The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil, Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and the perverted speech I hate. – Proverbs 8:13
I have been coming across the “fear of the LORD” often in my bible readings in the past few weeks predominantly because I have been reading the Proverbs. When I think of a “biblical fear”, it is not the type of fear that one experiences because they are afraid of the consequences. I believe “fear” in the bible goes much deeper. The NRSV Study bible describes the “fear of the LORD” as a “reverence and awe; a prerequisite for wisdom.” In order to become wise, we must possess a godly fear of reverence and awe; something that is capable of bringing us to our knees. I find it interesting that when we are in complete awe and reverence for God, we start to truly hate evil in all its forms. When we fear God, we should hate what God hates. The problem may arise, however for some, as to what is evil? Evil for one person may not be the same for the next person. How can we learn to find out what the definition of evil might be? If we do not know what evil looks like, the proverbs often explain some of the various forms of evil, such as pride, arrogance, and perverted speech.
I think for someone just beginning to “fear the LORD,” a person can understand what some examples of evil can be just through reading the proverbs. For example in this proverb, we see that God hates pride, arrogance, a way of evil and perverted speech. It is so easy to become proud or arrogant. There’s nothing wrong with being proud about a successful exam or overcoming a difficult challenge. The problem arises when one begins to believe that they are better than someone else because they have something “better” than the other person. This person may begin to gloat about it, either openly or to themselves. Believers in the true God of Israel can become proud without even realizing it because through worshipping God in the right way, we get blessed. Often, we can begin to think that we were the source of our own resourcefulness without giving honor to God, who is our source! This is the danger of pride. We would rather worship the creature rather than the Creator (Rom1:25). It is terribly easy to worship the work of our own hands (Jer1:16)! Depending on the job atmosphere, there can be much competition between co-workers. Where does our desire to do more and outdo the competition come from? Yes it can come from a desire to do your best work (as it should be), but sometimes, this desire is pushed by the fact that our colleagues are inadvertently pushing us to “outdo” them. This is very unchristian, however, we often do it without realizing.
As for perverted speech, I believe this one can easily slip past our tongues without any recognition. Our society/generation does not think of how our speech can be perverted nor does it even understand what non-perverted speech sounds like. Many people on the street will swear without the slightest hesitation, even amongst those who are well educated. Most Christians I have met don’t swear but I have met a few. Some even admit to swearing at a cashier because they were overcharged for groceries! Many people don’t think about the very common expression “Oh my G-d” as a cuss word. Nonetheless, it is taking the name of God in vain and sometimes I even wonder, which god? Should we be calling on the name of a god whether biblical or not? God never asked for his name to be used because someone got so many new things on sale. I used to have problems with this expression. I even had to be careful with using “Oh my gosh” because I felt it was still the same and it wasn’t truly getting me to stop. It took time to stop using this expression, however, in time and along with thinking before speaking, I stopped using this expression. I give God the glory for helping me.
As for another example about perverted speech, I remember I was listening to a conversation amongst apparent Christians who had just listened to how we must be aware of how the biblical world views stand in direct opposition to the world. One of these Christians made a comment of a sexual nature to another who responded with “You’ll have to pay for that” as if she were a prostitute. Everyone laughed at her comeback, but is it truly funny? Should we be joking about the possibility that she would do what the other was asking for money like a prostitute? Interestingly enough, the person who responded with “You’ll have to pay for that” realized that this was probably not the most proper way to respond. The other person was also equally to blame, although he did not admit to any wrongdoing. Nonetheless, what struck me the most is how easily our speech can become perverted in this society. These ways of thinking and speaking are not of God. In the bible, James says “the tongue stains the whole body!”…it cannot be tamed it is “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (Ja3:6-8). Just as the “eye is the lamp to the body” (Luke 11:14) so also the tongue stains the body. Therefore, “the fear of the LORD is the hatred of evil,” comes in many sizes and shapes. Hatred for evil can be the pride, arrogance and perverted speech we may find in ourselves or our world. It can also be the world’s injustice. As for today, we must focus on our pride, arrogance and perverted speech. What kind of speech blesses our God the Father and our brothers and sisters in Christ? Once we have calmed our own pride and speech, we can hate the injustice rampart in our world, knowing that the Father too hates the evil ways of injustice. Help us to hate evil as we stand in fearful awe and reverence for our God. Gives us strength to condemn the evil we see in us and around us!