I saw the strangest wording today. The pastor was reading passages on joy out of the NIV (1984), and he came to James 1:4. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” It was the “must” that caught my eye.
Why “must’ it finish? In what sense is there a necessity that perseverance finish? I pulled out my phone and started checking other translations.
(I still feel guilty about using my BibleReader iPhone app in church; afraid someone would think that I am not listening and am texting. But then I realized that before the days of smart phones, we did scribble and doodle and write notes. There have always been distractions; they are just more sophisticated now. But I digress.)
Some of you are probably thinking, “What is Bill’s problem? Its not that hard.” But the “must” just struck me so strange that I couldn’t get past it.
I first checked the Greek text, and it is a simple third person imperative, εχετω. “Let patience have ….” We are being told to be patient with the maturing process. Testing will produce perseverance, and we are not to sidestep the process but rather lean into it and allow perseverance to do all that God intends it to do, and at the end of the day lies the promise of spiritual maturity.
As I checked other translations, I saw that the TNIV changed this to, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete.” The newly released NIV keeps the same verbiage, as does most other translations. Only the HCSB reproduced similar wording; “But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
Then I finally saw what the original NIV translators were getting at...