Review: “When People are Big and God is Small” by Ed Welch


Ed Welch.jpgThis book is an eye-opening, refreshing read in a pool of Christian literature that can be questionable in its theology. When People are Big and God is Small addresses the problem of the fear of man; or, needing people too much. He lists the different ways in which the fear of man can manifest itself: codependency, people-pleasing, or fear of rejection, and then offers the solution, which is to grow in the fear of God. His thesis statement is that we must need people less, and love people more. When we are operating in the fear of God, then we will not need people to ‘fill us’; rather, we will be changed by the character of God, and thus will be freed to love people without clinging to them to give us what we want.

A great point Welch makes is that our need for people is rooted primarily in our sinful, selfish desires. We cling to people because we want them to make us feel better about ourselves, when in fact Jesus tells us to deny ourselves. Welch says,

“ When psychological needs, rather than sin, are seen as our primary problem, not only is our self-understanding affected, but the gospel itself is changed. A needs theory suggests that the gospel is, most deeply, intended to meet psychological needs” (Ch. 8, p. 146).

“In need psychology, the natural reason to praise God is for what he has done for me. This is okay, but it doesn’t go far enough. From the Bible’s perspective, God deserves praise simply because he is God ” (Ch. 9, p.154). 

Though God created us as relational people, we are commanded to love, not to seek to be loved. We will experience joy and freedom when we have an accurate knowledge of the love of God in Christ, rooted in the gospel, and thus will desire to live in an outward way.


Welch makes a list of questions to ask ourselves to root out the fear of man. Codependents may:

  • Think and feel responsible for other people
  • Feel compelled to help people solve their problems
  • Fear rejection
  • Feel ashamed of who they are
  • Focus all their energy on other people and problems
  • Worry whether people like them or not
  • Try to say what they think will please, provoke, or get them what they need
  • Let other people keep hurting them and never say anything
  • Feel angry
  • Feel like martyrs
  • Be extremely responsible or irresponsible


In all, Welch lays a clear case for the importance of having a fear of God rather than a fear of man, and how to think biblically about this issue. There could have been a few more personal examples and stories to make it more practical, but in all, a well-written, straight-forward, and much needed book in this generation.

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