Spiritual Weight Loss

I stepped out of the shower and onto the scales. I knew I had been snacking a lot lately, but the numbers on the scale seemed larger than life that morning. “Five pounds! How could I have gained five pounds?” I shouted.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

“Looks like somebody needs to lose some weight,” Jan quipped. So I put on my sweatpants, tied up my sneakers, and started around the block, dreaming of the big breakfast I would enjoy when I came in from exercising.

The Apostle Peter was concerned about something more important than my waistline: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1 – 2). The Apostle Paul is especially fond of this putting off and putting on metaphor. He told the Romans, “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12), and he told the Colossians, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8). To the Ephesians, he said, “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22).

The Hebrew writer describes this life as a race. He uses a very modern illustration of a runner who forgets to take his warm-up clothes off before the big race: “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

So, what are some of those encumbrances that threaten to trip us up? This week, let’s think about Peter’s list: “all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2: 2). The first thing to “put off” is “malice.” What is malice?

When we do a word study, the place to begin with the original text; for the Old Testament, that’s the Hebrew language, and for the New Testament, the language is ancient Greek. Modern tools make this easy. Serious Bible students should have access to an “Interlinear Bible.” It has the English on one line, and the original language words written below:


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The word we are interested in is “malice,” and the Greek word below it is kakia (κακία). What does kakia mean? Let’s think about this in two steps. First, compare as many different English translations as you can. (With a computer, that’s easy. Try visiting a website like https://www.biblegateway.com if you don’t have access to several versions.) How do those versions translate this word?

The American Standard Version (1901) is a very literal translation. It says “wickedness.” That covers a lot of ground! (The English Standard Version also says “wickedness.”) Likewise, the modern God’s Word version says “every kind of evil.” The old Geneva Bible, the version the Pilgrims used, reads “maliciousness,” while the first English Bible, Wycliffe’s translation, and the King James Version (1611) say, “all malice.” So, Eugene Peterson’s The Message, the New American Standard, the New Revised Standard Version, and the old Revised Standard Version.

“Wickedness, malice, and evil.” We’re getting a feel for our word kakia. So our next step is to look up kakia in a lexicon. (A lexicon is just a Greek dictionary. I think they call it that so they can charge more for it.) So the first entry in the lexicon says kakia is “the quality or state of wickedness, baseness, depravity, wickedness, vice. κ. is the opposite of ἀρετή [excellence] and all virtue and therefore lacking in social value.” The second entry gets to the heart of the matter: “a mean-spirited or vicious attitude or disposition, malice, ill-will, malignity.” [2]Yikes! “Mean-spirited or vicious attitude” can sometimes describe my driving!

But if I want to change, in Peter’s words, “put away malice,” where do I begin? Recognizing our problem is the first step. Replacing a mean spirit with a kind heart is the next. I’ve learned a lot from kind Kansas drivers. When I pull out to pass them, they don’t speed up (mean-spirit)! Instead, they tap the brakes and wave to let me go by. They are unexpectedly kind-hearted. Their kindness encourages me to do the same. The Apostle Paul told the Colossians to “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts” (Colossians 3:12).

Hmm. I’ve made it around the block, but I still haven’t lost my five pounds. Join us tomorrow as we continue this spiritual weight loss program!

  [1]  Newberry, T., & Berry, G. R. (2004). The interlinear literal translation of the Greek New Testament (1 Pe 2:1). Logos Bible Software.

[2] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). In A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 500). University of Chicago Press.

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