Principle is the “fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.” It walks hand in hand with morality. Character is revealed as a result of moral principle or lack thereof. Fear, on the other hand, is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” Both are shaped and fueled by the influence of others; and one or the other influences our decisions. As parents we want godly moral principle to guide our decisions and thus influence our children to do the same.
Disregarding principle and embracing fear leaves God out.
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.Psalm 14:1 (NKJV)
The standard of right and wrong is established by our Creator and has not changed, even though cultural expectations have. The absence of principle places us among the wrong crowd, doing the wrong thing, and living with regret. Proverbs 1:15 (NKJV): My son, do not walk in the way with them, Keep your foot from their path.
We want our children to learn that obedience to authority is a basic need within a civil society of which is first learned in the home. Consequences are tools that protect and train them as they learn to make good decisions, and are effective building blocks. Ephesians 6:1 (NKJV): Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. God’s Word also promises blessings to children who honor their parents: Ephesians 6:2-3 (NKJV): Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
It is imperative that decisions be made based on right and wrong as defined by our Creator (principle) rather than popular opinion in the moment (fear). The expectations and rewards within a civil society complement a healthy and purposeful life, as seen in 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV):
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
Fear might have us standing with the bully, when principle would have us taking up for the target of the bully. Fear might have us cheat on a test when not prepared; principle would have us be honest and take what is coming. Fear might have us go with the crowd, but principle would have us bow out when we learn they are up to no good. If there is fear, let it be toward a holy and righteous God who knows “all things.” Hebrews 4:13 (NKJV): And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
Fear is summed up in Psalm 56:3 (NKJV): Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. Trusting God will always have us do the right thing for the right reason — in the right season. No fear of God is very dangerous and foolish. Psalm 34:9 (NKJV): Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.