Proverbs 9: 8-12
Psalm 10: 12-18
St. Luke 14: 25-33
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Many of you grew up with parents that were strict and could be scary when needed. Some of you may have been that kind of parent. When I was a child, my mother was definitely one of those firm parents who spanked and grounded and made sure I was punished whenever necessary. She was fierce and protective, but she expected high things from her children and raised us to respect authority, to understand consequences, and to trust her judgement. She was a good mother, and because she was good she was strict. She forced her kids to go to church, no if or buts, we went. She gave warnings and followed through with her warnings. She was also a huge advocate of providing a healthy dosage of vitamin “No”. Again, she did all this because she was a good parent.
As a child, I grew to respect my mother. Of course I hated it when I was punished, looking back I know that my punishments were absolutely necessary, and I’m glad my mother was strict with me. I loved her, but I also had a healthy level of fear which prevented me from doing things I should of never done. As a child, I was taught to honor my parents, but what does it mean to honor. It means to simply to love and trust but also to fear. When you obey your parents you do so because you trust their judgment, because you love them and want to obey them, but
also because you fear their punishment. The wrath of a parent should be a scary thing, and it is this fear that puts reigns on the more mischievous side of children. It is also this fear that teaches us initially the difference between right and wrong. As babies, we already got the trust and love part down toward our good parents, but it is the fear that stops us in our tracks whenever we do something inappropriate or dangerous. We don’t know that our actions are such, but we know fear, and it is the fear that teaches us that the action is a bad action. Thus if we have good parents, the fear of a parent’s wrath is a blessing. Through it we develop the wisdom to know what is inappropriate and what is bad.
For example, say a young child is chasing a ball and the ball enters a street. Because the young child fears being yelled at again the child stops instinctively and looks both ways before chasing the ball. If the child had no fear he would have kept on chasing the ball because at that moment the ball is more important, but because the child does have fear, though he may not understand why as soon as he gets to the road it is almost like a flip is switched and the boy stops in his tracks to look both ways. Not getting yelled at again is more important than the ball.
The same applies to the most good and heavenly, kind and gentle, of all parents, our good Father in Heaven. As children of the heavenly kingdom we should both love and fear God the Father. Now we should not fear that God with act in an evil manner, for no such thing will ever happen, but rather fear His righteous judgment. But before we get there, first, is not God the most loving and good parent ever? Can any parent on earth be better than God? Can anyone be better than God? No, because
God isn’t just the best but is the source of all that is good. God is the definer of what it means to be good, and nothing can take that away from Him. This is the foundation of every argument we stand on regarding God: that God is good all the time. We start there, and then we proceed to have a healthy level of fear toward God our Heavenly Father, in the same way we should have a healthy level of fear toward our earthly parents.
One of my favorite books in the Bible is Job, so let us read Job 28:28, “And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” God tells us multiple times that all good things come from Him and that most certainly includes wisdom. Now this is not the wisdom found in philosophy or sociology or politics or humanities or any other human-made form of understanding. These are all human attempts at being wise, but all are foolishness compared to the wisdom we do receive from God.
So why is it that true wisdom comes only from fearing God and this wisdom from the world is but a fake? It all boils down to sin. For when it comes to understanding the difference between good and evil and then acting in a way to avoid said evil, it is
blatantly obvious that without the help of God we never learn our lesson. We create for ourselves our own version of good and evil, so we are already failing at the get-go as we lie to ourselves about reality, but then we fail at following through with our own made-up system of morality. Then we pick up the fragments and instead of learning our lesson we try it again.
That’s the thing about wisdom, if you don’t learn your lesson then you will never grow wise. On top of that, the mark of a truly wise person is someone who is willing to learn from their mistakes and listen to a credible source. When it comes to morality, there is only one credible source, and that is God. This is why we read in our first lesson, Proverbs 9: 8-9, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” The scoffer is he who does not fear God. The scoffer is the one who will not listen to reason regarding the Word of God. The wise one is willing to acknowledge that as a fallen human he will fail and get things wrong and is thus willing to be reproved. A wise person is willing to be reprimanded by scripture, and will grow wiser and more loving toward God for it. And as for a righteous man, well in this context a righteous person is a wise person, for a person is made righteous and wise on account of faith in God which implies trust, love, and fear.
This then naturally leads to the next verse, Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” As one can tell this is but a variant to Job 28:28. God is repeating to us in Scripture, putting extra emphasis on this message by repeating it multiple times throughout Scripture, this message that He is so dearly trying to drill home. And what is that lesson? That fearing God is a good thing and should be desirable in all Christians alongside love in God for it is through fear in the righteous wrath of God that we become wise. This is wisdom found in humility. By humbling ourselves to God, we allow Him to teach us what is good and
what is evil. It is fear that compels us towards humility, for if we didn’t fear God than we would naturally show partiality toward His Word.
Though we are fallen humans incapable of perfectly following the Law, we should still attempt to follow the Law and humbly repent whenever we stumble. We do this not because we are trying to save ourselves through the Law, but because we ought to follow the Law. Our love toward God in desiring to follow Him, and our fear toward God of His displeasure, combined, is what makes us wise.
The same applies to the Cross. If you love Christ, but fear not the consequences of sin, then you will never turn toward the Cross. For to be saved through faith in Christ is simply this: to love and fear God so much that you throw your sins on Jesus who died on the Cross to take on those sins thus providing for you the means to eternal salvation in Heaven. Jesus Christ died to forgive you your sins; that is what it means to be saved. Yet, if you fear not Hell, nor sin, nor the Law then why in the world would you run to Jesus to be forgiven of that which you don’t care about? The reason why we turn to Christ is because of our sins. We are so terrified of the just punishment we deserve that we turn out of love to the only source of forgiveness. And this is where the beauty of God’s law fulfilled comes into play, for not only did He out of love show for us, His children, what is good and evil and the consequences of such, He also showed us the means of forgiveness.
And again, I need to stress that word, “forgiveness.” If our faith in Christ was so centered on loving God but not fearing Him then though we may turn to Christ we would change His sacrifice from a means of forgiveness into a means of acceptance. In a society that loves but does not fear God, we make a mockery of Jesus’ sacrifice by proclaiming it as a means of allowance toward sin. In such a society it is alright to sin for Christ already forgave you of your sin. There is no fear nor respect nor honor to God the Father in such a society. Murder and rape and lying in court will be rampant but it would be alright because Christ already forgave you. Do you now see the necessity of having a healthy level of fear toward God? Christ didn’t come to abolish the Law, he came to fulfill it, and therefore the Law still exists. Thus as Christians, saved by faith alone, we still have an obligation to obey God and follow all His commandments.
It is fear that helps us do this, and through such fear we, who are still children in the eyes of God the father, will grow in wisdom as we come to understand what is good and what is evil. And as we fear God, let it be known that God is the most good of all fathers and will never do any evil toward you, but instead provides a most gracious means of forgiveness. Thus, allow your fear to compel you toward that means of grace.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, show us your children the ways of wisdom and to learn from you and continually grow. In your heavenly name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.