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interpretingwordsThere’s a line in the Letter of James about faith and good works that has always been a stark reminder for me about the necessity of both. It shows up in the second reading for this morning (JAS 2:14-18) in a slightly changed translation that alters the effect for me. I’ve learned the line as: “Goodbye and good luck; keep warm and well fed.” Today I read: “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well.” Admittedly, they might seem somewhat the same but tone of voice that gives one of the nuances of “Good luck!” in America today indicates that good luck is probably not likely. In other words, the first translation can be seen as an indication that I have no responsibility to help you at all – a good bet if you read the previous line in the text where Paul says, “If a brother or a sister has nothing to wear or no food for the day, and one of you says to them…” The punch of the lesson is lost for me with “Go in peace.” I’m still doing nothing to help but at least I seem to care about the inner state of my hungry brother or sister.

As I struggle here to make my point, which is definitely culturally based and may only be grasped if the lines are read aloud, I recognize even more about the nature of communication. It is so important to think – to take a breath – before we speak. Our words can so easily lift up or harm someone depending on our delivery. And as I write, I know the difficulty of interpretation as my words lie flat on the page unless they are read aloud to be interpreted by the reader. So today is a day to choose carefully, so that the words we speak will be reflective of our motivation for using them and that what we write will state our intentions as clearly as possible. And in the best way possible I wish you “Good luck with that!”