Whether Worldly Fear is Always Evil
Whether Worldly Fear is always Evil

We proceed to the third article thus:

1. It seems that worldly fear is not always evil. For regard for men appears to belong to human fear, and some are blamed because they have no regard for men, as for example the unjust judge in Luke, ch.18, who feared not God, neither regarded man. Hence it seems that worldly fear is not always evil.

2. Again, worldly fear, it seems, fears the punishments imposed by worldly powers. But we are induced by such punishments to do good, according to Rom.13:3: "Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same." Hence worldly fear is not always evil.

3. Again, what is naturally in us does not seem to be evil, since what is natural is given us by God. Now it is natural that a man should fear harm to his own body, and natural also that he should fear loss of the worldly goods by which his present life is sustained. Hence it seems that worldly fear is not always evil.

On the other hand: our Lord says: "fear not them which kill the body," in Matt.10:28, wherein worldly fear is forbidden. Now nothing is divinely forbidden unless it is evil. It follows that worldly fear is evil.

I answer: it is clear from what we said in 12ae, Q.1, Art.3; Q.18, Art.1; and Q.54, Art.2, that moral actions and moral habits take their name and their species from their objects. Now the proper object of an appetitive movement is the good which it seeks as an end, and each appetitive movement is accordingly named and specified by its proper end. It would therefore be a mistake for anyone to say that cupidity was love of work, on the ground that men work in order to serve their cupidity. For the covetous do not seek work as an end, but as the means to an end. They seek riches as an end, wherefore covetousness is rightly said to be the desire or love of riches, which is evil. Hence worldly love is correctly denned as the love whereby one trusts in the world as an end. It is consequently evil at all times. Now fear is born of love. For Augustine makes it clear that a man fears lest he should lose something which he loves (83 Quaest. Evang., Q.33). Worldly fear is therefore the fear which results from worldly love, as from an evil root. For this reason, worldly fear is always evil.

On the first point: there are two ways in which one may have regard for men. One may have regard for them because there is something divine in them, such as the good of grace or of virtue, or at least the image of God. Those who do not have regard for men in this way are blamed. But one may also have regard for men in their opposition to God. Those who do not have regard for men in this way are praised, as Elijah or Elisha is praised in Ecclesiasticus 48:12: "In his days he feared not the prince."

On the second point: when worldly powers impose punishments in order to restrain men from sin, they are ministers of God, according to Rom.13:4: "for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." Fear of such worldly power is not worldly fear, but either servile or initial fear.

On the third point: it is natural that a man should fear harm to his own body, and the loss of temporal things. But to forsake justice on their account is contrary to natural reason. Hence the philosopher says in 3 Ethics 1 that there are certain things, such as deeds of sin, which a man ought not to contemplate on account of any fear, since to commit such sins is worse than to endure any penalties whatsoever.

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