Jamaica Patois Wisdom – Work

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: Beg wata cyan bwile cow kin

English: Begged water cannot boil the skin of a cow

Meaning: You should not depend on the tools of others to do your own work

The “welfare state” means easy living for millions. The U.S. government and governments in other nations have created a permanent class of people who depend on others (usually the government) to provide for them. In fact, it has been proven in some places that government handouts provide more income than if the person actually got a job and worked.

But honest labor was instilled in mankind from the beginning. In creation, God planted a garden, then created Adam and Eve. “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” The idea some have that living in the Garden of Eden was all “easy living” is erroneous. Even in that ideal place, God expected the man to labor for his sustenance.

Consider Paul’s attitude toward providing for himself when necessary: “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you” (II Thessalonians 3:7-8).

He then goes on in II Thessalonians 3:10-12: “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.” It seems that the idea of always having a hand out for a handout is not new.

Solomon’s wisdom has an application here. “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest. How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? "A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest" -- Your poverty will come in like a vagabond And your need like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6-10). “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Proverbs 10:4).

It is obvious that those seeking work to support their families face difficulties. In some areas, jobs are few. But that does not mean we should give up. When I was a young man looking for work, I went to 33 places before I found a job — working at night in a difficult job. I recently read of a young man who walked 10 miles (16 km) in the cold snow to apply for a job that didn’t pay much. But at least it paid something. But a storekeeper who saw him pass by his store later contacted him and offered him a better job. When he saw the determination of the young man, he knew that was the kind of employee he wanted.

By working, we then can fulfill one of the Lord’s desires. “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35). If we want to be “more blessed,” then God has given us the way to achieve it. And Paul advises those who have changed their lives. “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28). Work is satisfying. Work is biblical.

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