The Fear of Man

After much prevarication regarding his sin of not fully obeying the Lord regarding His command to destroy the Amalekites, in I Samuel 15:24 Saul did finally own up to his sin: “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord.” What is revealing is the next phrase, which tells us WHY he had sinned: “BECAUSE I FEARED THE PEOPLE, AND LISTENED TO THEIR VOICE.” Saul was afraid of what people thought of him.

We see this evidenced again a few verses later, when in :30 he asks Samuel, who had just told him that the kingdom had been taken from him, to go back with him, “to honor me now before the elders of my people.” Even in the fresh aftermath of this devastating news, Saul was still concerned with “saving face” before the people. He had a deep-seated problem of the fear of man — which, sadly, was a greater factor in his life than the fear of God!

This is a temptation for every leader: to fear the opinions of the people they lead, more than they fear the God they are committed to serve. Actually it is a potential snare for ANY person to fear men more than God:

— will you give in to what your peers and friends expect, or do what you know God commands?
— will you speak God’s truth in this world, or cower before what is expected and is “politically correct”?
— which will you fear more: your boss at work, or your Father in Heaven?
— as a church leader, will you “go along” with the carnal desires of your congregation — like Saul did — or will you lead your church to obey the word of God and uphold His standards?

I Peter 3:14-15 speaks to this issue as well: “Do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” This passage reminds us that the one you fear is the real Lord & Master of your life. If the God of the Bible truly is your Lord, then fear only HIM — and be committed to obey His word no matter what other people may think.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog,, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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5 Responses to The Fear of Man

  1. brochrisgore says:

    Loved this post. As a pastor, this is always a temptation for us. A book I found very helpful was Ed Welch’s “When People Are Big and God Is Small”. After reading that and this post, I might be okay…for a day.

  2. Shawn Thomas says:

    Chris, I am well-familiar with that temptation — I recognized it all too well reading this passage. Thanks for the lead on the book; it sounds great, and other readers may want to check into it also!

  3. oloryn says:

    It’s interesting to contrast that attitude to Paul’s in II Cor 7: “Now we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong, not so that we may appear to have passed the test, but so that you may do what is right, even if we may appear to have failed the test”. Paul’s attitude appears to have been just the opposite of the “protect your reputation at all costs” attitude it is so easy to fall into. Apparently the rule is: doing right comes first, looking right second, and the latter may be optional.

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