“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:1-3 ESV)
Toxins in the Body
“So put away all malice.” (Verse 1) The word is “evil” in general but the context is interpersonal relationships, so translators go with evil toward others. Malice describes that well. Malice is any evil intent toward others. If love gives of itself for the good and joy of others, malice is self-obsession that plots the ruin or damage of others. In this list it is a summary word for the other toxins. Put away ALL malice.
Any fisherman here? This word is used to describe a fisherman who dangles a bait in the water. Hiding within the worm or the jig or the surface lure is a painful surprise. Deceit is like fish bait—it says one thing, but it is hiding something sinister. Its purpose is deception or treachery. Deceit is when we are anything less than honest and authentic with others. It’s easy to tell others what they want to hear or shade the truth a little for my benefit.
Why is this toxic? Relationships are built on trust. Nothing undermines trust quicker than discovering intentional deceit. Deceit is not making an honest mistake or honestly thinking one thing and discovering another to be true. Deceit is malice with words. The intentional use of deceitful words either lifts me up or tears others down.
We have some metaphors for hypocrisy. To be two-faced. To speak with a forked tongue. This is so common as to not need much explanation. Hypocrisy is play-acting. It is to act one way but to secretly be another.
Jesus often described the Pharisees as hypocrites. Famously in Matthew 23:15 he repeats over and over, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Then he points out how they say one thing but secretly live inconsistently with their public persona.
Hypocrisy is especially a problem in Christianity because we claim to be followers of the most moral person who has ever lived. A recent poll of 20-somethings revealed that 86% of non-Christians perceived Christians as being hypocritical; that is, lacking the love of Jesus in their attitudes and actions. Apparently 20-somethings feel they are in a good place to judge the moral lives of others.
This is the challenge we face. From one perspective, every Christian is a hypocrite because we all fail the name. Christian. Christ-one. I don’t think that’s the hypocrisy Peter has in mind. It’s not sinners-saved-by-grace type hypocrisy, but Christians who claim one thing and live another. This is being sanctimonious. Duplicitous. Acting high and holy, but secretly living another way.
Envy and jealousy are evil sisters. They look a lot alike. Envy says, I crave what you have. Jealousy says, I crave what you have and I don’t want you to have it. Envy leads to jealousy because the more convinced I am that I will not get what I want, the more I resent the person in my life that has it.
“Envy may be defined to be a spirit of dissatisfaction with, and opposition to, the prosperity and happiness of others as compared with our own. The thing that the envious person is opposed to, and dislikes, is the comparative superiority of the state of honor, or prosperity or happiness that another may enjoy, over that which he possesses.” (Jonathan Edwards, Charity, p. 112)
Love is the opposite of envy in that love doesn’t crave what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t obsess over what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t find its significance in what it doesn’t have. Christian love finds its satisfaction in what it does have in Christ. This is why envy is a kind of apostasy in the church. It denies the value of knowing and having Christ. When Christians are envious, they are saying, Jesus isn’t enough for me. I need something you have. That resentment of what others have quickly leads to in-fighting and division and disunity. Get rid of it!
Slander is not speaking to people but about people. Slander can be in front of people or behind their back. If the intent of my words is to tear down the reputation or testimony or standing of my brother, that’s slander. Here’s the thing: slander can be true. People say, Well it’s true, isn’t it? The test of slander is not truthfulness, but intent. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25)
What is my motivation for what I am saying? Here is a test: if the person I am talking about would hear what I am saying, would it feel like love to them? If not, shut up!
Here’s another test: do I feel the need to whisper this? Proverbs talks about those who whisper—“A whisperer separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28)
Slander and all these others are toxins in any relationship and church. They are the opposite of love. They ruin relationships. They are part of the old way of life and thinking. Christ has saved us out of this and from this, and in order to grow, we must get rid of them.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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