God is love, but love is not God. When we speak of the God of the Bible, we must draw references from Scripture. If we don’t, we’ll be tempted to craft an idol of what we think the divine should be like. God must hate because he is the essence of true love, and he would not be a good God if he never felt disapproval, just like a father cannot be deemed loving if he feels apathy toward the suffering of his daughter. God both loves and hates — but what are some things that God hates?
I’m studying the book Proverbs for my devotions. Often for my devotional Bible reading, I’ll try to read the Bible in one year, but I like to occasionally switch things up, and instead of a macro view (using a one year Bible reading plan, for example), I like a micro view — where I pick one book of the Bible and study that book with Bible commentaries and other resources.
Proverbs is about wisdom, and ethics and wisdom are closely related. In particular, Proverbs speaks about applying God’s Word. When I first journeyed on my study in Proverbs on a deep level, I was surprised to see so many connections to ethics and wisdom. Being godly and being wise are identical.
Of course, in some sense, all of the Bible teaches ethics, for we study Scripture not just to see what God says, but also to learn how to obey him. The ethical portions of Scripture that often get the most press are the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, and rightfully so, for which one of us hasn’t been blessed by obeying those 10 rules or a section from the greatest sermon ever preached?
But, right in the middle of the Bible, we see a small portion of Scripture that provides a big overview on ethical living as well.
These are the seven things God hates listed in Proverbs 6:16-17.
The List from Proverbs
This list is not exhaustive. There are more than seven things that God hates, but here are the seven mentioned in Proverbs 6:16-17:
“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.”
The passage says “Six things that the Lord hates,” and “seven that are an abomination to him.” I’m including the seventh thing from this list (e.g., one who sows discord among brothers) because it’s something that God hates as well; you can make an argument it’s the thing he hates most on the entire list.
Let’s break down each one.
7 Things God Hates
1. God hates haughty eyes.
Haughty (which rhymes with naughty) seems like a weird word. Interestingly, “haughty” is the word of choice in the ESV, NIV, and NASB. The English word “haughty” in the Bible is used on three occasions (2 Samuel 22:8; Psalm 18:27; Proverbs 6:17). In a nutshell, haughty means “arrogance.”
More broadly, the Hebrew word for haughty is yahir, which means “to build a wall high, and also, as a figurative expression with various interpretations, to elevate the soul of someone.” 1 Synonyms for yahir are words like high, exalted, exalted above, and so on. You get the picture: it’s a form of arrogance in which one exalts himself over another person or looks down on someone else.
I regularly go to the gym. Some of the “bros” in the gym who take both legal and illegal supplements like to grunt and make noises as they exercise. I don’t know their motives, but sometimes it seems as if the particularly fit person will “mean mug” others. He stares at people in the gym in a threatening way as if he is trying to demonstrate superiority because of his physique. It seems as if he looks down upon others who are not as physically fit as him.
This is what it looks like to be haughty.
2. God hates a lying tongue.
Your tongue is connected to your mouth, which dictates your words. A lying tongue is the intentional misuse of words to hurt others or to exalt oneself. It is “aggressive deceit intended to harm the other, unfaithfulness, perfidy, even when the result of words” (Quoted in Waltke, 347). An example from Scripture is Judas of Iscariot (Psalm 109:2; Acts 1:20).
Jesus tells us, “for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Ultimately, your tongue is connected to your heart. If you fill your life with Scripture, prayer, confession, repentance, and church community, you will have increased awareness of what you say and how it affects people.
3. God hates hands that shed innocent blood.
This means intentionally killing innocent persons. Waltke tells us that these murders are driven by greed (Ezekiel 22:6; 2 Kings 21:16; 347). You can picture a hitman who kills an innocent person they don’t know for money. Or when someone in a powerful position leverages their power to kill innocent lives. “Whereas the godly use property to help others, the avaricious love things and use people” (Waltke, 347).
This particularly hurts the lowly in society who often feel powerless. Power, status, and money should be used to help people, not hurt them. Even more, we should be driven with the desire to love God and neighbor, not tear people down.
4. God hates hearts that devise wicked plans.
The center of this list? The heart (Waltke, 347). The heart here is not the physical organ in your body that pumps blood, but the deep center of who you are as a person: your will, emotions, desires, and so on. You cannot avoid the sins on this list through effort alone, but only through a heart transformed by God. All of your actions are the result of what’s going on inside of you.
5. God hates feet that make haste to run to evil.
“The pair of feet sets the whole person in motion toward the evil he wants to achieve” (Waltke, 347). Haste (or speed) emphasizes the person’s intentional desire to do evil. The person is sprinting, not walking, to evil (Waltke, 347). This shows that this evil is not stumbled upon but purposely planned.
