Is fear a sin?

The big mistake

“Do you worry a lot?” I asked a Christian woman who was seeing me for the first time about depression.

“No, of course not,” she answered with so much confidence that I didn’t believe a word, “Worry is a sin.”

Upon further questioning about her depression, it became obvious that she worried constantly since it was a part of her illness that she could not control. She was too ashamed to admit it though because she had been taught that Phil. 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, was a command. If she were to worry, it would be deliberate disobedience to this command and therefore a sin. Being a sincere Christian, she didn’t want to disobey, so she just denied that reality.

I have personally heard ministers teach that Phil. 4:6 was a command and to worry was a sin. They even went so far as to insist that the cure for worry was to repent for it, renounce the habit and refuse to do it again.

This position is not only wrong but very harmful. I want to help you avoid making this mistake.

The answer

A person with a mood or anxiety disorder has a physical condition that prevents them from controlling their thoughts. They can’t stop worrying even though they desperately want to. To tell them that this is a sign of willful, repetitive sin is not only untrue but deeply offensive. It has led many of my patients to believe that they have lost their salvation or committed the unpardonable sin. This of course compounds their anxiety problem.

The same caution applies to the use of 2 Cor. 10:5, We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. A person with a mood disorder is physically unable to obey this command because their chemical imbalance makes it impossible to control their own thoughts.

These verses were written to those with normal thought control who were able to choose and direct their thoughts.

We must be careful how we speak about psychiatric matters in church. Let’s make church a place of understanding and encouragement rather than of inadvertent condemnation.

I have created books, seminars and recordings that will easily explain the diagnosis and treatments of mood disorders from a Christian perspective. You can see links to many of my resources here.

Leadership Q & A

  1. What is the best church growth strategy?
  2. Are you burning out?
  3. Is suicide the unpardonable sin?
  4. Can a person be too supportive of your ministry?
  5. Are you afraid of psychiatry?
  6. What is the unpardonable sin?
  7. Is fear a sin?
  8. Is counselling your gift?
  9. What is the key question to ask?
  10. Does depression have spiritual symptoms?
  11. Is your church “seeker friendly?”

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December 27, 2012
8:05 pm

“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone”.

Here, a list of sins are given, and fear is among them.

Isn’t fear a sin because it means we are not trusting the Lord completely?

Dr. Grant Mullen
December 27, 2012
8:59 pm

Good question! In most translations it says “the cowardly..” which would not apply to everyone who was ever fearful. Fear is a God given emotion, like anger, love and all the others. It was given to protect us from danger. But after the Fall, Satan has used our tendency to fear to torment us and trap us in unhealthy fear. So fear isn’t a sin, but God doesn’t want us to fall into the torment of fear.

Rene Joseph
July 11, 2013
3:58 am

Fear is sin, but when a person has a physical condition that would prevent him from entertaining it, it is NOT a willful or deliberate disobedience, and he cannot be judged for it. I think that is what Dr. Grant Muller has been trying to impress our minds with. Fear is sin, like any other sin, but sins can be deliberate and wilful, as well as sins that are not wilful and deliberate because of one’s inability to obey for reasons beyond his control.

Rene Joseph
July 11, 2013
2:09 pm

Since fear is the opposite of faith, spiritual fear is sin. As paul says, “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

December 9, 2013
9:00 am

I have a very difficult time accepting the fact that God gave a command (to take every thought captive) and YOU are saying that it may be impossible for someone to obey it. That is a slippery slope you are standing on, and claiming authority in.
I would choose to believe God to be true and every man a liar.
You may be giving people permission to sin on many levels.
Scary stuff.

March 23, 2014
8:43 am

Lose your fear of death and celebrate the death of fear.

May 6, 2014
1:56 pm

fear is innevitable to all men,a part of brain amygdala helps an individual to recognize sign of fear,for defence and protective action.yes fear is sin,when it undermines our faith in the power of our lord,and fear can be controlled by obidience to the holy spirit and the good understanding of God’s word.

February 2, 2015
2:56 pm

the fearful–Greek, “the cowardly,” who do not quit themselves like men so as to “overcome” in the good fight; who have the spirit of slavish “fear,” not love, towards God; and who through fear of man are not bold for God, or “draw back.”

Emotions in of themselves are not necessarily a sin. But, we should not be a people dominated by those emotions such that they cause you to sin.

I love Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,”

If you are held captive by fear or sin, I would encourage you to walk through Luke 4:18 and the ministry of Jesus Christ. Have you confessed Jesus as Lord? If you have, now ask Christ to heal your broken heart, and bind it with love, peace, and forgiveness of yourself and for others. With a saved soul and a healed heart, pray that God through the power of the Holy Spirit mortify fear and sin in your members and drain it’s power and influence in your life. Ask Christ to open your eyes to see His mighty power at work in your life! This is our victory in Christ!

February 20, 2015
11:11 pm

A man who is too afraid to admit his fears is a man who won’t overcome them. There is liberty in confession and freedom in acknowledgment. Lecrae

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