While Revelation 21:8 says that the fearful have their part in the lake of fire, it is a paradox that a Christian must have fear. It just has to be the right kind of fear, as Christ teaches here. While the wrong kind of fear can lead to eternal death, the right kind of fear leads to eternal life: "Fear of the LORD is a life-giving fountain; it offers escape from the snares of death" (Proverbs 14:27, New Living Translation, NLT).
The benefits of the right kind of fear are not limited to the distant future and the promise of eternal life, but it also has great benefits for the here and now for us and even our children after us, as the following scriptures indicate:
» For the reverence and fear of God are basic to all wisdom. Knowing God results in every other kind of understanding. (Proverbs 9:10, The Living Bible)
» The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. (Psalm 25:14, Revised Standard Version)
» And Moses said to the people, "Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin." (Exodus 20:20)
» Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. (Psalm 34:9)
» He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. (Psalm 145:19)
» By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life. (Proverbs 22:4)
» For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him. . . . As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. (Psalm 103:11, 13)
» In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. (Proverbs 14:26)
» They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. (Jeremiah 32:38-40)
The Sin of Fear (Part Two)
Hypocrite originally had a neutral sense, “someone who answers,” and hypocrisy meant “answering.” Initially, these words were used of the normal flow of question and answer in conversation or discussion. They later became connected with question-and-answer sections in plays, naturally followed by the idea of acting a part. Eventually, “hypocrite” came to describe one who is never genuine but always play-acting. The basis of hypocrisy is insincerity.
Hypocrites inhabit every walk of life, trying to impress others in an attempt to hide who they really are. In the Christian life, a hypocrite is someone who tries to appear more spiritual than he really is. Such a person knows that he is pretending and hopes he will not be found out. His Christianity is a shallow charade.
As the crowds following Him grew, Jesus decided to warn His disciples of this spiritual pitfall. They could easily surrender to human nature, giving in to the temptation either to gain popularity by pleasing the crowds or to avoid trouble by pleasing the Pharisees. Human nature drives us to want people to like and admire us, and it seems so easy to “act the part” that others want to see.
Jesus compares hypocrisy to leaven, symbolizing sin (I Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9). Like leaven, hypocrisy begins small but grows quickly and quietly, infecting the whole person and eventually the whole society. When a person is puffed up with pride, hypocrisy flourishes and character deteriorates (I Corinthians 4:6, 18-19; 5:2). Like all sin, it must be stopped before the underlying pride has an opportunity to spread (James 1:14-15). The longer he waits to deal with it, the worse it gets. Nothing can really be hidden (Mark 4:22), which makes hypocrisy foolish and futile. So why keep pretending?
Jesus was perhaps concerned that His disciples might be tempted to compromise the truth to avoid offending the crowds or the Pharisees (see Luke 8:16-18; 11:33). Many who profess to be God's ministers do something like this to remain in their pulpits. God's truth is like light, not leaven, and it must not be hidden.
Jesus mentions “fear” five times in these verses, teaching that a basic cause of hypocrisy is the fear of men. People will do almost anything to avoid embarrassment or harm. When we are afraid of what others may say or do to us, we try to impress them to gain their approval, and our human nature will stoop to deception to accomplish its purposes. Sadly, many of the Pharisees were more concerned about reputation than character—what people thought about them than what God knew about them. The fear of men always brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25), and Jesus wants His disciples to avoid it and be stable in their faith. As Scottish novelist and poet, Sir Walter Scott, wrote, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.”
Martin G. Collins
Beware of Hypocrisy