One thing that non-believers are often confused about is what is meant when we are told that we should be God fearing. After all, the bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8). This would seem to be a contradiction, if we are to fear a loving Father who is love. We don’t fear love, right? Also, there are passages that indicate that we should fear him and others that say that love of God abolishes fear.
There isn’t a contradiction, though, because there are two different kinds of fear. One is the negative, mind-numbing fear that promotes lack of thought and reason. It is an irrational fear like the kind a person might feel if they see a spider and are terrified of spiders. This is obviously not the kind of fear we should have for God.
The other kind of fear is a positive fear. Most of us won’t intentionally put our hand on a hot burner, because we fear the consequences. This is positive because it is reasoned and is a means of self-protection. When this kind of fear is applied to a person, it is a fear borne out of respect or the recognition of power. For example, you might fear that your boss might find out that you did something you aren’t supposed to do. Why? Because he or she has the power to fire you. This sort of fear should actually help you to keep from doing things you aren’t supposed to do.
Likewise, many children are brought up with this sort of fear of their earthly fathers, even really good ones, because that individual is in a position of authority and has the capability of punishing the child.
Applied to the Lord, it is again a positive fear, but it should transcend the fear we have for any boss, father or other individual. This is because God’s power is supreme. There is literally nothing that a person can do to you that God can’t undo. The greatest works of man are as nothing to the power of God.
Jesus put it very clearly in Matthew 10:28 when he said:
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
In fact, the word ‘fear’ can be found 300 times in the bible. In Hebrew, the word used is ‘yare‘, which means “to fear, to respect, to reverence”. This is what is meant when we are told to fear God. This is also why there is no contradiction. ‘Reverential fear’ is an interesting thought, isn’t it?
In Exodus 9:29-31, the Pharaoh caused great problems to occur to his people and his nation because he didn’t fear God. That is, he didn’t respect the ultimate power that God has. This isn’t at odds with passages that tell us that God is love and that we should not fear Him (Romans 3:18) We should not feel terror for God, though we should understand and accept that the power is His to wield.
Again, thinking of children, kids learn proper behavior by first fearing the punishment they will receive if they don’t act right. This doesn’t stop the kids from loving their dad. Indeed, it causes a condition where the respect and love can grow, particularly when there are also rewards for proper behavior. The same is true of our Heavenly Father. He has the power to do a lot more than merely punish, and yet his love is so great that he gave us all the means to live forever, by allowing his own son’s life to be taken, to pay for our misbehavior.
So fear God deeply and love Him even more. That is the beginning of wisdom. As it happens, wisdom is one of the gifts of God.
Posted in Deeper meanings, misunderstanding and tagged Epistle to the Hebrews, fear god, First Epistle of John, God the Father, Gospel of Matthew, Jesus, meaning, understanding by rextrulove with 2 comments.
There has been substantial discussion about the scriptural passage that reads, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” [Matthew 19:24 NIV]. The speaker was Jesus and the question people keep tripping over is what was meant by ‘the eye of a needle’?
Many people have said that the reference was to the east gate of Jerusalem. The gate is small, barely wide enough for a camel to fit through. Thus, they say that a loaded camel would need to be unloaded before it could pass through the gate. While it is indeed true that a camel would need to be unloaded before it could go through a narrow gate, there is no indication that the east gate of Jerusalem, or any other gate in Jerusalem, was ever called ‘the eye of a needle’ or ‘the eye’.
Other people firmly believe that the camel spoken about was mistakenly translated. They point out that in the ancient Aramaic language, the word for ‘camel’ was the same as the word for ‘rope’. Thus, they claim, the word should have been translated to rope, rather than camel. For a rope to pass through the eye of a needle, it would first need to be unraveled, which would be time-consuming and hard.
While the argument goes on, I can’t help but wonder why? The passage is about a rich man and the kingdom of God. It isn’t about the eye of a needle or a camel. I should say that there were indeed needles with eyes being used at that time and long before Jesus was even born, too.
The scripture, slightly rephrased, was also used by Mark [Mark 10:25] and yet again by Luke [18:25], so it is undoubtedly important. Still, I believe that the confusion comes from trying to decipher something that doesn’t need to be.
It wasn’t uncommon for Jesus to speak in parables when he was impressing an important point. For the greatest impact, he also frequently used conflicting terms that were ridiculous, much as we might say, “I am so tired I could sleep for a week” or “I could eat a horse”. Obviously, we are neither going to actually sleep for a week or eat a horse.
Just suppose for a moment that Jesus meant it to come out exactly as he said it; that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God? It is pretty easy to visualize trying to fit a camel through the eye of a needle, isn’t it? Jesus said it almost 2,000 years ago, but the saying still has clear meaning because of the ridiculous contrast.
There is no reason to debate what was meant, since if it is taken at face value, the meaning is plain. This is the problem with trying to over think something in an attempt to get greater meaning than what is right there and is as clear as glass.
Incidentally, Jesus also wasn’t necessarily speaking of someone who had material wealth, either. Several people, such as Solomon, were quite wealthy and were still favored by God. However, that is a different topic.
Posted in misunderstanding and tagged Aramaic language, camel, Eye of a needle, Gospel of Matthew, Jesus, New International Version by rextrulove with 2 comments.