“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
This past Wednesday, I recorded an episode for the Biblical Manhood podcast called, “The Fear of the Lord”. In that episode, I dealt with what the Bible really teaches about fearing God. It has nothing to do with being afraid of God, but rather, to regard Him with a trembling honor, reverence, and value. Simply put, to fear the Lord is to know Him with a reverential love and to value His Word as a priceless, hidden treasure. If you’d like to learn more on this subject, check out episode 32 of Biblical Manhood HERE.
For today’s blog post, I wanted to deal with the passage of scripture quoted above. To start, the book of Ecclesiastes is a lamentatory teaching from King Solomon. Near the end of his life, after having found all the fame and fortune he had ever desired, Solomon came to the late realization that his material pursuits were altogether a meaningless “grasping for the wind”. Solomon’s net worth, according to today’s currency, is estimated to be nearly $2.2 trillion! He married an Egyptian princess (plus literally 699 other wives over his lifetime)! Solomon had everything he ever wanted, and in the end, he said it was all trivial. And sorrowing over how he had spent his life pursuing meaningless things, he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes as his way of instructing young people concerning the true meaning of life. The very last thing Solomon said in that book, is the passage quoted above – “the conclusion of the whole matter”. His conclusion: “Fear God and keep His commandments. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
Above all else, we were created for a personal relationship with God. Nothing else will satisfy, and nothing else will bring true significance or meaning to our lives. But not only is it about finding our created purpose, but fulfilling our God-given duty. We are held responsible to live our lives and make every decision as an outflow of our awareness of divine accountability. The truth is, we are accountable to God. According to scripture, every choice we make and even every word we say we will have to answer for on judgment day (Matthew 12:36-37, Romans 14:10-12, 2 Corinthians 5:9-11). One day, when we get to heaven, we will stand before the throne of God where our works in the body on earth will be examined and afterward rewarded; this is the judgment day that Christians will experience. It’s not a judgment of punishment (since we’ve been redeemed from such punishment by the blood of Jesus), but a reckoning made by the eternal Judge to determine how we will be rewarded for the life we lived on earth.
I don’t believe that every believer will hear from Jesus, “Well done, My good and faithful servant” when we all get to heaven. Why? Because just like in sports tournaments and the grading system of education, there’s no incentive to perform well if, despite how hard they work, everyone receives the same reward in the end. It would be unfair and unjust of God to tell a blatantly unfaithful servant, “Well done.” What motivation is there then to do well moving forward?
This knowledge of eternal judgment and rewards creates a godly fear in your heart. A sense of eternal accountability makes you careful of your choices and heedful of the eternal impact of those choices. The fear of the Lord, in the context of this passage in Ecclesiastes, is the reverent awareness of the fact that everything we do and say has eternal weight, bearing certain repercussions that will carry into eternity. For example, there may be certain people that end up in hell because countless Christians inconsiderately passed them by when they desperately needed someone to show them Jesus. I know that may sound extreme, but it’s reality. We are here for a purpose, and that purpose is to win souls. If we neglect that purpose to which we are held accountable, we will have to stand before our Lord and answer for our complacency. God loves us, of course, and has forgiven us of every shortcoming through what Jesus did for us on the cross; but God is also a Judge.
It is the whole duty of man to fear God and keep His commands, because the only way we will ever live a life that pleases God is if we live with a constant awareness of and diligent obedience to the accountability of eternal judgment. We weren’t created for us, but for Him (Colossians 1:16). If we fail to cultivate the fear of the Lord and of eternal judgment in our hearts, we will only live for temporary entertainment, enjoyment, and comfort. And not only does such a futile way of life lead to dissatisfaction and sorrow, but it hardens one’s heart to a critical sense of godly fear that every person must have rooted in their heart in order to walk worthy of the gospel (Ephesians 4:1, 2 Corinthians 5:9).
The fear of the Lord is the key to intimacy with God, but it is also the key to a truly meaningful and eternally rewarding existence.
I encourage you to think about this over the coming weeks, and allow the Word of God to awaken a sense of godly fear in your heart. Don’t allow yourself to become calloused by the materialism that has infected this present world. But always remember, God loves you to eternity and will never cease to be the perfect Father that you need and long for. It’s because He loves you that He implores you to take heed how you spend your life here on earth. Your life is only a little dash between two years inscribed on a gravestone. What will you do with that little dash?