Wednesday, May 16, 2012

James 1:2-4 (RSV)

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that  you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The hardest part of the selection is not, I think, the first part thouh that's difficult enough. How can you count it all joy if you're meeting with trials? Aren't trials almost by definition not joyful? Well, no. Trials may well be joyful if they lead to some benefit. For instance, the workout at the gym that leads to muscle growth or greater stamina. One reason for giving up the gym altogether is that the results aren't immediately visible.

The second part is harder. "That you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." That seems a bit overly optimistic, no? Well, let's narrow the phrase a bit - of course, at first it might seem like what James is referring to is faith. But in the next verse he's referring to wisdom, not faith. "If anyone lacks wisdom..." Wisdom can be seen as the completion of mental exercise. The perfect metal state.

But your wisdom depends on your faith and steadfastness. As a perfection, wisdom doesn't waver. but can we attain it? Or are we always wavering in some degree? After all, some say you can't even have faith if you don't at the very same time have doubt. Because faith is something different from what we might otherwise call "sure knowledge." The undoubtable. The undoubted.

Well, perhaps we go back to the opening of the section: "various" and "testing." Both words suggest (at least in English, please don't ask me about Greek) an ongoing process - multiple trials, continuing tests. But then, where is the steadfastness? The perfection, the completedness? "Let steadfastness have its full effect..." Can steadfastness have a partial effect? Apparently, though I wouldn't have thought so. Can perfection and completedness be journeys instead of destinations? Hard to see how. But I think that's suggested here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Psalm 5:2 (KJV)

"Give heed to the voice of my cry, my King and my God, for to You I will pray."

There are many of the psalms that start with essentially the same claim on God's attention, and it is a strange thing to ask of a God, no? I mean, wouldn't God know your troubles before you cry them out to Him? In fact, wouldn't he know them before you know them?

Perhaps, but then the relationship between God and man is exactly that. A relationship. And in a relationship, we relate. We tell things. I tell my wife I love her. I've told her for twenty years. And she responds. "I know," she says. And she does. Still I say it and still she responds. It's a relationship.

Crying out to God (and I've done my fair share in recent months) makes a demand on His attention of course, but it also makes a demand on our own attention. There are a thousand little problems I don't decide to bring to God everyday. I handle things on my own. In essence, the prayer I make for His blessing, for his assistance, is a product of prioritization, no? "Here's the stuff that I can't handle on my own. Here's what troubles me most." This is, I think, the meaning of the last segment of the verse. "for to you will I pray." That is, "I'm bringing this issue to you - other issues, I'll take elsewhere or handle in other ways."

Central in the verse, "my King and my God," is key. There's the possessive nature - "my" - and there's the sense of allegiance being paid. "I am your subject and your..." What is the commensurate term? Subject is to king as _____ is to God. Worshipper? Servant? Creation? All of the above? And more?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Psalm 14: 1a (RSV)

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

Of course, the Bible would say that, but what exactly does the phrase mean? Robert Alter says, somewhat enigmatically, that it's not a theological statement. Hard to swallow that one. Clearly it is theological - if the author didn't want it to be theological, they might have left out the word "God." That would have helped.

But what type of theological statement is it? Is it about the existence of God? About the quality of fools? Both?

The rest of the psalm talks about the quality of fools: "They are corrupt..." is what follows the clip you've been given above. And God looks down at them. Then we move away from both fools and God.

I'll stick with the quality of fools and why they say these things in their hearts. Consider the following:

Perhaps these people are fools because they say these things in their hearts, but not out loud - that is, they are dishonest.

Or perhaps they are fools, because they affirm something they couldn't possibly prove. Many non-believers do this today. Mind you, plenty of believers of all faiths affirm things they haven't bothered to prove or study - how many things are declared to be biblical, for instane, when in fact, they are merely quotes from Homer, Shakespeare, Franklin or even Mark Twain? Not that there isn't wisdom there too, but you see what I mean.

Of course, the modern non-believer, will often say that "You can't prove a negative." That is, they can't prove there is no God. They'll then say the burden of proof lies with the person who says there is a God. Troubling, however, that though they can't prove a negative, they feel free to affirm it... That's a different post. Back to the verse.

How about this: the rest of the psalm is worried about the behavior of these fools. I think we no longer believe that a believer is automatically going to behave well and a non-believer is automatically going to behave badly. And the psalm doesn't seem to affirm this either. Verse 3b: "there is none that does good, no, not one." And it doesn't look like this is restricted to non-believers.

