When you get up in the morning, who do you think about? When you’re preparing for a presentation at work or school, which member of the audience is in your mind’s eye? When you’re spending your time clearing up the house or cooking the dinner — who are you trying to please?
The answer to those questions might help you answer the first one.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The idea of ‘fearing God’ can be found throughout the Bible. It is given as a reason to be honest, to pray, to defy tyrants, to stride out to meet the enemy, to be kind to those with a disability, to judge carefully, to be sexually pure and much more.
Given that it is so significant in the Bible, it is strange to hear so little about it in modern church life. But that might not be so surprising when we remember our context.
We live in a world of ‘self-esteem’ where we are deeply concerned with our own opinion of ourselves. We are told to love ourselves, forgive ourselves, instill our children with a high level self-worth. We spend millions on therapy, seeking healing for our mental and emotional baggage. We want to feel better about ourselves, to think better of ourselves.
Whose judgment matters?
To fear the Lord is to care more about his opinion of us, than our own. It is to know that His judgment matters more than ours. We might feel terrible and unworthy, but He delights in those who trust in Him. We might feel encouraged and proud, but He knows our deepest, darkest secrets. Fearing God flows from the knowledge that he is on the judgment seat and we are in the dock.
This verse is not saying that fear is the beginning of wisdom. We all fear things — the future, sickness, death, opposition, embarrassment, poverty… For some in today’s world the things to fear are physically obvious, for others the fears are more existential. Being worried or scared is not going to help.
It is in the fear of the Lord that we must begin. The first step on the road to wisdom is to humbly accept and acknowledge God’s rightful place. If we want to grow, we must lay down our own judgment and submit before His.
Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honour and life. Proverbs 22v4
That’s why we need to begin each day remembering what we know to be true — that we live in God’s world and He knows best. So we open our Bibles, we listen to the counsel of wise and humble older Christians, we pray that God would guide and reshape us by the power of His Holy Spirit.
Putting it into practice:
- Spend your day noticing all the things that God has given you. Perhaps things you’ve really worked for or perhaps blessings you often overlook. Take time to praise God for His gifts.
- Consider your own view of yourself. Take time to consider those things of which you’re most proud — do they make God love you any more? Also consider those things of which you’re most ashamed or frustrated — remember that they don’t change how much God loves you.