Do Kids Confuse Fearing God with Being Afraid of God?

Hiding GirlWhen I was a little girl, I remember hearing that we should “fear God.” To me, that simply meant to be good and not to do anything that would make Him mad at me. My reasoning, like a lot of immature Christians, was that if I did something bad, God would punish me. Therefore fearing Him was my incentive to be good.

The Bible does command us to “fear God,” but those words mean to “show reverence” to God above all else. It has nothing to do with being afraid of God or being good because we don’t want His wrath to land on us! Not at all. In fact, that kind of fear is never of the Holy Spirit.

In 1 Timothy 1:7, we are told: 

“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

How am I supposed to deal with fear? I know the Bible says to trust God in all things, but faith can be a really difficult concept when I’m going through tough times. The enemy confuses my thoughts and throws lies at me. The only way to counter lies is with truth. God isn’t out to punish us – He’s there to redeem us!

Kids may also see God as scary. Somewhere the concept of who God is might have taken on a false persona – a persona where He sits, watches and waits for them to mess up in order to ultimately use His power to punish them. Of course that’s a total lie!

Read this passage with your kids to help them to better understand the true character of God (1 John 4:16-19):

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. 

When we teach our kids that there is absolutely nothing about God that should foster fear in us, we needn’t look any further than the foundation of the Gospel message (John 3:16-17):

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 

Lisa-StrnadLisa Strnad is a weekly contributor to the What’s in the Bible and JellyTelly blogs. She is a homeschooling mom of two, who works independent contractor in Christian media as a writer, marketing consultant, and public relations specialist. She speaks to Christian women’s groups on the issues of motherhood, home schooling and raising a child with special needs. Lisa and her family make their home in Nashville. Her blog, Talking Like A Girl, is currently being restructured.

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Jeannie Wright-Hendrickson
Jeannie Wright-Hendrickson

Fearing God really is being in awe and respect of God. Awe is in humbleness before God, and giving our will to Him in order to do His will. There is so much more to explain that term called "fear". Today's children learn things so much earlier than in the past, so be ready to give information earlier before their peers tell their versions of it.