“There are six things the LORD hates – no, seven things he detests . . . a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”
~ Proverbs 6:16, 19
How are seeds of discord sown? One way is to tell others what someone allegedly said about them.
The first is rather subtle so it broadsides many Christians when it takes place.
One of your friends . . . a Christian, perhaps even a member of your fellowship . . . says the following to you:
”You know, Jimmy doesn’t like you . . . I’m telling you this because I’m your friend.”
Or they may say something like:
“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I think you should know that Twila said such and such about you.”
Immediately, your defenses go up. You feel insulted. Hurt.
You suddenly look at Jimmy and Twila, whom you’ve regarded as trusted friends, in a completely different light.
Your friend was doing you a favor by telling you these things . . . right?
The problem is that in most cases where I’ve seen this play out, the person reporting on Jimmy’s feelings or Twila’s words isn’t telling you the truth.
Re-read that sentence.
Sometimes they are spinning. Other times they are flat-out lying.
The motive? It’s usually because they don’t like Jimmy or Twila and they want you to dislike them too.
Or maybe your friend is buddies with Jimmy or Twila and they are jealous that you are close to them also. So they want to sabotage the relationship.
Other times the motives aren’t so dark. Your friend has simply “read into” the words of Twila or Jimmy and thought the worst. And they are passing on to you what they assume Jimmy is feeling and what Twila may have meant.
Or . . . they heard someone else pass on to them what Twila or Jimmy allegedly said. So they are engaging in gossip.
The person hearing such reports . . . in this case you . . . usually believes it, never thinking to go to Jimmy or Twila privately and directly to ask, “I was told that you may have an issue or a concern with me. Is this true? Are we okay?”
Or even more boldly, “Someone told me that you said such and such . . . please be honest with me and let me know if you said this or something similar or if the person who gave me this report is bearing false witness.”
This direct approach will get things out on the table. If Twila or Jimmy did say whatever was reported to you, you can work it out with them. If they didn’t, well . . . your friend is sowing seeds of discord.
When this direct approach isn’t taken, however, dissension is sown and rifts occur.
Suddenly, there’s a rift between you and Jimmy . . . or you and Twila. . . and they haven’t the foggiest idea why. They can just feel distance from you.
All because of lies, spin, or misinterpretation on the part of one person . . . what the Bible calls a “whisperer” or a “troublemaker.”
“A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28, ESV)
“A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (Proverbs 16:28, NLT)
So the next time someone comes to you bearing bad news of what someone allegedly said about you or what they allegedly think of you, there’s an excellent chance that they are sowing seeds of discord.
The antidote? Go to the person in question directly. It will reveal a great deal.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
If your friend is sowing seeds of discord in your life, there’s a good chance that they are doing the same in the lives of others as well.
What is another way to sow seeds of discord?
One sure way to destroy a friendship, alienate people, and cause division is to judge another person’s motives.
It’s perfectly fine to judge someone’s actions.
Lying about someone is wrong. Paying them a sincere compliment is good. Those are value judgments.
But to impute motives to their hearts is wrong and Scripture condemns it.
When someone says something like, “Tommy told that joke because he was trying to garner attention and is full of pride.”
Or . . .
“Candy wore that dress because she was trying to impress Rick.”
Or . . .
“Bill posted that update on his Facebook page because he was trying to make Andrea jealous.”
Or . . . “Tim said all of that in order to prove to himself that he’s better than his father.”
They are attempting to read someone else’s heart.
The irony is that in many cases – if not most – the person who is ascribing a bad motive to another person is simply revealing what’s in their own hearts.
This is called “projection.” An individual cannot face their own shortcomings and defects so they unconsciously project them onto other people. They accuse others of the very same dark things that are lurking deep within their own hearts.
As I put it in another place,
In Matthew 7:1–4, Jesus points out that those with defective eyesight are all too willing to perform eye surgery on others. Yet within this text, the Lord makes this chilling assessment: If you impute an evil motive onto someone else, you’re simply making known what your motives are.
To put it another way, the piece of sawdust we see in our brother’s eye is simply a small chip off the two-by-four that lies within our own. And a piece of wood will always distort our vision. When people cannot face the reality of what’s in their own hearts, they project it onto others—particularly those who they find threatening to their egos. (Excerpted from Revise Us Again.)
To assume and disparage a person’s intentions is to sow seeds of discord and create division.
May we never judge someone’s motives, therefore.
Love always thinks the best. It never second-guesses or imputes evil. It always treats others the same way we want to be treated. And no one wants their motives judged.
Only God can peer into the human heart. So we are wise to leave such business in His hands.