Jesus taught us to fear God alone (Matthew 10:28). The wise King Solomon championed the fear of God as the starting place of knowledge and the sole duty of man (Proverbs 1:7; Ecclesiastes 12:13). On the other hand, Solomon warned us that the fear of man was a snare (Proverbs 29:25). There is perhaps no greater snare of men’s souls than the fear of man. Nothing wreaks more havoc in the soul than to lift up lofty eyes toward the obtaining of worldly acclamation.
The soul concerned with human affirmation becomes enslaved to human opinion. All who fear man’s opinion or seek his ovations are bound to do his bidding. They scurry to answer man’s every beckon call, lest man’s opinion of them should be diminished. They bow to popular demand, lest they become unconformable to the world’s mold and get out of step with public sentiment. All who choose to be mastered by public opinion and squeezed into the world’s mold will find themselves incarcerated in a spiritual Alcatraz from which no appeaser of man ever escapes.
The devil takes great delight in fastening souls into the stocks of man’s wants, wishes, and whims. He knows that the will of God cannot be reached through the bars of the fear of man and that all fanciers of men are eventually forced into forsaking God. Throughout the Scriptures we see Apollyon pushing appeasers of men into displeasing God. For instance, the Bible lays at the feet of the fear of man the making of the golden calf (Exodus 32:22-24), the sparing of Amalek (1 Samuel 15:24), the throwing of God’s prophet to the lions (Daniel 6:1-23), the beheading of the forerunner of Christ (Matthew 14:1-12), the martyrdom of the Apostle James and the arrest of the Apostle Peter (Acts 12:1-3), and even the nailing of our Savior to the cross of Calvary (Mark 15:15). With such atrocities lying at its feet, can there be any doubt about the loathsomeness of this formidable snare of the devil?
The pitiful soul ensnared by the fear of man will spend its miserable existence like a dog chasing its own tail. It will be continuously manipulated by the god of this world who will dangle the elusive carrot of man’s approval in front of its nose, as well as poke and prod it along with the sharp stick of man’s displeasure. All in all, the soul ensnared by its fear of man will spend its life pursuing the impossibility of pleasing people.
The impossibility of pleasing people was taught to us by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In Matthew 11:16-19, Christ compares the people of His day to children playing flutes and whining that others are not dancing to their tune. He also compares His generation to mourners who insist upon others weeping with them in their grief. According to Jesus, the people accused the unsociable John the Baptist of being demon possessed. Yet, when our Lord proved Himself to be sociable, by eating and drinking with the people, they condemned Him for being a glutton and a drunk. The moral of this story of the Master’s is obvious; it is impossible to please people. The soul that tries will not only put itself in eternal peril, but it will also be caught in the chase of an unobtainable goal and shackled to a carousel of unending elusion.
The calm soul is one that fears God alone and is completely freed from the tyrannical snare of the fear of man.