Today the word fear has negative connotations, however, when put in perspective it can be a positive thing. This is true when we hear the verse about the fear of the Lord being the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs Chapter 1 verse 7a). But there are always some people who go out of their way to interpret a verse of the Bible in the most negative light including this one, seeming to think that fear here is synonymous with dread. Rather, I would put it like a warning that one takes heed of like the following example. There is a road drain near my house and I have a fear that when returning to my house that as I put my hand into my pockets to get my keys out that they will accidentally fall down the drain. I have lived in this house for over twenty years and so far it has never happened. Quite simply I can easily avoid my fears coming to pass by waiting till after I have gone past the drain before reaching for my keys. If, however, I was so worried about losing my keys down the drain that I refused to leave my house you would question my sanity. The fear of the Lord is meant to warn us from doing things that have serious consequences. Not a dread that should stop us from doing the right things, after all Jesus had no kind words for the man in the parable of the talents who from fear did nothing.
In tension with this is Paul’s exhortation in Philippians chapter 4, verses 6-7:- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ.” So not being anxious does not mean being complacent and doing nothing just as the fear of the Lord does not mean that Christians should be paralysed with fear. Interestingly, high levels of anxiety reduce the immune system and anxiety related conditions are listed amongst the co-morbidities in the Covid 19 pandemic. As an aside, one does wonder whether those parts of the media that have ramped up the scare-mongering might find themselves being sued by the relatives of those with anxiety related conditions who it might have arguably died as a result of their scare-mongering?
So fear in proportion is not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, the word phobia tends to be misused these days by propagandists of lobby groups that somebody who does not agree fully with them is suffering from a paralysing fear. In view of this it is not surprising that there is confusion as to where on the scale of fear from a mild concern to a morbid dread does the word “fear” in Proverbs 1:7 fall.
David Rose, 2022.