By R.J. Evans
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul gave the brethren at Corinth proper instruction concerning the exercising of spiritual gifts. The main problem was how the Corinthians had been conducting themselves with regard to the gift of tongues. The Corinthians were being childish in that they delighted in the gift of tongues to the extent that proper judgment was not being used concerning the effect tongue speaking was having on others. Like children, they failed to see all that was involved in the inconsiderate use and display which they had been making of this gift. Hence, Paul wrote, “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (1 Cor. 14:20). To be like children in understanding is to act as though the mind is still in the undeveloped stage of childhood. So, instead of acting childish, they were told to be “men, ” that is, be mature. This suggests the idea of “having reached the goal.” It involves being fully able to use one’s powers of thought and good judgment. The Corinthians had not been doing this with regard to spiritual gifts.
The circumstances today are different from those found in 1 Corinthians 14. We no longer have spiritual gifts, for they have ceased (1 Cor. 13:8-13). But, the principles set forth in 1 Corinthians 14:20 still apply and must be heeded by those of us who are Christians. We must not be childish in understanding. However, in this article I would like for us to notice in particular the phrase – “in malice be ye children. ” Malice is an evil disposition with the intention of injuring others. It is among the most destructive of all ugly attitudes. It is in this respect that it would be creditable to Christians to be “children. ” In fact, Jesus lays down this condition, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). This suggests humility, gentleness and the innocence of children, which, particularly is contrary to malice, envy, anger, strife, etc.
Those of us who seek happiness and success in serving God must eliminate malice from our hearts. There is no place in the life of a Christian for malice. Please notice the words of the inspired apostle Peter: “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings ” (1 Pet. 2:1). The apostle Paul said: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31-32).
Malice is always harmful to those who harbor it, and usually damaging to the person who becomes the object of malicious words and deeds. Malice will destroy our personal happiness and damn our souls to eternal punishment. “Brethren . . . in malice be ye children.”
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 13, p. 388
July 7, 1988