Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” A snare is a lure or a trap. Fishermen sometimes use snares to catch fish. Hunters use various kinds of snares to trap game. And Satan uses snares to trap human beings (Jeremiah 5:26). One of those snares is the fear of man.
The fear of man can be both physical and psychological. Jesus said to His followers, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:4–5). Jesus was preparing the disciples for the physical persecution that would follow His resurrection (Luke 21:12; Acts 8:1). They would be beaten, stoned, flogged, and imprisoned (2 Corinthians 11:24–27). Many of them would be killed. Yet He warned them not to let the fear of man stop them from proclaiming the gospel. Even though His followers would undergo tremendous physical suffering for His sake, the trials would be brief and temporary (2 Corinthians 4:17). The moment they left the earth, they would forever reap rewards for their faithfulness. Wicked men could hurt them no longer (Revelation 3:5).
But a threat more prevalent to most Christians, especially those in Western and free nations, is the psychological fear of man. This fear is an anxious need to receive affirmation from those around us. The fear of man manifests as people-pleasing, compromised values, peer pressure, and a choice not to share our faith. The fear of man can be a snare when we allow it to influence our decisions. Rather than obey the voice of the Holy Spirit (John 10:27), we opt for avoiding unpleasant interactions. It’s easier to heed the fear of man than to invite the possibility of consequences. Consider the bold words of Peter when he and the other apostles were ordered to stop preaching in the name of Jesus: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The first disciples did not allow the fear of man to keep them from doing what God had called them to do.
The fear of man is a snare in that it supplants the fear of God in our lives. Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10), the fear of man sets us on the road to foolishness.
The fear of man has replaced biblical conviction in some so-called Christian circles today. Public opinion has overridden the clear teaching of Scripture on many social issues. Entire denominations are caving to the fear of man, and it has become a snare to them. The desire to be viewed by the world as progressive, enlightened, tolerant, or politically correct is a snare Satan has used to reel people into his way of thinking. The need to be liked and accepted has become more important than the Word of God to many professing believers, thus proving the truth of Proverbs 29:25.
Romans 8:31 points us away from the ensnaring fear of man: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” While Christians should always be sensitive to current social issues and be compassionate and kind to all, we must never allow the fear of man to determine our course. Thousands of martyrs could have avoided death had they only remained silent about their loyalty to Christ. If they had allowed the fear of man to silence them, they may have won the world’s applause but lost heaven’s. While Satan cannot steal the salvation of those born again into God’s kingdom (John 1:12; 3:3), he can and does use snares to steal our victory, our witness, and our opportunities to store up treasure in heaven by magnifying the fear of man (John 10:10; Luke 12:33).