many choose as their primary approach towards life:
THE FRAME OF FEAR
At the outset, I would like to acknowledge that the right kind of fear plays a vital role in the life of the faithful Christian. We are told in several places throughout Scripture, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom [or knowledge]” (Psa. 111:10; Pro. 1:7; 9:10), and therefore we must acknowledge the importance of a healthy “respect” and “reverence” for God as an “awesome or terrifying thing” (Strong’s Definition).
In fact, fearing God is constantly presented as a good and necessary thing in Scripture – both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament – and we are directly told to fear God in places like Ecclesiastes 12:13, Matthew 10:28, and I Peter 2:17.
So why am I suggesting that it is not a good “frame” for life when it seems to be such a good option?
Quite simply, we are not talking about a fear of GOD being our primary motivator (which would be a good frame for life); we are talking about OTHER fears that shape our approach towards life.
Here are two examples, along with some Scriptures to help illustrate:
THE FEAR THAT PRESSURES
There is a certain kind of fear – usually a fear of what others will think or do – that can pressure us to do things that go directly against the will of God. When we allow our fear of what other people might think of us (or do to us) to shape and direct our lives, we have chosen the wrong frame.
Jesus warned against this in Matthew 10:28 when He said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” In other words, even if our very life is threatened, we should never transfer our foundational fear of God to another person. Why? Because there is only so much that another person can do to us in this life. God, on the other hand, can punish us for an eternity!
The apostles realized this firsthand when they were brought before the Jewish council in Acts 5 and told, “not to teach in [Jesus’s] name.” This warning, along with the consequences that came with it (see vs. 40), could have pressured them to stop obeying God as a result of their fear of the Jews; but the apostles knew that this was the wrong kind of fear. When it came time for them to choose WHO to fear, Peter made it clear to the council that, “We must obey God rather than men” (vs. 29).
This was a wise choice.
Too often, we allow our fear of others to pressure us into disobeying God; and if we are being honest, it is rarely even a “life-threatening” situation when this happens.
For example, have you ever traded your fear of God for something as fleeting as popularity, financial opportunity, pleasure, or a good piece of gossip?
The fear of others – and the desire to please them – is a horrible “frame” for living our lives. If you and I have been structuring our lives around this goal, may God remind us that this is eternally dangerous.
THE FEAR THAT PARALYZES
There is another kind of fear that makes a bad “frame” for life, and it is the kind of fear that paralyzes us. We see several examples of this in Scripture that we should pay close attention to.
In Genesis 3:10, Adam tells God, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” Adam had been paralyzed by fear, and instead of allowing that fear to push him towards God, he allowed it to push him away from God. As we see in this text (and many others), it is impossible to hide from God, so any fear that convinces us to try to “hide” from God is a poor frame for living our life. When we fear spiritual consequences for our sin, we should allow that fear to lead us to repentance instead of leading us into a game of “hide and seek” with God that we are destined to lose (2 Cor. 7:10).
Another example of this kind of fear is found in the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30). The man who received one talent “went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money” (vs. 18). What was his reason for doing this? He was “afraid,” according to verse 25. He said, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours” (vs. 24-25).
If this servant is telling the truth, he allowed his fear to paralyze him and used it as an excuse not to obey his master.
Sometimes, like this servant, we allow our fear of failure (or our fear of the unknown) to cause us to disobey God. We “bury” our abilities, we ignore our opportunities, and we bear no “fruit” for our Master.
Why is this not a good frame for our life? Notice what the master says to this servant: “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents…And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vs. 26-30).
Have you allowed fear to paralyze you? Has it framed your life with laziness, inactivity, and a lack of spiritual “fruit” for the Master? If so, maybe it’s time to trade in that frame for another one.
Next week, we will conclude this study by looking at a few GOOD framing options. God bless!