Fear

This week, dozens of wealthy parents were charged with fraud after paying millions of dollars to a man named William Singer, who ran a bogus college prep company. Singer bribed admissions officials, test proctors, and coaches to guarantee kids’ acceptance into elite universities. One couple paid $500,000 to get their daughters into the University of Southern California on the rowing team, though neither girl had ever taken part in the sport.

Why would parents, who were able to give their kids every advantage, do something so dishonest?

Didn’t they fear getting caught?

My guess is that the parents were afraid of how they might look if their teenager didn’t get into the “right school.”

We’re studying Nehemiah, the Old Testament exile who God called long ago to rebuild Jerusalem. With God’s guidance, Jerusalem was rebuilt. Then, incredibly, the former exiles turned on each other. They cheated one another out of property. They charged one another interest on loans, something God had forbidden.

Nehemiah’s rebuke to the cheaters: “Shouldn’t you walk in fear of our God?”.

“Fear of the Lord,” doesn’t so much mean a fear of getting caught, or even a fear of going to hell. It means healthy reverence. And it’s the kind of fear that usually comes with love and hope.

We shake our heads at wealthy parents who cheat, but what of the exiles in Nehemiah’s day? They’d come back to Jerusalem with nothing except the grace of God. You’d think they’d have each other’s back; instead they cheated each other.   

I wonder what our lives would be like if, instead of trying to take advantage of each other, we worked to cultivate a healthy fear of our God?

Who knows, we might not be afraid of, say, our kids’ score on college entrance exams.

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