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Jamaica Patois Wisdom - Changes

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: “Nuh cup nuh bruk, nuh coffee nuh dash weh

English: The mug is not broken, so don’t throw the coffee away.

Meaning: If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it.

That’s good advice in many areas of life. There are times when you have something that works just fine, but someone comes and is not satisfied, so the “fix” commences, which can  mess up the whole thing.

How well that describes what has happened through the centuries to the Lord’s church. The explosive growth of the early church is well documented. Just look at the record in the early chapters of Acts. We know what happened on Pentecost, as 3,000 were baptized into Christ. In Acts 4:4, 5,000 men were added. Multitudes are mentioned in Acts 4:32 and Acts 6:1. The church was described as multiplying in Acts 8:6 and Acts 9:31. How do we explain this explosive growth? There may be various factors, but a major ingredient is that these early Christians were committed — so committed and excited that they must have felt an obligation to share the good news with families, neighbors, friends and even strangers.

The early church functioned well under the plan God had given. Local churches were organized under elders, with no central hierarchy. As problems arose here and there, God’s plan called for the shepherds in each church to deal with false teaching, or whatever else came up. The qualifications for these local leaders include these words: “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

That was all well and good, but in time men tried to “fix” the problems of false teaching that arose here and there. They began to hold area-wide meetings, and certain men were chosen to be the head bishop over an area. And of course this in time led to the pope of Roman, which office has been so full of scandal and false teaching through the centuries. From that we now have thousands of denominations.

In time the Restoration Movement began in the early 1800s. Once again we have an impressive growth, as some estimates give the number of New Testament Christians in the hundreds of thousands within 40 years. But this was not good enough, so we have the “fix” of the American Christian Missionary Society in Cincinnati in 1849, which led to a major division. And along the way some were not satisfied with the simple worship of early Christians, and instrumental music was brought in, another “fix” which further fostered division. Now in our own times churches of Christ are having fellowship with denominations, appointing women elders, establishing all sorts of para-church organizations to do the church’s work, selling goods to finance the church, and on and on.

My question is: What is wrong with the plan God gave? After all, he designed and built the church. Didn’t he have enough sense to design something that would work, and work well? If so, then why do we have to come along and “fix” something that was not broken? What this says is that some men think they are smarter than God, and they have enough smarts to improve on God’s design. Paul warned us: “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 3:10-11).  The “mug” is not broken, so let us be content and not “throw the coffee away.”