Is fear sinful?

You have probably heard the claim that Scripture tells us 365 times (once for each day of the year) not to be afraid, do no fear, be courageous, etc. It’s a good sentiment, but quite inaccurate. However, having said that, Scripture DOES tell us several time to not be fearful. And if Scripture tells us something (even if only once) that should be sufficient to encourage us in that direction.

The Bible speaks of two primary types of fear; terror of things that can harm us, and reverential fear (awe) of God. We are encouraged to “fear the Lord” frequently, while at the same time being told to “fear not” or “be strong and courageous”.

I believe there is an aspect of “fear not” that many Christians never explore. And that is the sin of fear.

  • We are told not to fear “the terror of night” (Psalm 91:5), yet many fear the dark and fear the night.
  • We are told not to fear opposition because God is with us (Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 51:7), yet many of us fear any kind of opposition or persecution.
  • We are told to not be afraid when God is testing us (Exodus 20:20), yet we run from God’s testing.
  • We are told that those who fear the Lord lack nothing (Psalm 34:9), yet, in fear, we worry about our next paycheck.
  • We are told that there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18), yet out of fear of being hurt, many are afraid to love.

If the Bible tells us repeatedly not to be fearful, yet we are still bound in our many and varied fears, we are walking in sin and disobedience. If we do not trust the Lord sufficiently to dispel our fears, then we don’t trust the Lord at all and we are deluded in our partial obedience.

That sounds pretty harsh, you say, and where does scripture say that fear (other than fear of the Lord) is sinful? Well, 2 Timothy 1:7 says that “God has not given us a spirit of fear”. So, if we are still fearful, and it is not from God, then what is its source? Satan is the author of fear, and if we cling to something Satan has provided, rather than reject it in favour of God’s gift, then that is sinful.

All speculation and open to interpretation, you say; well what about Revelation 21:7-8?

Revelation 21:7-8 (KJV)  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.  But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Many translations say “cowardly” rather than “fearful”, but that does not change the meaning; if we overcome our fear with courage from The Lord, we shall avoid the fire and brimstone of hell.


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