Throughout my years of ministry, I have noticed that the phrase “sowing discord among the brethren” is often used inappropriately. It is assigned as a tool or weapon rather than a principle.
It is seldom used towards one’s self, but almost always in defense of one’s self against another. It has the potential to be the most self-serving accusation used against other Christians.
I have been accused, at various times in my ministry, of “sowing discord among the brethren” when it could not have been further from the truth. By the way, be careful of those who make such careless accusations, because Satan is the accuser of the brethren.
The Bible does not tell us to label those who sow discord. In this article, I will prove that we are entirely misinterpreting this Scripture. Sadly, I have had this weapon used against me on several occasions.
I was accused of “sowing discord among the brethren” when I made my decision to follow Jack Hyles and John Rice while a member of the American Baptist Association.
I was accused of “sowing discord among the brethren” when I gave a dissenting opinion while a member of a Christian board of directors.
I was likewise accused of sowing discord among the brethren when I defended my friend Dr. Jack Hyles of false accusations made against him.
When I attended a summit regarding the King James Bible, I was warned by the leaders of that institution that any discourse against their positions of criticizing King James Bible would bring banishment to those who argued.
We who were there on behalf of the King James Bible were accused of “sowing discord among the brethren”. I wanted to hear the position of this institution before deciding as to whether to separate myself. I was also there because I hoped to defend the right position, if given an opportunity. By the way, standing for your doctrinal beliefs is not sowing discord.
While I am certain that there have been times when I took the right stand in the wrong way, I can assure you that I have never set out to “sow discord among the brethren”. When I have mishandled a situation, I have always gone back and corrected myself and made it right.
There were times I plowed the ground against error. In so doing, I caused divisions among brethren because of their false teachings. That is not sowing discord among the brethren. That is fighting for a position.
We sound like the liberals who call us “rabble-rousers” every time we call them out for their liberalism. They accuse us of being hate-mongers because we defend the rights of unborn children. It is not sowing discord to take a position that causes division.
Sometimes division is a good thing not a bad one. I am sick of this cry for “unity” amongst some Christians, but that is another subject for another article.
Context of the Scriptures
The real tragedy of this accusation is the carelessness with which it’s taken out of its context. Look carefully in Proverbs six, where we twice see it mentioned. Those who use this as an argument isolate it from its context. Take a minute and read it in context and see if you detect anything interesting.
By the way, you will not find it anywhere else in the Bible, so all we can know about it must be interpreted within this passage.
“He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers; Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord. Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.”
“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”
Did you see it? Look carefully, and you will see that the Bible lists this particular action as a part of a whole. It is not an isolated sin, rather one that is in companionship with the others.
To accuse someone of sowing discord among the brethren is to accuse them of all the above sins. Be careful. There is a danger in taking one characteristic listed as a whole and assigning it to someone. In so doing, you are automatically assigning that person as being guilty of all.
The Bible goes on and talks about the same man and says that God hates these things. Amid those things, once again, is the characteristic of “sowing discord among the brethren”.
Improper Use by Preachers
Look at it in its context, preacher. Stop pulling that line out for your own good. When you use that accusation, you are accusing that person of all the other wicked characteristics mentioned as well.
But wait, who is described here? Go back, and you will see Solomon is referring to the sluggard. Now I am many things, but a sluggard is not one of them. The definition of a sluggard is one who is “a habitually lazy person”. Well, I’ll be!
Oh by the way the next verse says, “My son keep thy father’s commandment and forsake not the law of by mother”. I thought I would throw that in.
It seems to me that many pastors use “sowing discord among the brethren” as a defense mechanism. They use it to control their people, or they use it, because their arguments cannot stand on their own.
They decide that if they can sell the idea of someone “sowing discord among the brethren” they can win their fight and accomplish their agenda. Their motives are not allowed to be brought into question. Their justice, or should I say injustice, is not allowed to be questioned.
The moment you do anything that takes a stand against their position, they cry, “He is sowing discord among the brethren; he sowing discord among the brethren”. We might want to be careful not to judge that one who has been accused of such, unless there is clear evidence of all the other attributes Solomon mentions.
Observations Regarding Sowing Discord
Now allow me to make a few observations that I have made over the years regarding this matter of sowing discord among the brethren.
- Sometimes the one who is crying the loudest about others “sowing discord among the brethren” may be the one who is doing the sowing. Some feel they have been given a pass on their slanderous talk, but when someone else speaks in defense of another or themselves, they are the ones “sowing discord.” Interesting isn’t it. In fact, they are not even allowed to defend against the accusation of “sowing discord among the brethren” without a threat of church “discipline”.
- Sometimes a pastor is the one who sows the most discord in a church. Sluggard pastors who play members against members are sowing discord among their members with little or no regard to the fact they are tarnishing another’s reputation. It is not just members who sow discord in churches. Pastors are just as guilty of doing so and often the worst perpetrators. A pastor has no right to take this phrase out of context to bully his people into accomplishing his purpose. Make no mistake about it; if a pastor uses this passage to bully his people, he is misusing Scripture to accomplish his agenda.
- Christians should NEVER be forced to live in this kind of fear. Pastor, if you are accusing a member of “sowing discord among the brethren” you MUST be prepared to identify them as a sluggard and prove they also are guilty of the other infractions.
- Defending oneself against false charges is not sowing discord. This is especially true when someone is unjustly accused and not being allowed to defend themselves. Injustice is a greater sin than those actions being misidentified as “sowing discord among the brethren”.
- “Sowing discord among the brethren” is an easy way to try to shut people up when you are wrong. Many a leader uses this argument as a defense mechanism. They do not stop and consider that what the person is saying is true and is in a proper setting. They merely want to defend themselves, so they use the “sowing discord among the brethren” card.
- “Sowing discord among the brethren” is often used to shut up someone whose opinion you don’t want to hear. Why is it that pastors should have the last word without hearing out their members. Why is it they should have the last word against a church member when other church members do not know the other side and the complete truth. Once again, they are playing the “sowing discord among the brethren” card on behalf of the pastor at the expense of the member.
Now let me share some things that I, Bob Gray Sr., have tried to do over the years.
When attending a conference where I knew many of the speakers disliked me, I sat on the front row, shook hands with every preacher as they went up to preach, assured them of my prayers, shook hands with them when they finished, and thanked them for their message. Yet, some of these men accused me of “sowing discord among brethren” because they did not like certain positions I took.
I have always praised my pastor and other leaders. Whenever I am under someone’s authority, I never speak a negative word about that person. We may have our disagreements, but no one can step forward and say that Bob Gray, Sr. said a negative word about them. It is a lie.
When defending myself against injustice, I continue to say positive things about the person who has mistreated me. I may defend myself, or position, but I will not do so by attacking that person.
I am a positive person. I do not fight back. I have been attacked time and time again without defending myself. There comes a time when you must defend yourself because someone is attacking your reputation. But that does not merit the accusation of “sowing discord among the brethren”.
Christians, be careful of misusing this Scripture for your agenda. When you mishandle the Word of God, you are playing with fire. I do not want to see good men hurt by their misuse of truth. May God help us to be faithful to justice and slow to accuse others of being sowers of discord.