This relates with the second half of v28–
28 …Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Three times in this chapter, Jesus tells us, don’t be afraid. But one time here, Jesus says, be afraid. There is a positive kind of fear. Be afraid of the one who can destroy soul and body in hell. Who is Jesus talking about? He’s talking about God. God is the only one who can either save or destroy your soul, and therefore, He alone is to be feared.
God sounds scary. He sounds wrathful. Where is the God of grace and love? What does it mean to fear the Lord?
In Prov 9:10, it says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” The fear of the Lord can’t simply mean to be scared of the Lord, although there is some element of being scared before a Holy God who sees everything about us down to the core, every thought and attitude and motive. But being scared is not the dominant part of fearing the Lord. To fear the Lord is to be in awe of the Lord, to fall prostrate before the Lord in reverence. It is to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the Lord.
It should be noted that in v35-37, Jesus mentions family members and not things like money or career. Family members, the people closest to us, it’s often these important relationships that get in the way of following Jesus.
When you’re a kid, all you want is to make your parents proud of you. You want them to say good job, fantastic, wait to go, that’s my boy, that’s my little girl. And if you disappoint your parents, it feels like the end of the world because in the eyes of a 3-4-5 year old, mommy and daddy are like gods. They’re perfect. They can do no wrong. Kids idolize parents. Daddy is like Superman. Mommy is a hero. Of course, kids get older and they see the flaws of their parents and so as adolescents, instead of parents, kids look to their friends and peer group for affirmation. Later, it’s the affection of someone from the opposite gender that consumes us.
When I was in the eighth grade, we had this beat up, old Malibu Classic which is like a tank on wheels and there was a big dent in the front. We were poor so we couldn’t get it fixed and I would dread my dad picking me up from school. I had a cool image to uphold and so it was like death when my dad brought the old clunker to the front entrance of the school. Now, I think, what’s the big deal? Who cares? But back then, I cared, I was shallow, I just wanted to fit in.
Early in life, we start off wanting our parental approval, then it’s approval of friends, then it’s approval of a boyfriend or girlfriend and eventually we want approval from the entire world. What school we graduated from, what degree we hold, how much we make, what car we drive, our zip code. Those things become the driving factor for all we do. The fear of man drives us. If we were all poor, then not having money is no big deal. But if you don’t have money and everyone around you does, that’s when it hurts. The hurt we feel when someone outshines us, the frustration we feel when someone disappoints us, the disappointment we feel in ourselves when we fail–all of these things point to a fear of man. Living for the approval of others.
What’s the solution? How can we overcome fear of man? It is to fear God more. If you fear God, you can be fearless before man. If you are in awe of God, if you are overwhelmed by Him, if you are consumed by living to please Him, then what man does to you fades into the background.
Why should we not fear man but fear God? Not only because God alone can save our souls in the after life, but even in this life, we don’t have to fear man because God cares for us down to the smallest detail.
3) A third reason not to be afraid is because our Heavenly Father cares for us, down to the smallest of details.
A third time, in v31, Jesus says, don’t be afraid.
31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Again, we have the conjunction, “so.” Why should we not be afraid? v29-30–
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
God cares for even a sparrow and we are worth far more than many sparrows. You are a child of God. He knows even the number of hairs on your head. He is aware of every cell in your body. Every care. Every burden. Even the seemingly small, unimportant things, He knows. And he doesn’t simply know because He is an omniscient Deity. He cares for us as our loving Heavenly Father. So we don’t have to fear.
You might say, I am not afraid. I am not afraid of what others say about me, or what they do to me or what they think of me. I’m self-assured. I’m confident in my own skin. I don’t need anyone. Does that necessarily mean that you don’t have any fears?
A close cousin to fear is worry. In v19, Jesus says, do not worry. What’s the context? v17–
17 “Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
The context is persecution and being put on trial and Jesus says, don’t worry because the Holy Spirit will give us words to speak. Nobody here is in danger of losing their lives in this country because of our love for Jesus. But does this mean that we don’t have any fears? Certainly not. I would argue that at the root of all worry is some kind of fear of man.
What if I do bad on my exam? Then, I won’t get a good grade in the class and I wouldn’t be able to get into my top choice for grad school. And this will limit my options in what schools I can expect to land a professorship later on. And then my parents will be disappointed in me. I will be disappointed in myself. People will not look up to me like they used to. And I’ll be a nobody.
What if I don’t finish this project at work? Then the company loses money. And my boss yells at me because his boss yells at him. And I might get fired and with this economy, who knows if I will find another job? I could be unemployed for a while. And we would have to foreclose on our home. And we would have to eat cup Ramen everyday. And I would die early of stomach cancer. Or if I live long enough, I would be a failure as a dad, failure as a member of society. At bottom, we would lose the respect of our family and friends. All of our worries point back to some fear of man.
The things you worry about, what starts out as a small worry, doesn’t it grow? Doesn’t it get larger and larger until you are paralyzed by your worries? This is no different than being paralyzed by our fears. Examine your worries and they will lead you to your fears.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. You want to live wisely in God’s eyes. Then, fear him more than you fear man and everything else will fall into place. You will live wisely.
I want to end with v32-33.
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
There are only 2 choices in life. Either you fear man and you are silent about Jesus. Or you fear God and you speak up about Jesus. And If you speak up before men for Jesus, Jesus will speak up on your behalf when you are standing in front of God on Judgment Day. In the end, who you feared more will be revealed. Jesus is worth it. Acknowledge him before men. Pay whatever the cost. He’s worth more than anything or anyone that you can lay down. And if you do that, Jesus says, that brother, that sister, is worthy of me.