You hear you phone ring out it’s message-notification chime. You read the message warning you about some fearful possibility. It comes from a good friend, it is highly relevant, and you realise that many of your phone contacts should know about this too. So you quickly tap the forward options on the app, find all your beloved friends who need to know, and fulfil your neighbourly duty in warning them of the bad things that are happening that they need to take into consideration for their own well-being. Congratulations, your good intentions might well have made you a fear-monger!

Ask yourself, are you a monger when it comes to forwarding messages? It is a very trending occupation that only takes one a moment of time a few times a day. It is a compelling occupation that tugs at your emotions, fears, and desire to inform the world. It is an occupation, however, that Christians should not be known for.

What is a monger?

A person promoting something undesirable or discreditable.

a person who attempts to stir up or spread something that is usually petty or discreditable

In our current time of a world-impacting pandemic, we can nuance monger to be a little more specific. Do you participate in fear-mongering, or it’s synonym, scaremongering? What is that you ask?

Definition of fear-mongering:

The action of deliberately arousing public fear or alarm about a particular issue.

the spreading of frightening and exaggerated rumors of an impending danger to purposely arouse fear in order to manipulate the public

This is the sad reality of living in a world where not every message you received from your good friend originated from good intentions. There are countless people in this world who write falsehoods to spread fear. There are countless sinful motives that motivate individuals to spread panic for profit. Those who have no commitment to truth and love thrive on opinions and malice, on rumour and fear, on conspiracy and greed. They are the source of scaremongering messages and rely on the fear instilled by the messages to dull the commitment to truth in the masses who will be passing on the message as though it were a message of salvation.

What are we as Christians to do with messages like that?

In a very different context, but with a profound word of insight nonetheless, the LORD warned the prophet Isaiah not to “walk in the way of the people”, saying,

Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy,
and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.
But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy.
Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.

Isaiah 8:12-13 (ESV)

There are a number of principles in this warning to protect ourselves from unwittingly participating in fear-mongering.

1) Do not “walk in the way of the people”. In other words, don’t instinctively do what everyone is doing. Don’t be too quick to believe everything you read just because someone you don’t know decided to write it. Don’t instinctively forward everything you receive.

2) Do not “call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy”. Just because someone has a theory, doesn’t make it true. Just because it is believable doesn’t mean it should be believed.

3) “do not fear what they fear”. Let truth, not fear, determine if you believe a message. Let truth, not fear, determine if you forward a message. We are not fear-mongers, but truth-‘mongers’. Verify the message, and if it cannot be verified (i.e. date-stamp, official letter-head, link to reputable source, hoaxology check, etc), then don’t forward it, and most certainly don’t fear whatever it says.

4) “honour the LORD of hosts as holy”. God is the God of uncountable armies at His disposal, so do not fear what one message that ‘might-be-true-but-is probably-not’ says. We honour the LORD by spreading truth, both to people in general, and to those who fear every conspiracy and forwarded that fear-inducing message to us.

Finally 5), if you will live in fear, live in the fear of the LORD. He will avenge the one who originally wrote the fear-mongering message. He will employ the “hosts” at His disposal to govern all the fearful earthly things and preserve His saints. Do not fear what people fear; fear the Lord. Do not believe what people conspired, believe the Lord. Do not let your Christian love and care be exploited for fear and falsehood.

In a pandemic of fear, much of which is very real, and much of which is only fear-mongering we have a Christian duty not to walk in the ways of everyone else. When something makes you afraid and you are not sure if it is true or not, cast your anxieties on the Lord in prayer (1 Pet 5:7), verify the message as much as you are able, and speak (or forward) only that which is both truthful and loving (Col 3:9; Eph 4:15).

Trust the Lord whose word is true.

When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4 (ESV)