Maybe the "God" in the first verse is a reference to a governor. Not a politcal governor, but a person, a will, that rules your heart. The fool says "No one is the boss of me. I do what I please even to the detriment of others."

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Romans 13:1a (NASB)

"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities."

This is an almost impossible verse to understand. Written by a man that the governing authorities found fit for execution. And he was a follower of Jesus, who Pontius Pilate had executed. So clearly, obedience to the governing authorities does not include denying Christ. Presumably it does not involve sinning either. (See Daniel) Still, the rest of the verse and the next few verses do seem to suggest that you need to obey - in fact, disobedience is equated with disobeying God. God put the rulers in place though there's the chance they were put in power to act as a scourge.

Still, what of the American democracy? That is, it seems clear that presidents are put in power by 51% of people who decide to vote, not by an accident of birth.

More importantly (since it isn't that difficult to say God still controls who becomes president, or rather that God allows certain rulers, etc) what do we do with civil disobedience? Do we say that Martin Luther King did wrong though there are obvious benefits to the entire nation and generations of people? What would Paul have advised King if this were the civil rights era? Don't march? Don't sit-in? Don't protest?

Maybe that Christians should stay out of politics and sit home examining themselves in preparation for the establishment of God's kingdom on Earth. But that hardly seems likely. Paul didn't fear controversy. He didn't back down from a fight. He asserted his rights as a citizen of Rome.

No doubt a brighter mind has puzzled this all out in some book, but for me, it remains a hard verse to take hold of.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Galatians 3:4a (RSV)

"Did you experience so many things in vain?"

Paul to the church at Galatia (which, if I recall correctly, is a region, not a specific town). Quite angry, but then that's not abnormal for Paul. It seems that the galatian church was turning to Jewish practices as either a supplement to their faith or perhaps as a replacement for their faith. In either event, Paul calls them foolish and otherwise roughs them up for this turning away.

The turning away can be understandable. Remember the question asked of Christ: "What must i do to be saved?" It would be nice, no, if our salvation were a bit more a question of what we can do and not so much what we believe in our hearts or, worse, what God is willing to do. After all, God is merciful, sure, but who wants to rely on the mercy of another. I don't speak of the whole beholden-thing although perhaps that too. I mean the diciness of it all. How do we know God is as nice as we need him to be if he's going to be the one forgiving?

Well, we can know through our experience in walking with God. I assume this is the type of experience Paul had in mind. Manifestations of the spirit, miracles, the touch of God. Things that help make faith rational as far as it can be rational. because those are the incontrovertibles. The things Dives wanted Abraham to sen Lazarus back to Earth for. The things that the lack of which make atheism the vacuum it is. (Not sure that was strictly grammatical...)

So imagine a church where people have used their faith to ask for miracles, the miracles have been granted, then the people say "Meh. Rituals are a safer bet for getting into heaven." This is what Paul contends with. And he gets angry.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Galatians 5:26 (KJV)

Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Interesting that the "vain glory" we find here has turned into one word as though all glory were vainglory.

The letter to the Galatians was prompted by a false doctrine being preached to and sometimes accepted by those people - that Christians were still subject to the Laws of Moses including, perhaps most pointedly (ha!) rules of circumcision. The "vain" glory mentioned here is probably a reference to the glory to be gained by being counted as one who followed those laws and thereby fit in with a certain in-crowd. For Paul, of course, while this would be "vain" - that is, empty of value (though possibly vain in the other, more modern sense, unduly prideful or somesuch) - there is real glory to be gained elsewhere. In Heaven, for instance, or in the eyes of God. There is glory to be earned; don't be led down the wrong path toward "vain" glory.

The provocation mentioned is toward that "vain" glory. People telling others "Hey, have you gotten circumcised yet? Gotta get with the circumcision program..." A bit hard to believe, but there we are. And the envying goes the same way except from the other side "gee, I wish I were circumcised like George..."

Desire, provoke, envy - human emotions and not all bad. Was there ever a more provocative person than Jesus Christ? John the Baptist was so provocative they finally cut his head off. Even that was not the end of his provoking since, as you see, I'm writing about him now, 2000 years later.