6. God hates a false witness that breathes out lies.
I find it interesting that this one seems to be mentioned twice (see a lying tongue above). What’s the difference between a lying tongue and a false witness that breathes out lies? They are both similar, but the picture here is magnified, with the specific lie being committed to hurt one’s neighbor, whereas a lying tongue can be done not specifically to hurt people, but to advance oneself in a way (Waltke, 347).
A common theme is emerging in this list of seven things God hates: God particularly doesn’t like when our corrupt actions hurt others or are done to exalt ourselves.
7. God hates one who sows discord among brothers.
This is when someone purposely divides others. Derek Kidner speaks of this as “the crowning abomination” (Kidner, 69).
I remember watching The Last Dance, a sports documentary that highlighted the historic run for the beloved Chicago Bulls franchise. The owner was interviewed in the documentary and spoke about what he had heard about a General Manager before hiring him, and he said something like, “I heard he alienates people.” He hired him anyway.
That’s what it means to sow discord: it’s when you alienate people from others. It means to cause disunity, mistrust, and suspicion among others, often motivated by a desire for self-worship. (ESV Study Bible footnote, Proverbs 6:12-14).
Sometimes we choose a new church or leave our career or choose to end a friendship. No doubt, we shouldn’t lie as we leave, but we don’t need to be fully transparent with everyone (not everyone can handle it, nor is hardly ever necessary to get the point across), and we certainly shouldn’t stir the pot for the purpose of creating mistrust among people. This is wicked and cowardly.
As we leave, we should do so quietly, and try our best not to unnecessarily cause division, especially if we have not experienced any injustice. This is hard, and it may mean you have to risk your reputation to do the right thing. But do the right thing anyway.
The 7 things God hates are characteristics of the “worthless person” as outlined in Proverbs (ESV Study Bible footnote, Proverbs 6:12-14). By “worthless,” we do not literally mean zero worth. Every person, whether Christian or not, has worth because every person is created in the image of God. By “worthless person,” Proverbs means the person who doesn’t add value to the lives of others because he or she does not desire to live in accordance with God’s wisdom; they are worthless in terms of righteousness because they have none.
Breaking it Down
Kidner (69) breaks the list down as follows:
- One sin of attitude (17a)
- One of thought (18a)
- Two of speech (17b and 19a)
- Two of action (17c,18b)
- One of influence (19b)
Kinder adds, “the reader can almost catch the superior look and the shifty talk, and may wonder when his own hands were last employed to an innocent person’s detriment” (69).
Yes, it’s important that we read the list of seven things God hates and remember it is speaking of the “worthless” person. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to you if you are a Christian. You can easily break one or all seven on the list, even if you are in Christ. It’s also best, when reading the list, not to quickly think, “So-and-so needs to read this; they are totally sinning by doing X.” That’s easy to do with Proverbs because there’s so much talk of foolishness, and we don’t want to admit that maybe, just maybe, we are the person God wants to convict through his Word. We need to read the list of seven things God hates and consider if we ourselves are committing any of the actions.
How Do I Apply This to My Life?
How do you apply this material to your life?
Here are some suggestions:
1. Praise God for his character. That he is not too heavy-handed (all hate and no love) or that he is not a pushover (all love and no hate). Truly, the character of God is perfect in every way.
2. Pursue humility by doing “. . . nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Go out of your way to serve someone who particularly annoys you.
3. Avoid overstatement. Exaggerate only when obviously excitable. Some puffery such as “That’s the best coffee shop in this city — hands down!” is fine; it shows you’re passionate, excitable, and fun. You are revealing your personality. But saying, “Coffee X is way better than Coffee Y” when in fact you have never tasted Coffee Y is, of course, lying. Be precise. Give credit if necessary. Only be transparent and open with those you trust, but aim for truthfulness with all.
4. Fight against injustice. Consider the poor, the widow, the unborn. You can’t always do something against injustice, but you can always pray. Pray that God will judge the wicked or convert them.
5. Fight for unity in your church. Please, please: don’t be divisive in your church. Don’t be quarrelsome. Don’t spread lies or gossip about others. Words can be irrevocably destructible, and sometimes thriving churches die because of a lie. Speak privately with elders if something concerns you. If matters remain unresolved, after a season of prayer and seeking wisdom, then simply leave to another church as peaceably as you can.
You may also like:
- Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W., Richardson, M. E. J., & Stamm, J. J. (1994–2000). The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 1202). Leiden: E.J. Brill. ↩