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.
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:
- “everything impure”
- “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…
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?
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…
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
- 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:
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
This may be an all week gig.