The problem Paul was noting with these three emotions, fine of themselves, is that the emotions were being aimed at the wrong thing - at following the laws that bind rather than the Christ that releases. At circumcision of the flesh, not of the heart. When you desire to be more like Jesus, when you provoke others to follow the path of truth, when your envy of Paul's close relationship to God leads you to seeking the same in a healthy way, then the emotions are no biggie. Like so many things in our walk through life and with God, it is a matter of focus. Where do we put our energies? Because where our hearts are...etc.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I'll Be Back

Been on a sort of "Bible Blogger" vacation for a while. Much has happened. I'm a papa now, for instance. I wasn't before. Still, I do in tend to come back for more musings. Just letting people know...In case anyone is out there waiting...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Two more Bibles

First is The Athiest's Bible. Didn't think they needed one? Wrong. For years, atheists have argued that believers need their beliefs written down somewhere - that way they can keep track of all the "non-sense." Bibles, Qurans, etc serve, say the atheists, as a crutch to their faith. What, then, is an Atheist Bible? It appears that atheists also need crutches for their faith. I wouldn't mention it - unseemly to point out the inconsistency, I think - except that there are several of them - bibles, handbooks, readers, etc.

Now, these are not essays showing how reasonable atheism is. Instead, from what I gathered through a quick perusal standing in the aisle of my local Borders, they are snippets pretending to show how idiotic believers are. A kind of "Anti-Faith." Yet, it does take as much faith to believe there is no God. More, actually. Ah well. I won't dwell.

Worse, perhaps, is The Word on the Street. I actually bought a copy because my Sunday School class does not believ it exists. This book claims not to be a translation of the Bible - the disclaimer is needed and accurate. A lot is not included - whole books are elided with just a few sentences. The idea was to present the ideas of many of the more famous passages of the Bible in contemporary English - slang, colloquialisms, plain speech.

I haven't read deeply enough to figure out what problem this version of (parts of) the Bible is supposed to address - there is The Message, Today's English Version, et al. These present the ideas of the Bible in modern, easy to understand English. In "The Word on the Street" instead of "He maketh me to lie down beside still waters," we have something like "He puts on my favorite CDs." I can only see the new reader getting confused by this. "They had CDs back then?" "Why doesn't God put on CDs for me?" etc. The mind boggles.

Next - when is "next"? Not sure - Next I'll be talking Old Testament for a bit. Psalms and Genesis, I suspect. The Robert Alter translation has me in its thrall...

Friday, December 21, 2007

More Bibles

Soon I'll be getting back to the business of actually examining portions, but my last post made me think there was a bit more to say about Bibles in general. Truly, just a bit.

First, the bible version I've grown to admire most (based on it's commentary and design, etc) is the Archaeology Study Bible (NIV). It's put out by Zondervan, I believe, and it has some of the most interesting commentary around. Better than that, it is a fairly even handed commentary so that - wonder of wonders - the reader is often allowed to judge things for his or her self. This is as opposed to being told what you should think.

On the matter of being told what to think, I've found that many bible commentators believe it is their job to make you think one way or another on matters - the liberal minded people at Oxford are guilty of this at about the same clip as the many conservative commentators.

Second, aside from the Reformation Study Bible which I still haven't seen the inside of, there is also the Literary Study Bible that I'd like to see inside of. Not sure what goes on in there. Maybe one day I'll have the courage to tear at the celophane...

Then there are two editions I'm not sure what to make - The Joyce Meyer and the Max Lucado. I actually like Lucado's books, but I tend not to think of either of these authors as scholarly heavyweights, so...

On the other hand, one doesn't have to be a scholar to have interesting things to say. In fact, I've know plenty of scholars who have nothing interesting to say even on the subject they got their Ph.Ds in.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Made something of a survey of different bible translations and editions - something of a survey because it is physically impossible for a single human to conduct a thorough survey of bible editions and translations...there is every possible type out there andnew possibilities are opening up everyday.

Here are some results. First, I found that the NASB is the most accurate version of the Bible in English when looked at from a literal translation POV. I like the idea of an accurate literal translation - I know that task is another impossibility. Still, impossible though it may be, the attempt should be made. Certailny I can find nothing to praise in an inaccurate translation...

Behind the NASB is the ESV. Both texts are quite elegant though the ESV is, if I recall correctly, based on the KJV and so has an edge in the elegance department since it carries a greater weight in resonating power. I bought the NASB and have been reading it with pleasure - the edition is from Crossway and cost something like $6.99. I'll probably spring for the ESV in a year or three when I've gone through the NASB.

