Show me your faith without works
and I will show you faith by my works.”
(James 2.18, NET)
We are always continuing to learn and study the Maa language and culture of the Maasai. And so back in September, I was very happy to learn a new proverb —
Ekébikóo intókitin póoki náaramát ilóopêny
It means all things which their owners carefully tend last a long time. I was very happy to find this proverb to add to our lessons on stewardship. Whereas typical American teaching says “that stuff you think you own? Well, it is not really yours, it is only God’s, only God is the owner, and that is why you should take especial care of it,” we teach that ownership is what makes stewardship possible. (Of course, each of these approaches represent part of the Biblical teaching on stewardship — in one sense everything IS God’s and we are only his stewards, but in another sense because we are God’s children, God has given us resources that we manage as our own property — just like Maasai parents give animals even to their young children.) So when we use the proverb that says, “the cow says, don’t give me, lend me,” we can reinforce the meaning of the teaching by next reminding that the Maasai also say, “Ekébikóo intókitin póoki náaramát ilóopêny.” (To read more on how we teach Christian stewardship, read our My Father Is Alive post.)
But with this proverb I had a question about a bit of the language I didn’t quite understand. I knew that <ekébikóo> comes from the verb <ABIKÓO>, “to endure, to last a long time, to remain a long time, to last forever” (coming in turn from <ABIK>, “to remain, to abide, to stay”). But Maa verbal prefixes are tricky, and I wasn’t sure what the eké- prefix was doing. So I asked our good friend and colleague Ntinga Sam Tome, who is trilingual in Maa, kiSwahili, and English.
It makes the verb happy and brings out the meaning.
“It makes the verb happy.” Of course it does! But why? We laughed together.