Fear. We are haunted by it. Macro-fears, such as world war, nuclear bombs, corrupt government officials, economic collapse, and another pandemic, haunt us by day. Personal fears, such as loss of loved ones, unemployment, death, and worries about our children, keep us awake by night. Some of our fears are justified, others are wildly improbable.
Too often, we worry about the wrong things. Ever since the movie Jaws, people have worried about shark attacks. But the reality is there are an average of 72 documented shark attacks globally compared with an annual 4.5 million dog bites in the US alone. We worry about domestic and international terrorist attacks; but with the exception of 2001, fewer than 30 Americans per year are killed in terrorist attacks, compared with an average of 34,157 who die from the seasonal flu. Far more Americans will die during a typical year (2.8 million) than will be audited by the IRS (659,003 in 2021). Far more will die in fatal car crashes (38,824 in the US in 2020) than in fatal airline accidents (176 worldwide in 2021).
In Matthew 6, Jesus taught us to worry less about food and clothing: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?… But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” In Luke 12, Jesus spoke this challenging word: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!”
I believe that Jesus understood that we are going to have fears and worries. But he didn’t want us to allow everyday worries and anxieties to consume us. He taught that it is possible to obsess and worry about the wrong things. He also urged that if we’re going to fear anyone or anything, we should fear God, by which he meant we should hold in utter reverence the One who will one day judge the living and the dead. The upshot of Jesus’ teaching is that we should worry less and hold God in awe, allowing our ultimate respect for the Lord of all to shape all other life priorities and concerns.
So, what are you afraid of?