“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” I Peter 2:1-3 (NIV)
Peter wrote us a list comprised of mostly “inside out” problems. Clearly, he took to heart Jesus’ teaching on cleaning the inside of the cup. I imagine Peter listening intently as Jesus confronted the Pharisees:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23:25-26 (NIV)
This truth in Peter’s first epistle has come to us English speakers as a call to “get rid of” these inner sins. (“to rid oneself” is to relieve or free oneself of something unpleasant or undesirable). In ancient times, Norsemen and Germans used the word “to rid” to describe clearing land.
So what do I need to clear out of my personal territory?
I am most struck by envy because I struggle mightily with that invisible ugliness in my heart. Each week, I avert my eyes from the magazines displayed along the grocery check out line- not because they horrify me. On the contrary, I am irresistibly drawn into the world of the beautiful, the famous, and the rich. I wish my life were more like theirs.
“Envy is nothing more than a hostile form of self-pity.” Courage to Change, Al-Anon Family Groups, Inc.
Other cannot see my envy – unless they look closely and notice its secondary effects. According to Proverbs, its cancerous corrosion actually makes us less healthy: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)
The antidote is “a heart at peace” or, put another way, “godliness with contentment”, as Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy.
“Actually, godliness is a great source of profit when it is combined with being happy with what you already have.” I Timothy 6:6 (CEB)
To sum up, it is not enough to do good works, look great on the outside, and paste on a smile to mask our malicious, envious thoughts. Keeping silence and hiding our insides makes us very effective hypocrites, not true disciples.
Let’s obey Peter and get rid of it all, clearing our lives to make room for all the lovely stuff that God has ready to grow in us.