Last week I met with my spiritual directors’ peer supervision group. One member of the group led an opening meditation from Neil Douglas-Klotz’s book Blessings of the Cosmos. This book brings new meaning to familiar scripture passages through exploring the rich layers of meaning in the Aramaic language that Jesus actually spoke. The scriptural passage that my peer shared was Matthew 5:16: “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your God in heaven.”
What caught my attention was his understanding of the Aramaic word tub that is translated in this passage as “good.” In our culture these days, when we hear the word “good,” we tend naturally to think in terms of opposites or comparisons, such as “good vs. bad” and “better than me/you/it.” That dualistic understanding goes all the way back to the Greeks of the first century, who joined forces with Jewish Christians in the early years and perhaps were the reason that the gospels were written down in Greek rather than Aramaic.
However, Douglas-Klotz’s understanding of the Aramaic points to a non-dualistic meaning to this word. He says that the word that we receive as “good” is actually more appropriately translated as “ripe.” In other words, in the passage above Jesus is saying, “Let your light shine before others so they may see the actions that you are taking at the right time and place, and give glory to God.”
What a different meaning this is! Now it’s less about a judgment—whether the works are good or bad—and more about being willing to do something when the time is right. It means there are no comparisons to be made, no standards of perfection to strive for, no need to worry about being “good enough.”
I found this concept of ripeness to be incredibly freeing on a personal level. So many weeks it seems that I’m not making “enough” progress on my longer-term goals for creating and launching spiritual offerings on the web. Like with the plants in my garden, there’s a lot of growing that has to be done, and a lot of nourishment that must be quietly absorbed, before the fruit is ripe and ready to be shared.
So now I read Matthew 5:16 as an invitation into a process, rather than a judgement about whether my work will be good enough to be offered to others. When the time is ripe, the work and I will be ready. But not before.
What in your life is slowly ripening? Is there something coming to life within you that’s not ready to be shared, that needs more time before the time and place are right for it to bear fruit? Can you be patient and wait for the right time and place?