The Deadly Sins of Proverbs 6:16-19: Haughty Eyes

First, let it be known that God hates; He hates sin and he hates sinners.[1] And we ought not shy away from this truth for it is really only out of this reality that the Gospel explodes with such wonderful good news. The God who hates sinners also loves sinners and sent his only Son to die and take upon himself the hate-filled wrath we so deserve.  God is simple and in the mystery of his infinite Being he sets his covenantal love upon an elect multitude who are worthy only of His good hate. And so when we read in Proverbs 6:16 that “there are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him” we should take seriously what it means for God to hate. The wise will take these words to heart. As Charles Bridges reminds us, “In his heart man thinks of God as being like himself and thus able to look at sin with indifference (Psalm 50:21).” Here in Proverbs 6, verse 16, we’re told that this is not so – the Lord detests our sin.

The first thing we’re told of which God hates are our haughty eyes. The literal rendering here could read “high eyes” or those who “lift up their pupils.”[2] As Tim Keller remarks, “They don’t look people in the eye to understand and engage them as equals. They look past them…”[3] This is describing the kind of person who is filled with pride, who thinks too highly of himself, and treats others as mere props and extras in his own blockbuster lifetime movie. Life revolves around self and every Instagram selfie shows it.

The person who has haughty eyes has rebelliously inverted the Lord’s command to love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. In his pride he lifts up his nose and eyes to those around him as he looks down on others and he fails to love them or God because he is so consumed with his own interests. His love is of a selfish nature and he only interacts with others insofar as they are useful to his or her desired ends.

In the book of Proverbs we’re meant to understand two things from this: first, don’t be haughty because then the Lord will hate you and that would be quite foolish. Second, avoid any close fellowship or partnership with those who are haughty because as Proverbs 6:15 puts it, “calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.” Wisdom pursues humility and love of others; in this there is real life and flourishing. But as Proverbs continually teaches, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Consider Jesus Christ, who, according to Proverbs 8, is Divine Wisdom incarnate. He says of himself, “I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). The heart of Christ is not lifted high, there is no haughtiness evidenced in his eyes; no, he fully loves his Father and his neighbors as himself – so much so that even though he is “in very nature God, [he] did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8).

Here is a sympathetic high priest who is in every way able to sympathize with our weaknesses, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). And so, what does that mean for us? It means this: we can find forgiveness for our pride and haughtiness. With confidence we can “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

It also means we can “have this mind among ourselves, which is ours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). As Paul commands us, we are able to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant… Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). There’s a wonderful self-forgetfulness in Christ where we become more and more concerned with others!

Dear friends, the Lord hates our haughty eyes, he hates how we boast in ourselves and are constantly promoting ourselves. This truth ought to drive us, with almost every one of our Facebook and Instagram posts, to some serious repentance. But oh, how wonderful is God’s grace: because of God’s love he has also punished our foolishness and prideful-boasting in Christ. “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

Stephen Unthank (MDiv, Capital Bible Seminary) serves at Greenbelt Baptist Church in Greenbelt, MD, just outside of Washington, DC.  He lives in Maryland with his wife, Maricel and their two children, Ambrose and Lilou.

[1] Proverbs 8:13b, “Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”  Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.” Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” Romans 9:13, “As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”

[2] See Proverbs 8:13; 21:4; 30:13; Psalm 18:27; 101:5; John A. Kitchen, Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary (Mentor, 2006), p. 144  In Numbers 15:30, the term “haughty” is used to describe willful, defiant, “high-handed” sin.

[3] Timothy Keller, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs (Viking Press, 2017), p. 132


Stephen Unthank