“But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8 HCSB).
The next item on the list of behaviors given to us in Colossians 3:8 is wrath (KJV), fury (NABRE), or rage (NIV). This word signifies an intense form of anger characterized by a violent, explosive outburst of emotion. One source associates this response with “…a blaze of sudden anger which is quickly kindled and just as quickly dies. The Greeks likened it to a fire amongst straw, which quickly blazed and just as quickly burned itself out.” (1)
The New Testament book of Galatians correlates this behavior with a work of the flesh (see Galatians 5:19-21) In fact, that portion of Scripture is followed by a passage that forms the basis of an ideal prayer request for those who are struggling in this area: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Another negative characteristic is malice. Malice refers to a vindictive desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering upon another. This word carries the idea of ill-will, spitefulness, and a malevolent attitude that takes pleasure when others suffer pain or loss. If we were to express this idea in terms of an athletic competition, we might say that a person with malice is not simply content to win; he or she wants to see an opponent lose in a painful or humiliating fashion.
Slander is is a related concept that involves the intentional communication of a false statement that is designed to injure another person’s reputation. Its interesting to note that “slander” is translated from the word blasphemia in the original language of this verse. If this word looks familiar, it may be due to the fact that blasphemia serves as the foundation for our modern-day word “blasphemy” and signals an attitude of contempt and/or disrespect for someone else.
Finally, its important to recognize that these characteristics are more of effect than a cause. The cause is traceable back to an internal attitude that generates such conduct. Jesus identified that cause for us in the following passage from the gospel of Matthew…
“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person…” (Matthew 15:18-20 ESV).
(1) Barclay, William. “Commentary on Colossians 3”. “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/colossians-3.html 1956-1959.