The Sword of Damocles

By Don Ruhl


Born around 370 BC, Damocles was courtier of Dionysius the Elder of Syracuse in Sicily. According to the Roman writers Horace and Cicero, Damocles once commented to Dionysius on the glory and good life of rulers.

Later, Dionysius invited Damocles to a banquet, where Damocles enjoyed the feast until his attention was directed upward and he saw a sharp sword hanging above him by a horsehair. By this demonstration, Dionysius showed Damocles that death and suffering might happen to those who appeared to be the most fortunate.

The Swords Suspended Over Us

There are many people, whether intentionally or unintentionally, who have suspended swords over us by horsehair.

Some people wish to create a crisis out of every major news event. Often the news media hangs a sword of Damocles over us, sometimes intentionally and at times unintentionally. They tend to focus on the bad news. Therefore, our attention is focused on the bad news.

For example, Premillennialists do this with worldwide events, somehow working that event into Scripture as a sign of the return of Christ.

Health officials frighten us every year. If we eat this or do that, then we will die. If we do not eat this or do not do that, then we will die.

If we have this in our home, we will die, and if we do not have that, we will die.

During the 50s through the 80s, the threat of constant nuclear war was hung over us.

We hear the statistics every week, we increase the risk of death if certain factors are in our lives, and we increase the risk of death if certain factors are not in our lives.

If you live here or there, you increase the risk of being: murdered, raped, kidnapped, car-jacked, mugged, etc.

If you have this job, you will probably catch something by which your life will be made shorter.

If you have the opposite job, you will probably catch something, which will make your life shorter.

If you stay at home and let others support you, you will not be normal, and if you get a job and support others, you will not be normal.

If you stay at home, you run the risk of home invasion, but if you get out of the house, then driving will probably kill you.

If you use pharmaceuticals, you will die of their side affects, but if you do not use them, you will die.

If you use modern medicine, you will die.

If you use the alternatives, guess what? You still die.

Now there is this bottled drinking water craze! It used to be that Americans should not drink the water of other nations, now they tell us not to drink the water of America! You have to buy bottled water. Where do they get the water for the bottled stuff? I predict that at some time we will hear that drinking that expensive bottled water will not be good for you. If you drink 64 ounces of water daily, as recommended, you will see that bottled water is bad for your finances, if not your health.

If you think I am exaggerating, test me this week. See how many television programs this week will hold a sword of Damocles over you. Read the newspaper, or any newsmagazine, or radio talk show and see how often someone is trying to frighten you. Many of these are real dangers. Some are not at all. Even with the ones that are real, we cannot let them paralyze us.

This is the problem that I am trying to identify, that most Americans, including Christians, live in constant fear that something bad is going to happen to them.

Another problem of being consumed with all these fears is that they tend to cover the real dangers, the real things we ought to fear. For example, Satanism is an effective tool for diverting our attention to the real dangers of Satan. Am I saying that Satanism is not a problem, and that we should not beware of it? No. However, it serves well as a red herring. A red herring is a herring that has been smoked, creating a red color. This was used to distract hunting dogs from the trail. Thus, it came to have this symbolic meaning: Something that draws attention away from the central issue.

Satanism draws us away from the central issue, by making us believe that if we are not involved in a satanic cult, we do not belong to Satan. If you are not a Christian, you belong to Satan. If you are in sin, you belong to Satan. If you are a Christian, but living in sin, you belong to Satan. That is, you are serving Satan, even though you are not in a traditional satanic cult.

There was the Y2K crisis a few years ago, in which the media, premillennialists, and other extremists tried to hang a sword of Damocles over our heads, and you know how that turned out. It all makes you wonder what will be the next national crisis!

Now, all these other swords of Damocles may be real, but they distract us from the true fears in life. I am not teaching that if you live fearless of these things, that you will never be harmed by any of them.

Is it possible that you could become so consumed with fear of nuclear war that you fail to see the more imminent danger of being broadsided by someone running a red light?

Is it possible that you could become so consumed with fear of eating apples that might have a trace of alar, that you never eat another apple or any other fruit and end up being hurt by not eating properly?

Listen to Revelation 2:10, for it acknowledges that bad things will happen, but that we are not to fear those things. Jesus gave a message of encouragement, saying,

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

The Things We Should Fear

Again, please do not misunderstand me; I am not saying we should be naïve in relation to many of the things that might hurt us. Just do not become paralyzed by those fears; and do not let those fears keep you from doing the things that God wants you to do. Do not become distracted.

In Luke 12:5, Jesus put things in perspective for us, again not denying that things will happen to our bodies, but telling us that there is Someone with whom we should have greater concern,

But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! (Lk. 12:5).

Acts 5:5, 11 shows the early church fearing sin. If you avoid all the problems I stated earlier, but you sin and are never converted, you have a much greater problem than all those other things combined:

Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. … 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.

Romans 13:3, 4 says we should fear being punished by the government for having committed evil,

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

Second Corinthians 11:3 and 12:20 show that Paul feared the spiritual downfall of others, and we would do well to imitate his concern. We are very careful to show our concern for the physical welfare of others, but we should share the same—and really it should be greater—concern for the spiritual welfare of others:

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ… For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults.

Hebrews 4:1 explains that you should fear being lost. You can gain the whole world by not suffering from any of those other fears, but in the end forget to become a Christian, “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.”

Revelation 11:11 shows that you should fear the church. The church is the kingdom of Christ on the earth. When the people in Revelation 11 killed God’s witnesses, and then saw them revived, they realized that they were not dealing with a common group of people, “Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.”

The Peace Of Jesus Christ

Second Timothy 1:7 will tell you what you have received from God. Therefore, live the way God intends. It really is a wonderful life, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Hebrews 2:14, 15 says that Jesus has released you from the fear of death. He demonstrated that death is not as bad as the world tells us. Is it really so bad for the Christian to die?

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Later in verses 16–18, the Bible explains that Jesus has experienced death and all the terrors that go with it. Thus, He is able to help us in our struggles with death.

Isaiah 26:3, 4 shows where your focus ought to be in life. Do not focus on the constant fear of dying, “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength.”

Ephesians 2 mentions the Gentiles who live without God in the world. Now think of it! These are generally the people who are hanging various swords of Damocles over our heads. If you do not have God, then anything that threatens you or the quality of your life is an overwhelming fear.

Deuteronomy 28:65–67 is part of the promise of God as to what He would do to the Israelites if they forsook Him. This reading is an excellent commentary on what it is like to live on this earth without God. It shows people living under the sword of Damocles.

And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life. In the morning you shall say, “Oh, that it were evening!” And at evening you shall say, “Oh, that it were morning!” because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see.

How many people today suffer from the problems listed in these three verses? How many of them are turning to the Lord? For the majority who do not turn to the Lord, to what do they turn to find relief or solutions?

Turn to Jesus to live a fear-free life. Not a naïve life, but one that is lived in courage. Be free from the fear of death and of eternal condemnation.

220 NE Savage Street • Grants Pass • Oregon • 97526-1310 • 541-476-3100 •

4 thoughts on “The Sword of Damocles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s