Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Height of Wisdom

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.
Ps. 111:10 

Our culture is currently fear-obsessed. Because we often fear what we don't understand, the leadership of our nation is literally encouraging us to misunderstand and mistrust one another—an emotion that quickly becomes fear. This fear is based on skin color and language and gender and economics and location and anything else about another that might differ from me. We're also increasingly being taught to fear other countries because they're trying to cheat us, or they're sending criminals and terrorists to prey upon us. Never before in my life do I remember such a time of fear—and it's all based on political manipulation.

The fear of God is something altogether different from human fear. Picture a new snowfall or a pristine beach, neither of which have been tread upon by any feet—human or animal. Such a scene is awesomely perfect, and we fear disturbing it... but we still love it. Or picture a person you love so much that you fear ever being separated from that person. Or picture a child who fears displeasing a parent—not because their parent will abuse or hurt them, but simply because they want their parent to see them in their best light.

These are all different aspects of the fear of God: God is awesome, we don't want to be separated from God, and we don't want to disappoint God. None of these are unhealthy fears if we deal with them in a healthy way. The Bible even says that there's a wisdom to such fear. And when we think about it as a choice, it is indeed the height of wisdom: 

Do I want to have a healthy fear of the Divine, or do I want to live in fear of my neighbor? We don't think of it as a choice we make, but I think it is. Choosing fear of God over fear of neighbor helps me better understand both. The fear of God is born of love, and casts out all other fear. It cannot be manipulated and it frees me to learn and grow. Fearing my neighbor imprisons me in hatred, and makes personal growth all but impossible, since I have already given up on understanding that which might be different from me. And so which fear is the wise choice, and which one leads to fear upon fear?

Father, imprint upon my heart that because I belong to you no one can pluck me from your hand, and because I fear you I need fear no other. In Jesus' Name, who taught me to pray...