The Collins Dictionary defines malice as behaviour that is intended to harm people or their reputations, or cause them embarrassment and upset.’

Merriam Webster defines malice as ‘desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another.’

The Oxford Dictionaries defines malice as ‘the desire to harm someone; ill will.’

Malice, thus, is an intentional covert feeling that gives expression to certain overt behaviour.

Much of the evil that comes forth from us is the result of the underlying sin within us. Malice is no different. It is the outcome of the indwelling sin that reigns within a person. Since the time of creation, though men knew God, they did not glorify Him as God. For this reason God gave them up to uncleanness and vile passions and allowed the darkness of their foolish hearts to prevail (Romans 1:20-26).

 “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness . . .” (Romans 1:28-29)

 In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, the apostle Paul equates malice with leaven. As discussed in one of my previous articles The Leaven of Hypocrisy, the function of leaven is to puff up the batter or dough from within so that the finished product turns out to be a delicacy that appeals to our senses. Likewise, the intentional desire to harm others, i.e., malice, creates a false sense of arrogance and superiority within a person that puffs him/her up.

If we look at the first murder committed in human history, Cain killed his brother Abel because he was infuriated with the fact that God did not accepted his offering, but accepted that of Abel’s. Cain’s ego was hurt. Instead of having an attitude of introspection and repentance, Cain harboured malicious intentions against his own brother which eventually resulted in the murder.

When do we harbour ill-will against others and desire to harm them?

The desire to harm others is not a part of the natural make-up of man. That’s because, having been created in the image of God, we are created to love others. So then, what gives rise to malice?

  1. The thread of sin within – The roots of the indwelling sin, having taken a firm grip over man’s nature give birth to malice. And so, the desire to embarrass someone for no good reason or to plot to spoil someone’s reputation by spreading rumours or gossip seem to emerge effortlessly from within. We see so much of it in our daily lives in our extended family relationships, at our workplaces and among friends. At times, we are at a loss to understand why would someone whom we don’t even know that well, desire to harm us. That’s because of man’s sinful nature.
  2. Jealousy/Envy – The inability to see the good of others or the good that others do, creates a desire to cause them harm. In 445/444 BC, when Nehemiah started rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite and Gesham the Arab mocked him and devised to harm him in order to stop the work that he had undertaken (Nehemiah 2:19-20, 4,6). Their intentions were malicious.
  3. Insecurity – Malicious intentions often creep in when one feels insecure of his/her position with respect to someone else.  Unable to bear a child, Sarah had given her maid Hagar to Abram to bear children. However, when Sarah came to know that Hagar had conceived, she dealt harshly with her causing her to flee (Genesis 16:1-6). Sarah despised Hagar. Sarah’s malicious behaviour was probably the result of her insecurity – a fear of losing her husband to another woman from whom he was going to have the joy of fatherhood.
  4. Pride – Pride is one of the major causal factors behind malice. Pride prevents a person to accept the good of others. One of the reasons that the Pharisees and Sadducees plotted to kill Jesus was their pride which prevented them from accepting Him as the Messiah. Pride doesn’t let a person look beyond ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’. And so, when the inflated ego is hurt, malicious behaviours emanate from within.
  5. Sadistic hedonism – Heard of men who force their wives to go in to other men just for the sake of the pleasure of it or of masters who get their servants go hungry while imposing hard tasks on them? These are some instances of malicious intentions arising from sadistic hedonism. Of course, sadistic hedonism is also ruled by the thread of sin within.

No matter what be the reason, malice acts as leaven that breeds artificiality in a person. It generates an external sense of power and confidence that emerges out of an ability to cause distress to others. That is why the apostle Paul urges people to give up the leaven within them so that they can be genuine people exhibiting sincerity and truth. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ removes the leaven from within a person and instills genuineness. Those who believe in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ experience this genuineness.

 “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)

Before a person accepts the cleansing by the blood of Jesus Christ, s/he lives in sinful nature, malice being a part of it. “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3) But, what turns things around is accepting the sacrificial work of Jesus and being cleansed from within. This cleansing washes away all sin, including the evil of malice and replaces it with sincerity, truth and love. The grace and sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the reason enough for a person to do away with malice.

Can we harbour malice even after accepting the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and being cleansed from within?

The answer is ‘yes’. Staying away from sin is a conscious decision that each one has to make. As long as we are in the flesh, the pull of sin remains. The blood of Jesus Christ washes us from all sin when we confess and seek His forgiveness. But, after being forgiven and cleansed from within, at times we choose to allow sin to enter and dwell within us. Hence, doing away with malice is a conscious choice one has to make with God’s strength. The apostle Paul writes – “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8) 

But, when we do away with malicious intentions, whatever is good, true, noble and praiseworthy should take their place. This is possible when there is a continuous flow of the rejuvenating word of God into our lives. The word of God strengthens us and causes us to grow in Him. Peter writes, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,  if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (1 Peter 2:1)



My Prayer for us: Lord, remove the evil from within me by Your grace. May Your pure word replace the malice within me with sincerity and truth, making me a genuine person exhibiting Your glory. Amen.



2 thoughts on “THE LEAVEN OF MALICE

  1. Manna

    Hence the word of God says Love covers all sins.If there is love,then there will be no malice.May the Spirit of God help us to bear the fruit of Love.
    Keep the torch glowing dear.

    Liked by 1 person

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