What is the fear of man? It is caring more about what people say than what God says. It is called “low self-esteem” by some psychologists, but as Ed Welch notes, “Low self-esteem is a pop version of biblical shame….” Since the fall, we’re ashamed before people and God, but usually people primarily.
“The praise of others – that wisp of a breeze that lasts for a moment – can seem more glorious to us than the praise of God (cf. John 5.44). Since all of us are affected by it at one time or another, we are almost sympathetic toward such behavior. But this is perhaps the most tragic form of the fear of man. Teenagers are constantly making unwise decisions because of it. Adults, too, look to people for their cues. We wait for others to take initiatives of love. We spend too much time wondering what others may have thought about our outfit or the comment we made in the small group meeting…. We are more concerned about looking stupid (a fear of people) than we are about acting sinfully (fear of the Lord)” (emphasis his).
He continues, noting that this is idolatry. “As in all idolatry, the idol we choose to worship soon owns us. The object we fear overcomes us. Although insignificant in itself, the idol becomes huge and rules us. It tells us how to think, what to feel, and how to act. It tells us what to wear, it tells us to laugh at the dirty joke, and it tells us to be frightened to death that we might have to get up in front of a group and say something. The whole strategy backfires. We never expect that using people to meet our desires leaves us enslaved to them.”
This is an outstanding book. If you’ve struggled with peer-pressure, *low self-esteem*, or even if you care too much what other people think of you, grab this book! It is like Jerry Bridges book, Respectable Sins, but it deals mostly with one sin: fearing man more than God.