Fear is a powerful motivator for sin because it creates a self-focused attitude. Two types of fear we can have in this world involve the concern for bodily harm and the anxiety of losing our social status along with it accompanying possessions. When people’s hearts are more focused on themselves than the laws of Christ, the truth becomes distorted and sinful behaviors are more likely to occur.
Numbers 13 and 14 describe the story of the Israelites exploring the land that the Lord had promised to give them. The Israelites sent 12 explorers—one from each tribe—and after 40 days they were told to give a full report of the land’s fertility and the strength of its inhabitants. Numbers 13:27-29 records most of the spies telling the council that the land was abundantly fertile, but the inhabitants were very large with heavily fortified cities. Then one of the spies named Caleb focused his heart on God, silenced all the people and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” However, the men rebutted, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are… We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” Thus, they spread a bad report among the people and encouraged so much fear that the leaders of the Israelites were ready to stone Caleb along with Joshua—another righteously outspoken spy.
Another person whom the Jews were tempted to stone was the apostle Paul. In his former career as a Pharisee, Paul was considered a hero among Jewish society because he was outspoken about his faith and often persecuted Christians (Phil. 3:5-6). Yet, after he began teaching about Christ, the same society that praised him, sought to arrest, torture, and kill him. Pharisees were high standing members of Jewish society that possessed an education, wealth, notoriety, power, etc. For a Pharisee to admit Jesus Christ as savior would put his lifestyle in jeopardy, therefore the easier option is to say He is a fraud. However, Paul encourages all children of God by saying, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Phill. 3:7-8)
Contrary to any personal viewpoints, the only true hero to humanity is Christ. Paul even wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” The devil distorts this truth by using fear, money, or other means of this world, in an attempt to make humans believe that each other are the enemy. When in fact, he (Satan) is the real adversary of humanity. 1 Peter 5:8 reads, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”