“Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20).
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 the above quote. 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 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 babes.” 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 as babes or children. In fact, Jesus lays down this condition in Matthew 18:3: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” This suggests humility, gentleness and the innocence of children, which, particularly is contrary to malice, envy, wrath and strife.
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— “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all guile, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:1-2). The Apostle Paul said: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave 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 actions. Malice will destroy our personal happiness and damn our souls to eternal punishment. Hence, “Brethren...in malice be babes.”