What is “Sowing Discord?”

Proverbs 6 condemns “one who spreads strife among brothers” (NASB).  This scripture is often used as a catch-all to condemn all forms of controversy in a church.  One who disagrees with the group, brings an item of trouble to the table, or insists on church discipline against a prominent member of a church can be labeled as a “sower of discord.” This is a gross misapplication of Proverbs 6.  The rather nebulous accusation of “sowing discord” is too often thrown around by supposed biblical authorities to silence any form of concerned dissent.  Where sinners are accused of adultery, a mistress can be produced.  Where sinners are accused of theft, stolen property can be produced.  Where a supposed sinner is accused of “the sin of sowing discord” often the evidence that can be produced is a disagreeable pastor or denominational leader.

The term “sowing discord” has found its way into the evangelical lexicon through the King James Version of Proverbs Chapter 6 16-19:

16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:

17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,

18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,

19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Since the Bible speaks of sowing discord as something the Lord hates, those accused to this sin can be quick to drop the issue they have raised out of fear of upsetting God himself.  However, a careful examination of the text indicates the “sowing discord” is not a mere matter of disagreement.  Proverbs 6:16-19 (NASB) speaks of “six things which the Lord hates, Yes seven which are an abomination to Him.”  These things are presented in a Hebrew poetic structure known as chiasm:

Haughty Eyes
A lying tongue
Hands that shed innocent blood
A heart that devises wicked plans
Feet that run rapidly to evil
A false witness that utters lies
One who spreads strife among brothers.

Six things manifest themselves in a seventh thing, the thing that the Lord emphatically hates – a heart that devises wicked plans.  A heart that devises wicked plans is the highlight of the condemnation.  Wicked plans are carried out by hands that shed innocent blood and feet that run rapidly to evil.  The hands and feet proceed from lying tongues and false witnesses.  The lying tongue and the false witness proceed from haughty eyes and the one who spreads strife among brethren.  These verses portray a level of evil and violence, of dishonestly and guile, that hardly amount to presenting a disagreement or controversy before a church body.  One should not be afraid to be labeled a “sower of discord” for standing up for what’s right.  A heart that loves the church stands up for the people of the church and the holiness of the church, even when it is uncomfortable.  Spirit-led people put away the deeds of the flesh and do not devise wicked plans.  Raising issues of concern at church or within a denomination isn’t sowing discord at all.  To the contrary, it’s loving Jesus and loving the body.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use

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Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Member of the Evangelical Theological Society
Certified Public Accountant

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