The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.
Do you care what others think of you? It is a dangerous trap. You can be pushed into sin by fearing others. If you let them affect decisions, you will be tempted to compromise. Put your trust in God and His word only, and you will be safe (Pr 18:10; Ps 119:128).
Fearing man is the opposite of fearing God. It is worry about pleasing men and obtaining their agreement, friendship, and favor, rather than God’s. You are afraid of their displeasure or rejection, so you do what you can to keep their approval and stay friends. Instead of measuring your life by Scripture, you are concerned about popular opinion.
We often call this fear of man peer pressure. The source of it is your peers – your equals in similar positions in life, the same age group or social set. It is pressure, because the approval they give or withhold forces you to alter your beliefs or actions in order to keep your standing with them. Peer pressure pushes you to live like the world (Rom 12:1-2).
The fear of man can come from many sources. Employees can fear their bosses beyond the basic respect of employment. Pastors can fear their members disapproving of a sermon and reducing support. A person can fear a spouse and the domestic tension he or she can create. Scholars or church councils can intimidate a pastor to compromise truth.
Aaron feared the people in Moses’ absence and made the golden calf (Ex 32:22-24). King Saul lost the kingdom for fearing the people and sparing Agag (I Sam 15:24). Herod feared the people, his wife, and his friends, so he killed John (Matt 6:6-11). Pilate feared the people and his political relationship with Caesar (John 19:11-16). Peter denied Jesus Christ by fearing others (Matt 26:69-75) and also compromised the gospel (Gal 2:11-13).
On the other hand, David was not discouraged by his oldest brother’s accusation (I Sam 17:28). Daniel did not fear the lions’ den, for he kept up his daily habit of prayer in spite of the new law (Dan 6:10). His three friends were not afraid of Nebuchadnezzar or his fiery furnace (Dan 3:16-18). Peter and the apostles boldly defied the Jews after Pentecost (Acts 5:29). And Joseph of Arimathaea boldly asked for the body of Jesus (Mark 15:43).
Most Christians today fear men more than God. They are like the weak rulers of the Jews. The Bible says, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (Jn 12:42-43).
It is impossible to be a true believer and have fear or respect for the approval of men. Jesus warned His hearers, “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? (John 5:44.) There were many like those, who were intimidated by the opinions or persecution of others (John 7:13; 9:22).
What are remedies for the fear of man? Be confident in Scripture over men (Job 32:6-14; Ps 119:98-100; Is 8:20). Avoid corrupt or sinful friends (Pr 9:6; 22:24-25; Ps 101:3; I Cor 15:33). Trust the Lord to protect you (Dan 3:16-18; Heb 13:6). Consider the ignorance and incompetence of natural man (Ps 39:5; 62:9; I Tim 6:20). Do not enter associations, as an individual or church, which will bring pressure (II Chron 18:1; II Cor 6:14-18).
Remember that God or truth will never be popular. In fact, anything the world accepts and does not despise is an abomination in God’s sight (Luke 6:26; 16:15). Think about Noah! Would you rather be popular or dry? Think about Daniel! Would you be willing to eat bean soup and water while your peers are gorging on the king’s meat and wine?
Recognize and embrace persecution. It is evidence you are following Jesus Christ, and it is the means of His great approval (Isaiah 51:7-8; 66:5; Matt 5:10-12; John 16:2; Acts 5:41; II Tim 3:12; I Pet 4:12-16). If they hated Jesus Christ, they will surely hate you (John 15:18-25). But no weapon formed against you will succeed (Is 54:17). Believe it!
Young person! You are the most vulnerable. Do you understand and despise peer pressure? It is the young fools of this world that push you to turn away from God and holiness to pursue their folly and sin. Can you mock their speech, their habits, their dress, and their fads? Do you hate their fornication, rebellion, and cliques? Fear the Lord!
Are you ashamed to be known as a Christian? Can you boldly carry a Bible in school? To work? Do you eagerly give thanks for food before the heathen? Can you easily turn down invitations to join them in worldly amusements? Are you confident to explain that Sunday is the Lord’s Day? Do you confidently wear modest clothing?
Parent, do you fear your children? Do you fear their faces, their moods, or their rejection? Stand up for righteousness and trust the Lord. Eli compromised for his sons and lost everything (I Sam 2:30; 3:13). Joshua put his foot down for his whole house, and he has been quoted for 4000 years for his courageous zeal as a father. Do your job (Pr 29:15,17).
Husband, do you fear your wife? Does interrupted domestic tranquility cause you to compromise? Abraham was God’s friend for commanding his household to keep the way of the Lord (Gen 18:19). You are to rule over your wife (Gen 3:16). She has neither your office nor ability to know the will of God (I Cor 14:34-35). Do the consequences of Adam listening to his wife, or Abraham to his, cause you to tremble? They should!
Christian woman! Are you intimidated by fashion trends? Do you keep pace with society’s rush to conceal less and reveal more? Can you dress up and cover more, even when others dress down and cover less? What is it that keeps you from valuing a meek and quiet spirit over well-set hair and a new outfit and accessories (I Pet 3:3-4)? Is it peer pressure that keeps you from dressing less than your most flattering in order to be holy?
Pastor, preach the word (II Tim 4:2)! Do not look at the faces of your people for approval (Jer 1:17). Be insistent, pressing, and urgent, both in and out of season (II Tim 4:2). Many men have gone before you that were not afraid of rack or stake. Are you worthy of their noble company? Let them be the witnesses that mold your ministry (Heb 12:1-4).
Pastor, reject the “seeker sensitive” compromisers. The time has come when men will no longer endure sound doctrine, but you are to insistently preach the word anyway (II Tim 4:1-5). God has not called you to grow your church numerically. Do not do anything to increase your membership that even approaches compromise. God has called you to grow your church spiritually. You are to please God, not men (Gal 1:10).
Do you fear enemies, teachers, or ancients? Or all three? By meditating on and keeping God’s precepts, the psalmist was confident against all three kinds of men (Ps 119:98-100). These verses should be required memorization for young men and ministers. Or is it friends that intimidate you? Then make sure your friends all love the truth (Ps 119:63).
Trust the LORD by esteeming every word of God (Ps 119:128) and knowing no man can harm you (Pr 16:7; I Pet 3:13). You will give an account of your life to God one day, not man (Eccl 12:13-14; II Cor 5:10-11). Fear Him, Who can do real harm (Luke 12:4-5).