After the ESV is the RSV in accuracy and the KJV it is based on. To my surprise, the NIV and the Oxford Study (Revised English) bibles are not that accurate and rely more on a thought for thought rather than a word for word approach. In fact, As I'll explain, the Oxford was a true shocker for inaccuracy.

Another thing I've looked into is Robert Alter's translations of the Pentateuch (first five books including Genesis and Exodus) and of the Psalms. Absolutely astounding work there. I'm hoping he gets to work on Job. In my recent (relatively speaking) read through Genesis, I compared his translation to Everrett Fox's translation. Both have wonderfully terse translations and great commentaries - Alter's is greater. Both are light years ahead of the Oxford which seems to flub just about every crux. And the more I read of Alter's pretty profound commentary, the more I realized the Oxford version was lame.

When I am done with the Alter translations I have now, I intend to move on to his version of the story of David. Ought to be grand.

Looked, briefly, into the Apologetics Study Bible. Three comments: 1 - It is the CSB version which I can't say I gave a thorough test of so I'll reserve judgment. 2 - The articles I read in the the aisle at Borders seemed adequate for beginners and might have a few nuggets that would be useful to a more advanced reader, but the problem with apologetics is that there is never a definitive answer to every question so trying to do a good job in a finite number of pages is a task indeed. 3 - The presentation of the text was absolutely awful. I've never seen any book more poorly presented on the page. Not only was there significant bleed through, most of the articles were presented on paper that had grey designs on it. Imagine black ink words on paper that is varying shades of grey and with the words from the next page fighting their way through (and winning). Terrible. I wanted to get the book until I looked inside. The ideas might be useful, but it's a struggle to get at them.

I have not yet been able to take a peek inside the Reformation Study Bible - it's wrapped in plastic at the store and I've got plenty of reading to do with the Alter.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Colossians 3:14

And above all these thigns put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

In the previous two verses, Paul admonishes the reader to "put on" mercy, kindness, humility and many other fine qualities. In fact, the verse before this one is about forgiveness and forebearance. But then, there is a better way. Charity - not the giving of alms, though maybe that too - love. Forebearance is fine if it is all you have to give to your fellow man. The alternative, of course, is a smash to the head with a heavy stick.

Forgiveness is also fine. It improves both the person who recieves and the person who gives. But in both these activities there is or at least can be something alienating. That is, when you forebear or forgive, you say to the other person "yes, all right, now go your way and I'll go mine." This is Abraham and Lot choosing to part ways for the sake of peace. It is Esau and Jacob doing the same so they don't kill each other. Better than war. Still, not best of all. For that you need to go a step further.

Charity or love is the bond of perfectness. first the word bond - it holds things together, but what? Well, the previous sentences let you know - you and all those people you've been forbearing and forgiving. The community. The church. Ah, but you might think "that's troublesome, no? These are the very people who've been pestering me..." Yes, well, first let us consider how they feel about us a moment...Done? See? Perhaps you need to be forborn and forgiven as well. Still, the issue isn't whether these people are pests. It isabotu you. Can you love this person? Remember, in the previous verse, when you're told to forgive, Paul doesn't say this for the benefit of the hypothetical offender. (well, not just for his or her benefit)Paul is tell ing YOU what to do, not what someone else needs. Does that make sense?

Now the perfectness...this is hard. That won't prevent me from taking a stab. First, I think I can safely say that perfectness is what we strive for in our lives. No one gets out of bed in the morning saying they'd like a less than perfect day or a less than perfect life. Pitchers don't throw the first pitch of the game saying, well, I hope I only give up three or four runs..." Now, assume that perfectness can be made up from different parts (not sure where Plato would stand on this issue, but I'd wager he'd frown...). Or, assume that our lives are already in several parts - we're taxpayers, workers, lovers, parents, etc - we have our several emotions (remember, Paul has asked us to exchange malice for meekness, etc). Well, what brings those different parts of us together? What composes us and glues us into one piece? It is love.

The same way Jesus preached that love fulfilled all the law and the prophets as well, Paul tells us that love is the key to our struggle toward perfection. It brings our disparate feelings together - unites us like the super glue that holds the cracked vase together. Not sure this satisfies, but it's what I've got at the moment.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Colossians 3:12

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;

Another strange passage. The first three clauses highlight part of what I mean - it appears from the syntax here that we are the "elect of God" and we are "holy and beloved" even before we "put on" all these nice attributes like kindness. Okay, I understand the "elect" part easily enough. God is merciful and takes us into his service before we have reached perfection. He takes us as is. Fair enough. In this way, we may have a lot to "put on" when we walk in through the door. This is called Grace, and it is called Mercy.

