Fear, love, and trust
What are you most afraid of? What or who do you love the most? What or who do you trust the most? "You shall have no other Gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things." So says Luther in the Small Catechism as he repeats and explains the first commandment. What do you think people fear the most? Perhaps loss of a job or livelihood, loss of health (think Covid), the illness or death of a loved one, or even one's own death. What do you suppose people love the most? Maybe their spouse, or their family, a close friend, or possibly some material thing like a car or a home. What about trust? What do people trust the most? People may trust their skills and abilities, or their wealth, maybe a political leader, or their family and friends.
When we think about all the things we fear, love, and trust, Luther's explanation becomes even more striking. We are to fear, love, and trust in God above everything else. The Psalmist writes, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10). In Deut. 6:5 we read, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." In Psalm 37 we read, "Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act." We see that Luther's explanation is very Biblical. Anything that we fear, love, or trust more than God becomes an idol for us. Now, that doesn't mean we shouldn't love or trust other people. Not at all. It means that God should occupy the highest position. Luther puts it this way in the large catechism, "As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol."
Love and trusting in God are things we typically understand, but fear of God is the one that people often find confusing. Fear certainly means awe or reverence toward God. But knowing that God is all-powerful, and that Christ is our judge and realizing our sinfulness naturally leads to some actual fear as well! Jesus says, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28). He is speaking about Himself. But to God's beloved children, believers in Christ, Jesus says "Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." A healthy fear of God then is recognition of His holiness and our own sinfulness, but also of His mercy and love for us in Christ Jesus. Because of Jesus we "fear no evil" (Psalm 23:4).
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