Fear for the most part is a devastating thing and can be dangerous to our health. It can literally paralyze a person and cause them to experience depression. Fear can limit what you can accomplish in life. However, there is a proper fear that enhances your life and brings positive benefit. That fear is a fear of God. Solomon said this about that fear: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7). Having this fear is the first step toward becoming wise.
Jesus, realizing that some of his followers were afraid for their lives and were exhibiting fear especially in the light of hostility toward Jesus, talked to them about a proper fear. Jesus said don’t be afraid of people even though they can do harm to you because they cannot harm your soul. God is the only one who has that power, and he loves you and will take care of you if you fear him. Jesus even illustrated his point by pointing out that not even a sparrow is overlooked by our Father and are we not worth more than the birds. He even knows how many hairs we have on our heads (Luke 12:4-7).
This verse is really a statement of purpose of how to live life. Jesus says live life with a proper fear of God and do not fear man. Though man may inflict pain on your body and mind, he cannot harm your soul. God is truly the one to be feared not these evil people. This is a proper fear. A proper fear of God will free us from improper fears of men.
I love the word awe because it describes this proper fear of God. David captured it in these words: “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him” (Ps 33:8). Again, in another Psalm: “My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws” (Ps 119:120).
Awe of God is a fear and reverence for God alone. It’s hard to imagine a taco or a new set of clothes being awesome—only God is awesome. It’s what Isaiah felt when he saw the Lord high and lifted up. It’s what Moses felt as he stood in God’s presence at the burning bush. It’s what Elijah felt as he heard the still small voice. To fear God and to be in awe of him is what true believers do all around the world.
Martin Luther found this proper fear when he told the Emperor that he could not and would not recant what he had written because his conscience was captive to the Word of God. We need this fear—a proper fear, then we will be free from many fears of this life that plague our lives.