In which James uses language his mom would slap him for…

by Craig on January 3, 2011

If the mother of James the Just knew the language he was using in his letter…


But before we get to that we have the first word in the verse. Probably best not to skip over the first word. You may have heard this before, but when there’s a therefore in a verse, we have to ask what it’s there for. There’s one right here at the beginning of verse 21 of James 1.

Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.

And the “therefore”? It’s there because James begins this verse by telling us to get rid of a bunch of stuff.

What stuff?

Bad stuff.

The therefore – therefore, links this verse with all the bad stuff up until this point. So I’m gonna have to look back in a minute, but first we have to talk about this bad stuff.

And James the Just, the brother of Our Lord, the really, really, religious guy, uses a bad word – yes you heard me right – he uses a bad word for the bad stuff.

In our sanitized versions of the Bible, the stuff we’re supposed to get rid of is translated variously as:

  • “filth”
  • “filthiness”
  • “everything impure”
  • “uncleanness”
  • “vile things”
  • and the like.

All of these are pretty good descriptions of the word he uses. Because it is filthy, vile, impure, and unclean. But that’s not the word itself.

In English it’s a four letter word. Yes a four. letter. word.

In Greek it’s five letters.

Looks like this…

κακία

and sounds exactly like it looks (k-a-k-i-a)

I might be normally be a little skittish to even talk of this term. But I realize there are a good number of moms who read this site. Moms are very familiar with this term.

When I was a kid growing up in the Italian part of Brooklyn, I used to hear moms all the time, as they were with their babies, and patting the diapers, and talking about the contents of said diapers. Take the alpha (a) off of the Greek and you have exactly the word they used.

Kaki – not kaki like the pants or the color – although sometimes the color. But it’s kaki – that rymes with blocky, and means the four letter word that the mother of James might slap his mouth for. I really don’t acctually have to spell it out. Right?

Right.

And besides the “κακία” there’s one more description of the bad stuff. This one’s not a four letter word, but it’s not really appetizing either. It’s mostly translated as “evil excess”, or just “evil”, or “wickedness” – or the classic King James translation, “naughtiness”. And all of these get the point James is making. But none of them uses the literal translation. Which is….

wait for it…

ear wax.

Yes we are to literally get rid of the “ear wax” and “remains” of the “κακία“.

And now back to the “therefore”.

All the bad stuff in the previous verses is what we are supposed to remove:

  • double mindedness
  • pride
  • finger pointing
  • lingering on temptation until it becomes sin
  • talking more than listening
  • and anger quiet or loud

We need to dump it. And after we dump it, it’ll crawl its way out of the dumpster, and we’ll have to dump it again. The human condition. And that seems like a good place to stop.

So we’ve covered:

The therefore,

and the bad words,

and the gross stuff clinging to us that has to go.

Leaving us with the rest of the verse

the “humbly” part

and “the word” part

and the “planted in us” part

and then…

…the controversy.

This may be an all week gig.

God Bless.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie January 3, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Loved this. All of it. Laughing, but understanding better, and I don’t want any of it clinging to me either, so I better listen up. God bless you!

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Craig January 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I know, it’s gross right Deb. It’s what we would see if we would see with better eyes. Sin – I hate that we sin, that I sin. God. Bless his heart.

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Melissa January 3, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I’m laughing and loving it with Debbie. Preach it, brother!

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Craig January 3, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Well he said the word!!!!! We’re all (most likely) adults. But still – James! I don’t use that word! Unless maybe he meant a milder version of the word than the one I’m thinking. Hmmmmm…..

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Joyce L Gibson January 3, 2011 at 11:31 pm

You are right. There is no glossing over the truth. James said it. And while we talk and snicker and change the subject, we need to stop and acknowledge that THAT is exactly how God views our sin, the sin we try to gloss over.

Thank you, Craig, for confronting me with the truth, awful as it is. Now I think I better go back and read again today’s chapter on LOVE. How neatly it dovetails with James today!

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Craig January 3, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Oh my. It does dovetail. My twin sites have met a point of connection. This verse and today’s love post are twins, reflections. It takes a woman of wisdom to see that. GJ. I am blessed to know you.

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Craig January 3, 2011 at 11:42 pm

And may I say, I have the smartest readers anywhere. Smarter because there is so much head knowledge balanced by so much more heart knowledge. I am so thankful for you all. Really I am.

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Joyce L Gibson January 4, 2011 at 12:28 am

Thank you, Craig. When you did not reply to my comments on the two previous blogs I thought my grandmother’s brain was not funtioning in sync with yours. I have just learned that a dear friend (slightly younger than me) has been moved to an Alzeihmer’s unit and I am gradually losing contact with her beautiful person.

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Craig January 4, 2011 at 12:33 am

Our brains do not work on the same level GJ, I’d need a mental ladder to get to yours. I’m sorry about what you have lost with your friend. That has to be sad for you. I’ll pray. I promise.

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Anonymuss January 4, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Craig, it is fascinating to see what some of these words really mean! Some of the translations can give a rather different impression of things. I really appreciate what you are able to show us from the bible. Knowing some Greek-what a huge reward for the time you must have spent learning it!

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Craig January 5, 2011 at 1:39 am

Thank you A. It’s no big thing really. It was crazy hard work in Seminary though, a whole bunch of learning stuffed into a short time. But Greek is just like any other language – anybody can learn. Just takes time, and flash cards, lots of flash cards.

And Hebrew?

Oy.

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