It's tax time. Have you paid your dues? In Romans 13, Paul tells us that we have payments to make to God as well.
Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Romans 13.7 (NASB)
The Bear Trap
Imagine you are walking through the woods at dusk on a hiking trip to the top of a mountain. It’s cold, it may be the end of the day and you’re trying to get home. You're thinking about how great it was to see the overlook, and see the beauty of God’s creation at sunset. As with all cases, there is an unknown factor on this seemingly peaceful hike.
There’s a big bear down the path.
In this situation, what do you need to know? Do you need to know how to better your career? Do you need to understand the best way to improve your marriage? Should you be concerned with the renovation of the house that you just purchased for your family? These are each important things and knowledge in these areas is highly advisable but, as you walk down this path in the darkening woods towards a life-altering, if not life-ending experience, there is only one thing you need to know. There is a bear on the path, and it intends to do you harm. At this moment, there is simply no other knowledge that is important, relative to the knowledge of the danger that awaits you.
If someone came running down the path from the other direction, having just escaped this huge beast, you would expect them to warn you. You would expect them to impart the knowledge that there is a bear in your path, because this is the only knowledge that matters at this moment. This stranger might be an expert at home renovations or he might be a marriage counselor, able to guide and direct you to a wonderful life of marital bliss but, this would be of little consequence to you if this stranger did not first say, “Hey, uh, there’s a bear in the path. We gotta get out of here!”
Just like the bear in the path, our God demands, if not commands, our fear. Our mighty God is one to whom our fear is due.
When the Bible says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111.10), it is saying that without the knowledge of God and the impact He can have on our lives, all other knowledge is pointless and irrelevant. Before we can impart any helpful knowledge to someone else, we must first tell them that THERE IS A REAL GOD. And, once an individual comes to the personal realization that there is a God and that He is personally involved in the lives of every man, they will naturally feel some sense of fear, just like the hiker who learns that a bear is in the path. He fears the fact that the bear has the power to alter his life.
God has the power to alter your life. God is powerful and he can change circumstances. God can and does stick His finger in our lives. So, what do you need to know? Just like the hiker, there are many other things you need to know, but if you don't know the main thing (fearing God) nothing else really matters.
What Do You Fear?
A lot of us have different fears. Some of them are silly. Others are completely justified.
A silly fear of mine is wasps. I hate those little things, and they terrify me to no end. I also have a fear of heights, despite flying in planes in the Marines for 2 years.
But what about legitimate fears?
Right now there are some families at our congregation that are going through some tough times health wise. Talk about legitimate fears...you go to the hospital a couple of times because of health problems and you will know legit fear.
But is that the fear that we’re talking about? Fear of roller coasters, bugs, the dark, our health - whatever? No it’s not.
Fear of God is totally different. I believe it’s one of the basics of our Christian life. If we don’t fear God, if we don’t respect Him and His Word, nothing else works. Not worship, not relationships, not anything. Without a healthy fear and respect for God, nothing else falls into place.
Fear = Respect?
You must first understand what kind of fear we’re talking about. This is not an afraid, fear-for-your-life kind of fear - it’s a respectful, reverent, prioritized fear-for-your-soul kind of fear. It’s a feeling that if I don’t do what God and His Word says, then I am going to Hell. And Hell is a place that I don’t want to be, so out of fear I serve God and obey His commands. But is that it?
I don’t believe so. Part of fearing God is respecting God. While they’re not the same, they relate to one another. Who is someone you respect? Who is someone you fear?
We Are Children In God's Hands
The best way to understand the fear of God is to think about the relationship with your own parents. I deal with teens everyday that think they hate their parents, but really don’t. They love their children. They are responsible for discipline of those children, and we’ve all seen those kids who aren’t disciplined by their parents. When your parents discipline, does that mean they don’t love their children? Of course not. It means they want what’s best for them, and to protect them. We sometimes don’t understand that.
It’s the same way with God. We fear our parents for what they might do to discipline us, but there’s no doubt that we don’t love them. We fear them and love them at the same time. We are likewise to fear God and love Him at the same time.
I tell kids that your parents, whether you like it or not, have power over your life. When we realize that God has that same kind of power to change our lives and we recognize that fear and respect, our perspective changes.
God is due our reverent fear. Just like we must pay taxes to who it is due, give honor to whom it is due (Romans 13.7) Our fear is due to God. We must respect Him and know the power He has over the world and our lives.
If we don’t fear God, we don’t love Him. Romans 8.38-39 states that nothing can separate us from His love. The only thing that can separate us from God is us. If we refuse to fear God, to acknowledge Him and serve Him, then we will be separated from that love.
If we don’t fear God, we’re separated from Him. In Luke 12.5, Jesus says this. If we don’t fear God, we will be cast into Hell.
And if we’re separated from God, we have nothing.
The writer of Ecclesiastes figured this out long before you and I ever existed. He says at the end of his philosophical book in chapter 12 that The conclusion, when all had been heard, is: fear God and keep his commandments, because this applies to every person.
We must pay our fear to whom our fear is due, and that’s to our sovereign God.