Jamaica Patois Wisdom – Contentment

The Jamaican Patois dialect is colorful, unique and humorous. It is my desire to share some of the philosophy shown in this mix of colorful phrases that are witty as well as thought-provoking. I hope the readers both profit and enjoy. In my quarter-century plus of teaching there, I have come to appreciate some things about their culture.

Patois: Teck weh yu get till yu get weh yu waan

English: Take whatever you get until you get what you desire

Meaning: Be satisfied with the little you have until you receive all that you require

"Contentment" is a word that is not in the vocabulary of many. This is especially true in America, where we are blessed with material prosperity. We live in a consumer society, with billboards and ads urging us to buy the newest and best. David said, "My cup overflows" (Psalms 23:5). We can say "Our closets overflow." Even America's poor are wealthy beyond the dreams of billions who live in the Third World.

Some years ago while teaching in Jamaica, I met Sandra Green and her six children. She had five and had taken in a 12-year-old girl whose mother had died, and her father didn't want her. She brought them to our Bible classes, and I asked if my wife and I could visit her. We went to her home and I was shocked to see her extreme poverty. They lived in a one-room shack that was constructed of scraps—tin, wood, printing press plates, etc. She had no utilities, and the furniture was two beds. Sandra invited us in, and then I saw a poster she had made and had put on the wall. "Thank you, Jesus. My needs are met, and healing is mine. Hallelujah." I don't know what you would have done, but I shed tears.

The Bible has a good bit to say about contentment in this world, for in truth, our treasures here are not permanent. Jesus commented on this in Matthew 6:19-21: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal. for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Paul wrote about contentment in various places, including Philippians 4:11-13: "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Where was Paul when he wrote those words? In prison. Would he rather have been elsewhere? We can be pretty certain of that. But, he had learned to be content, no matter what the circumstances might have been.

As with Paul, there is no sin in desiring better things, but that should not be our consuming desire. And when we have all that we need, why do we constantly want more, newer, better? Is there not something better we can do with our abundance than spend it on ourselves? Can we not share with the Lord's work? Can we not share with those in need? Can we not help our brethren in impoverished nations who don't even have daily food? The Bible has much to say about our care for the poor, for when we do that, we are ministering to our Lord. That familiar teaching is in Matthew 25. "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me" (Matthew 25:40).

There is great peace to be found in contentment. "But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (I Timothy 6:6-10).

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