World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


Fear, Submission, And Obedience

In this section are gathered representative passages on the fear of God, submission to God, and obedience to God's will. The fear of God sometimes means to serve God out of fear of punishment, as in the passage from the Upanishad on the fearsomeness of Shiva and from the African traditional ritual of Ofo. But usually the fear of God is a more exalted emotion, an awe and respect for Ultimate Reality who has graciously provided for our lives. Fear includes the notions of duty and loyalty to God, who is worthy of all service because of his continual blessings and help. It includes the idea of awe and respect, since God is awesome, mighty, and wonderful. It also includes the notions of shame and the fear of the consequences of sin, which guard people from unseemly behavior and sins which would cause injury to themselves.

Submission or surrender to God is a theme especially prominent in Islam, whose name means Submission; but it is also an important theme of Vaishnavite Hinduism, wherein surrender to Krishna is regarded as the core teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. The virtue of obedience to God is particularly significant in the Abrahamic religions, which envision God as a Person who acts in history and in the lives of individuals. In Eastern religions we also find passages calling us to conform to the will of Heaven and to conform our will to the nature of Ultimate Reality.

O you who believe! Fear God as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam.

Islam. Qur'an 3.102

Qur'an 3.102: Cf. Qur'an 2.130-36, p. 757; Hadith of Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, p. 465.

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I [Moses] command you this day for your good?

Judaism. Deuteronomy 10.12-13

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.

Judaism and Christianity. Psalm 25.14

Call on Him with fear and longing in your hearts: for the Mercy of God is near to those who do good.

Islam. Qur'an 7.56

To fear God and commune with Him is the whole secret of faith for those who serve the cause of the true God.

Omoto Kyo. Michi-no-shiori

The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.

Judaism and Christianity. Habakkuk 2.20

Divine things, Proceeding from the mind Of the unseen kami-- How awesome, and Not to be taken lightly!

Shinto. Norinaga Motoori, One Hundred Poems on the Jewelled Spear

Shiva, the sovereign of the gods, He in whom all the worlds rest, He who rules over all two-footed and four-footed beings, to that god let us sacrifice an oblation.

"Thou art unborn," with these words some come near to Thee, trembling. O Rudra, let Thy gracious face protect me for ever! O Rudra! hurt us not in our offspring and descendants, hurt us not in our own lives, nor in our cows, nor in our horses! Do not slay our men in Thy wrath, for, holding oblations, we call on Thee always.

Hinduism. Svetasvatara Upanishad 4.13, 21-22

Deuteronomy 10.12-13: Cf. Exodus 14.30-31, p. 751; Deuteronomy 6.20-8.20, p. 1084. Psalm 25.14: The Covenant is the agreement defining the relationship between God and Israel, and by extension to all people, with its specific obligations and promised blessings for obedience, curses for disobedience. Qur'an 7.56: Cf. Qur'an 8.2-4, p. 751; Hadith of Darimi, p. 828; Nahjul Balagha, Khutba 67, p. 338. Habakkuk 2.20: This expresses the awesome sense of the numinous. Cf. Kikuya Prayer, p. 779.

This Ofo we have come today to consecrate you. You will start today to be effective. Anybody that has poison that can kill, any man or woman or anybody who steals and denies it, if he is brought and if this Ofo is brought and he or she swears on it may you kill him or her. Anybody that commits an incest or any other kind of abomination against the earth deity may this Ofo kill him.

You the holder of this Ofo, if you commit any of these crimes may this Ofo kill you. Earth goddess you have heard. Thunder you have heard. Ebirike, our ancestors have you heard? Yam goddess listen, water spirit and the spirit of the latrine, you have all heard. Be our witness today that anybody who commits abomination should die! I think I am correct? Yes!

African Traditional Religion. Igbo Consecration (Nigeria)

May your fear of Heaven be as strong as your fear of man!

Judaism. Talmud, Berakot 28b

The fear of God is mighty and of great weight. Egoism is worthless and just vociferous. Walk under the weight of such great fear; And through Divine grace obtain knowledge of God. None crosses the ocean of existence unless he bear fear; Through fear the fear-directed life is beautified with divine love. Through fear of God, the fire of fear blazes in the human frame. Through fear of God and love is molded spiritual beauty. Without fear of God all that is uttered is misshapen and worthless-- The mold and the shaping strokes both blind....

