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
Our eyes, tongues, hands, hearts and feet were given to us to spread shalom. When we use them to sow discord – our hands no longer shed innocent blood with actual swords; now the tongue is the weapon of choice – the negative impact operates in two ways.
Vertically, God is listening. “Hates” and “abomination” are meant to startle us, because we tend not to take this behavior seriously. But Leviticus 18 puts an “abomination” at the level of sexual sin, for example. God hates and loathes a lying tongue that stirs up trouble among brothers.
Horizontally, death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). The temptation is to think, “But I’m not doing anything. It’s only words.” But words alone can bring a government down or establish peace, destroy a marriage or renew hope, crush a child’s sense of worth or lift him to confidence and joy, unify a church or splinter it into angry factions, send a soul to hell or to heaven. When we observe carefully the impact of our words, we see why God cares so intensely about them.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, in Imprimis, January 1996, writes, “If you cannot go for twenty-four hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol. If you cannot go for twenty-four hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. Similarly, if you cannot go for twenty-four hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue.”
“Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16