Jamaica Patois Wisdom – Humility

by Jefferson David Tant

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: High seat kill Miss Thomas puss

English: The high seat killed Miss Thomas' cat.

Meaning: People who fight for positions for which they are not qualified will face embarrassment.

There is one word that pretty well describes the idea of this bit of Patois wisdom, and that is "humility." Jesus illustrated this in one of his well-known parables.

"When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this man,' and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:8-11).

If we want honor or respect, it is better to let others give it, rather than claiming that we are worthy of such. "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips" (Proverbs 27:2). There are two men in the Bible who exemplify this spirit of humility.

John the Baptist was respected by many, as multitudes came to hear him preach (Matthew 3:5). As they expected and looked for the Messiah, they questioned John about his own identity. Note John's response: "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:29-30). John was content to be the "lesser light," the "best man" at the wedding, as we would identify him. (Cf. Luke 3:15-16).

Barnabas serves as another example for us. After Paul's conversion to Christ after he had inflicted much harm on the early church, he attempted to become a part of the church in Jerusalem. But they were understandably somewhat hesitant about accepting him, until Barnabas came to his rescue, and spoke on his behalf (Acts 9:26-27).

Then in Acts 13, the Spirit called for "Barnabas and Saul" to begin the first of the "Missionary Journeys." At first, the pair is referred to as "Barnabas and Saul (or Paul)," but in time it appears that Paul became the dominant partner in their labors, as "Paul and Barnabas" came to be used most of the time when reference is made to them.

Never once do we see an attitude of sour grapes in John or Barnabas as they took a lesser role. And when all it said and done, it is not the respect and honor that men give us that really matters. Sure, it is nice to have the accolades of men, but what really matters would be to hear the words, "Well done, faithful servant. Enter thou into the joys of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:23).

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