Through fear of God vanish worldly fears. The fear of God which eliminates all other fear-- how may it be called fear? No other resting place is except Thee; All that happens is Thy will. One might be afraid of it if anything other than God held any fear-- To be shaken with such fears is sheer perturbation of mind.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Gauri, M.1. p. 151

Svetasvatara Upanishad 4.13, 21-22: Shiva has many aspects, one of which is the God of destruction. In this fearful aspect he is worshipped in this passage from the Upanishads. Rudra is an epithet of Shiva. Igbo Consecration: The Ofo stick is a central religious symbol of the Igbos. It represents the connection between the human world and the spiritual world, and is used to connect with spiritual power, give blessings, empower curses, solemnize oaths, enforce justice, and bring the collective wisdom and power of the ancestors to bear on social and political decisions. Cf. Igbo Trial, p. 372. Berakot 28b: For a Chinese story about someone who had no fear of heaven, see Treatise on Response and Retribution, pp. 374f. Cf. Analects 3.13, p. 827.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Judaism and Christianity. Proverbs 9.11

He in whom the fear of sin comes before wisdom, his wisdom will endure; but he in whom wisdom comes before the fear of sin, his wisdom will not endure.

Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 3.11

Monks, two bright things guard the world: shame and fear of blame. If these two bright things did not guard the world... the world would fall into promiscuity, as is the case with goats, sheep, poultry, pigs, dogs, and jackals.

Buddhism. Itivuttaka 36

Whosoever submits his will to God, while doing good, his wage is with his Lord, and no fear shall be upon them, neither shall they sorrow.

Islam. Qur'an 2.112

Abandon all supports and look to me for protection. I shall purify you from the sins of the past; do not grieve.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 18.66

He who submits to the yoke of the Torah liberates himself from the yoke of circumstance. He rises above the pressures of the state and above the fluctuations of worldly fortune.

Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 3.6

"They are My servants" [Leviticus 25.55]--not servants' servants.

Judaism. Talmud, Baba Metzia 10a

I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.

Christianity. John 6.38

Itivuttaka 36: This fear is only a beginning stage of faith, a guard at the gate of hell rather than the way to heaven. Cf. I Ching, Great Commentary 1.3.4, p. 902. Qur'an 2.112: On Muhammad's absolute obedience to God, see Qur'an 6.50, p. 655. Bhagavad Gita 18.66: This passage gives the essence of surrendering to God in the Hindu bhakti tradition. Baba Metzia 10a: Cf. Bhagavad Gita 12.5-7, p. 761; Abot 1.3, p. 941. John 6.38: Cf. Matthew 7.21, p. 811; Patet 6, p. 902.

O you who believe! Be mindful of your duty to God, and seek the way to approach unto Him, and strive in His way in order that you may succeed.

Islam. Qur'an 5.35

A sacrificial vessel: The superior man, taking his stance as righteousness requires, adheres firmly to Heaven's decrees.

Confucianism. I Ching 50: Sacrificial Vessel

Make [God's] will as your will, so that He may make your will as His will; make naught your will before His will, so that He may make naught the will of others before your will.

Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 2.4

Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.

Christianity. Bible, Romans 6.13

Abiding by your commandment is preferable to worshipping you. Obeying your commandment conduces to deliverance and contravenes from bondage.

Jainism. Vitaragastava 19.4

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken to the fat of rams.

Judaism and Christianity. Bible, 1 Samuel 15.22

What is thy command? What is thy wish? Is it for praise? Is it for worship? Proclaim, O Wise One, that we may hear for which of the decrees rewards shall be assigned-- Instruct us through Right, paths good to tread, of Good Mind!

Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 34.12

Qur'an 5.35: Cf. Kikuya Prayer, p. 779. Abot 2.4: Cf. Dharmasangiti Sutra, pp. 162f.; Proverbs 3.5-6, p. 752; Patet 6, p. 902. I Ching 50: Cf. Analects 20.3.1, p. 750. 1 Samuel 15.22: Cf. Micah 6.6-8, pp. 860f. Yasna 34.12: Cf. Yasna 33.14, p. 876; Patet 6, p. 902.

Why does God require of us obedience?... Man must push away and overcome the factors of the Fall [of man]. Because the Fall originated from disobedience, God must order us to have absolute obedience as a necessary condition to restore this. Therefore in our religious way of life we cannot complain. We have no excuse; we must have absolute obedience.

Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 9-11-72

Ritual purification, though million-fold, may not purify the mind. Nor may absorption in trance still it, however long and continuous. Possessing worlds multiple quenches not the rage of avarice and desire. A thousand million feats of intellect bring not emancipation. How then to become true to the Creator? How to demolish the wall of illusion? Through obedience to His Ordinance and Will. Says Nanak, This blessing too is pre-ordained.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Japuji 1, M.1, p. 1

Sun Myung Moon, 9-11-72: p. 867. On not complaining, see Bhagavad Gita 3.31-32, p. 162; Book of Songs, Ode 40, p. 707; Var Majh, M.1, p. 707. Japuji 1, M.1: Cf. Micah 6.6-8, pp. 860f.


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