Proverbs 6:16, 19
16 These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
19 A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.
28 A perverse person stirs up conflict,
and a gossip separates close friends.
In 1962, Don and Carol Richardson, along with their seven month old baby, trekked deep into the jungle-covered mountains of Western New Guinea, Indonesia. There, they encountered the Sawi, a tribe of indigenous people who had lived for generations cut off from the outside world. By tradition, the Sawi were fierce warriors, headhunters, and had a reputation as cannibals. Among these violent people, the young family of westerners settled to bring the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The mission work began in earnest. As Don struggled to learn the complicated Sawi language and share the gospel, Carol worked as a nurse, treating diseases like hepatitis, malaria, and dysentery. She soon became known among the Sawi as “the woman who makes everyone well.”
As Don learned the language and communicated the message of Christ, he realized the vast distances that he would have to cross to reach the hearts of the Sawi. To a warrior tribe that admired cunning and brutality, Judas was a hero, while Jesus was to be mocked as a foolish and helpless victim.
In another example, Don wrestled with the language to convey the sacrificial role of Jesus as the “Lamb of God”–to a wilderness and tropical people who had no concept of a sheep. Don realized that above all things, the Sawi prized the pig for its value and worth to the owner and the tribe. In a breakthrough, Jesus the “Lamb of God,” became Jesus, the “Pig of God.” All at once the gospel began to make sense to a remote and isolated people!
As Don, Carol, and their little family grew more at home with the Sawi, they lived among a people in a constant state of war. Among the three villages, savage fighting broke out as rivalries and blood feuds claimed lives and stoked hate and fear. To the missionaries, it seemed that despite their prayers, teaching and service, peace would never reign. As they prepared to leave the area to escape danger, they thought of their labors, of fading hope of winning the hearts of a people, and all seemed lost.
Solomon comes to the end of his “seven deadly sins” here in Proverbs chapter 6, by highlighting the final and perhaps most destructive of the abominations that God hates: the thief of peace.
In verse 19, he instructs his young students–including his son, the future king–on the dangers of these final threats. The warning against lying is repeated in he call to beware the false witness. Then comes the one who tears the people of God asunder:
19 A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.–Proverbs 6:19
Once the knowing liar has deceived and perjured himself he brings danger to others. This is a reminder that when you lie, for whatever reason, you bring harm to another. The result may be loss of property or even life for them. Once the trust is broken it is very hard to regain, if not impossible.
One who sows discord brings this betrayal to its conclusion. A lie, intentional or otherwise, will break relationships. One who seeks to break relationships on purpose or for selfish ends, causes pain to the entire community of God’s people.
You know these types of people well. In nearly every social setting there seems to be one person who is not content unless the peace of the group is set on its ear. From the office break room to your neighborhood message board, they are the ones who chime in to provoke or inspire conflict. It is one thing to have this happen among unbelievers, but it is another when it is a poison among the people of God.
Tim Keller zeroes in on why this form of maliciousness brings so much hurt:
Friendships are about words, but malicious and deceitful words destroy friendships.–Tim Keller, “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life”
Solomon takes it a step further in describing it as stoking discord among brethren. This narrowing of conflict to “among relatives,” says commentator Bruce Waltke, “describes the worst kind of villainy since it destroys the social harmony between closely connected people.”
Is there someone like this in your church? Among your friends? In your family? You may know someone who seems to almost be unhappy when the group around them is at peace. They will choose that time to bring up a past conflict, make a veiled accusation, or call into question a recent decision of church leadership.
It is the friend who will seem to be jealous when others around them are getting along and will choose that moment to make a biting comment that sets feelings on edge.
It is the sister in Christ who sees it as a virtue to be the “lone voice of reason” as she casts shade on the intentions of a fellow church member who has suggested a new ministry that she does not like.
It is the church elder who sees it as his mission to challenge every effort of the pastor to guide the vision of the church, or calls into question every financial decision, making insinuations of abuse, incompetence, and waste of “God’s money.”
