March 3

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Do you like to know where you stand with God or other people? I do, and I sometimes remind my friends that I want to know if I offend them by saying or doing something insensitive, or just plain wrong. God’s Word is very clear about many things, sin being one of them. Our passage above does not employ the actual word sin (or iniquity or trespass), but clearly states what God hates; anything God hates is a sin. And, if God hates it, so should we since, “the fear of the Lord is hatred of evil” (Proverbs 8:13)

As I studied the seven named sins, I was eager to find a connection or a pattern. Six of the seven do speak of our different body parts, with which we sin: eyes, tongue, hands, heart, feet, and breath. But that leaves out the seventh, which some commentators emphasize just because it is seventh, and because conflict is so destructive to the church. No argument there. However, I see a different pattern in the way these seven evils are presented, using the chiasmic poetic form of Hebrew poetry. I don’t know if Solomon intended it, but it seems that the sins here are in descending and ascending order, with the main issue being found in the middle verse.

Let’s pair “haughty eyes” with “sowing discord” to consider the pride of the one who looks down on others with the intention of flaunting their superiority, therefore creating conflict rather than being a humble peacemaker. The next pairing is a “lying tongue” with “a false witness.” Those who lie most frequently are gossipers and slanderers, who again seek to have some advantage in the process. The last pairing involves murderous hands and feet running to evil, describing a criminal who is determined to break the law, opposing God. In the very center of these pairs is a “heart that devises wicked plans.” “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” (Matthew 15:19-20)

It is a little surprising that the sins seem most gruesome as they come out from the heart, with the sin of pride being first and last. I wonder if that is because they are indeed the subtler sins, and therefore the easiest to neglect. We all struggle with pride, which God hates. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Do you recognize your pride? How will you manage the pride in your heart?

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