Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
The phrase "fear of man" in this verse implies something bad - and it is. But like so many things in life, something negative can develop from something that is good. The fear of man, or the seeking to please others, is not always bad --- let's look at some verses:
1. Children are commanded in the Word to obey and please their parents: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother. (Proverbs 10:1)
2. In marriage, we make a commitment to please one another:
“The married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his
wife, 34 and his interests are divided…the married woman is anxious
about worldly things, how to please her husband” (1 Cor 7:33-35).
3. Servants (employees, too) are to work in ways that please their masters (employers):
“Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they
are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but
showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the
doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:9-10)
4. Although we have Christian liberty, we are to consider what is pleasing to others:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory
of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my
own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor
So, pleasing people is not a problem in itself -- it's actually a good thing. Sin can distort the good gifts and desires that come from God -- the problem isn't people, or their approval; the problem is being addicted to that approval.
The "fear of man" and the desire to please people becomes sinful when it becomes an overwhelming desire . . . when it becomes too important . . . when we long for it too intently.
So, how can we tell if we have a sinful fear of man, an addiction?
Well, it can be seen in an insatiable desire for approval, or as a controlling fear of rejection. Let's look at this more closely . . .
Do we struggle with peer pressure?
Are we over-committed? Have trouble saying "no" because of what others might think?
Do we "need" respect from our spouse or our friends and acquaintances?
Do we second-guess our decisions because of what others might think?
Do we often lie? Experience jealousy?
All of these are evidences that we might have a problem with approval . . . tomorrow we will explore how to be free of the problem!