Waltke calls out this person by showing you the source within their own hearts:
Such perversity starts in their hearts and comes out in their speech and eyes. A perverse person unleashes conflict, setting the community at loggerheads.–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs”
This is so important that Solomon repeats his warning several times in Proverbs, including in chapter 16:
28 A perverse person stirs up conflict,
and a gossip separates close friends.–Proverbs 16:28
This person is “perverse” in that he delights in the effect of his words on others, and the shattering of the peace around him. Often, however, this person will claim that he does not want to cause trouble, only that he must tell the truth as he sees it. It is one thing to stand for the truth, but as Keller describes him:
Candor is good even when truth telling is painful. But there is the kind of person who loves debate, gives criticism too readily and always seems to be in the middle of an argument with someone.–Tim Keller, “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life”
A Hebrew word for this perversity is הָפַךְ (hāp̄aḵ), meaning “to overturn.” The same imagery is found in the baking of bread, and the turning over of the dough. The western phrase “upset the apple cart” strikes a similar chord in the mind.
In this world, the gospel itself overturns the sinful order of things as it shatters the darkness with the light of Christ. But to take this mantle on yourself to shatter the peace of your church, family, or friends, simply because of the rush it gives you, or because you simply cannot ever be wrong, is to invite the wrath of God.
So what must you do? Perhaps you struggle with this particular temptation in your own heart. Now is the chance to “overturn” the grip that it has on you by confessing and repenting of the sin that grips you.
More likely, you are a witness to this behavior in your church or in your home and must regularly deal with its consequences. You may dread a bible study or church meeting because of a “rabble rouser” who seems to always be seeking support for her opinions or “speaking truth to power” in veiled gossip or complaining.
The solution is found in Christ. He knew this temptation and the impact that it has on the hearts of His people. Jesus includes it in the Beatitudes in His Sermon on the Mount:
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.–Matthew 5:9
This beatitude is often misunderstood. It does not mean “blessed are those who avoid conflict by being agreeable or avoiding offense.” It does not mean “peace at all costs,” for true peace always has a cost. Like the “Peace in Our Time” folly of the Allies’ signing a treaty with Hitler on the eve of WWII, appeasement will only delay the inevitable destruction.
No, to stand up to those who are enemies of peace, requires you to become a true peacemaker. What does this mean? Welsh pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones says it best:
Before one can be a peacemaker one really must be entirely delivered from self, from self-interest, from self-concern.–Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount”
This means that a peacemaker has a new view of himself, compared to the old, selfish ways of the sinful world. It is to do as Christ who “emptied Himself” to become a man (Philippians 2). To be a peacemaker is to not always be looking at everything in terms of the effect it has on yourself.
This is radically different from the image that the world presents for you to adopt. Secular society talks a good game when it comes to living for “community” or helping others. But when you scratch beneath the veneer of virtue-signaling righteousness that most people have, you still find people acting in their own interest.
To be a true peacemaker means a deeper commitment than that:
The peacemaker has only one concern, and it is the glory of God amongst men. That was the Lord Jesus Christ’s only concern. His one interest in life was not Himself, but the glory of God. And the peacemaker is the man whose central concern is the glory of God, and who spends his life in trying to minister to that Glory.–Martyn Lloyd-Jones
This means that, as a peacemaker, you will have a new view of yourself and a truly new view of the world. If you seek only God’s glory, then you will see–and mourn–for the sinful condition of those around you.
You will also cherish the peace that you have with your brothers and sisters in Christ. As Paul commanded:
18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.–Romans 12:18
Paul knew the value of living in peace, for the early church was in a lion’s den, surrounded by a hostile culture. This was not peace at any price, but the peace of seeking God’s glory in all things. When you do this, you become identified with the One who is the Prince of Peace. You become a child of God, who loves His peacemakers:
God is going to own them as His children. It means that the peacemaker is a child of God and that he is like the Father.–Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Ronald Reagan famously held to “Peace through Strength” during the Cold War. In Christ we have peace through the strength of His blood:
20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.–Colossians 1:20
Do you seek to be a peacemaker? Can you surrender yourself to allow this to happen?
Speaking of which, we now return to New Guinea and the challenge facing the young missionaries…
As tribal war loomed, and Don and Carol prepared to leave with their family, the villagers begged them to stay. They had grown to love them and understood that peace was needed to make this happen. To Don and Carol’s astonishment, the leaders of the warring villages met together and each gave the other a small child. The son of one chieftain was given to his rival, and peace was declared.
When he asked of this, Don was told that it was about trust:
“…if a man would actually give his own son to his enemies, that man could be trusted!”–Don Richardson, “Peace Child”
This “peace child” brought an end to war–and was the perfect image of Christ for these rebellious people. With the peace child, Don and Carol, finally were able to share the gospel in a way that the villagers could understand–and their lives were changed for all eternity. [Here is a short video about this fascinating story.]
Are you a peacemaker? Can you share the light of God’s “peace child” in your life?
The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.