Fear of the Lord: A Gift of the Holy Spirit

Man praying

 PeopleImages/Getty Images

Fear of the Lord is the last of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit enumerated in Isaiah 11:2-3. The gift of the fear of the Lord, Fr. John A. Hardon notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, confirms the theological virtue of hope. We often think of hope and fear as mutually exclusive, but the fear of the Lord is the desire not to offend Him, and the certainty that He will give us the grace necessary to keep from doing so. It is that certainty that gives us hope.

The fear of the Lord is like the respect we have for our parents. We do not wish to offend them, but we also do not live in fear of them, in the sense of being frightened.

What the Fear of the Lord Is Not

In the same way, Father Hardon notes, "The fear of the Lord is not servile but filial." In other words, it is not a fear of punishment, but a desire not to offend God that parallels our desire not to offend our parents.

Even so, many people misunderstand the fear of the Lord. Recalling the verse that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," they think that the fear of the Lord is something that is good to have when you first start out as a Christian, but that you should grow beyond it. That is not the case; rather, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom because it is one of the foundations of our religious life, just as the desire to do what our parents wish us to do should remain with us our entire lives.