Is obeying out of fear a bad thing?
Ummm, no, not if we read God’s Word. The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, which Jesus defines as hearing and obeying God’s Word.
Obeying out of love is obviously a more mature motive, but the sad truth is that we humans don’t always act out of mature motives. Why do most people disobey the speed limit by going five miles over? If you answered, “Because they don’t want a speeding ticket,” you’ve likely identified a situation where people have obeyed out of fear (of being caught) and not love (obeying the speed limit because they love God and want to obey Him).
Today at breakfast, I read Psalm 25. I got to verse 12:
What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
I happened to ask my children “Is it good to fear the Lord?”
Both assured me that fearing God was a very bad thing.
So I attempted to explain the difference between fearing because something was evil, and fearing because we love someone. I’m not sure I did a great job, but at least I’m getting practice.
This is such a great topic, Michelle. I’ve been turning this about in my head, too, recently, so interesting you should write about it! I’m teaching my kids such a radically different approach to motives for obedience than I grew up with that I have to be careful not to downplay the aspect of fear as a motive for obedience. I want to make it a godly fear, however. That’s the difference, I suppose. 😉
Yes, I think you’re right. Perhaps its the awareness that God is a loving and merciful God coupled with the knowledge of his omniscience and omnipotence that gives us this godly fear. Without the assurance of God’s love (and the assurance of mom and dad’s love), the fear would be sad, indeed. But then, so would an absence of fear of certain chastening from God.