I even understand the word "beloved" based on this same idea. He loves us without regard to our circumstances. After all, we are his creation and his re-creation. Of course, we're beloved.

But then, how can we be called "holy" before we begin to act in holy ways? What could that word even mean for a person who has not yet put on the qualities Paul is talking about? A person without Kindness for instance? Can you imagine pointing to an unkind person and saying "yep, in my religion, that man is holy"? Well, I think I can explain that as well.

For good or for bad (and in understanding this verse, I think it's bad) the word Holy when applied to people has come to mean someone who has attained a certain type of behavior - a level of goodness, a nearness to God and godliness. That's one meaning of the word. But step back from that a moment and take a look at the word as it might be applied to an inanimate object, for instance, when God told Moses he was on holy ground. Clearly, the word in that sense says nothing about behavior. One expects that holy ground didn't look or act any differently from unholy ground. What does the word mean then?

I think the word must mean something like touched by God. Now sometimes God's touch kills you, so let us not go thinking that this touch is always a good thing. The word then, for our purposes, means something like "Separated by God for God" with the addition that since we've be chosen, elected, we should start to act that way. Being separated out for God's use doesn't make us holy in the other sense of the word. That may be a long process which we BEGIN at the time of the separation/election. Understandint hings this way means that we have much work to do even though we are already holy.

I'll talk about the list of qualities another day, but I'm glad we got that cleared up...


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Colossians 3:13a

Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any...

In Col. 3:8 we're asked to put away anger, rage, and malice. Not easy things to do (and they are three different things I think, scroll down for my explanation of that). How would we make it through the day without at least one of these? What are we to do when someone cuts us off on the highway? Still, we are presented here with an alternative.

Forbearing and forgiving are not the same thing. With forbearance, you show tolerance for the short comings of others. Forgiving is, I think, the easier of the two. At the very least, when you forgive someone for an offense, you get a chance to point out the problem AND you get a chance to be magnanimous. "You acted poorly, but I'm big enough to forgive..." Don't get me wrong. Forgiving is a necessary thing. So is pointing out faults. People can't improve unless they know what they're doing wrong. Also, the wrong doer may be overwhelmed with guilt if they don't get the three little words: "I forgive you." We've all been there, I think.

But with forbearance, we don't point out problems, so we don't get a chance to publically forgive. Of course, we can forgive in our hearts. But no one (except God, important, that) will know how good we've been. Instead, we get to tolerate. Grin and bear it. And not with one of those false grins, either.

And something to remember about this section of the's not about those completely made-up grievances we sometimes feel against someone who has just rubbed us the wrong way. if any man have a quarrel against any suggests to me that there is a real reason for the anger we're supposed to be replacing with forbearance and forgiveness. We are told that we're to do this even as Christ forgave you. This copmarison might help with the explanation of what we're supposed to do with our fellow man. Count up the number of things you've been forgiven. Might want to take off your socks for this one. Then, here comes the kicker. Just imagine the number of things that Christ has tolerated from you, the things he forbore. Put your forbearing and forgiving in that context and you see what a small thing it is that we're asked to do. And, it's good for us, too. This is the alternative to all the anger, malice, etc that we're asked to put aside in Col. 3:8.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Psalm 34:4

I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

There is, I think, a bit of a tug of war going on in this verse. On the one hand, I have the feeling that one should try to deliver oneself from some of one's own fears. It is the word "all" that bothers me here. Shouldn't the Christian "work out their salvation in fear and trembling"? That is, (though I'm aware of twisting the just quoted verse a bit) shouldn't there be some part of the walk with God that requires effort from us? Not that our efforts will save us, no. But that there is something, I'm not sure what, healthy in the struggles we may make.

But then, it does appear that God handles our fears only after we have taken a step toward him. We have to seek him out first, then he delivers us. That is the other point of friction, no? After all, assume our fears are well founded, there are dangers all around us. Not so hard to imagine in today's world, I think. Then why would God wait to rescue us? Atheists ask this - why do you need to pray if God knows everything and cares? There are good answers to that which I'll go into later (I'm writing a book, in fact) but something may be illuminated by examining the last part of that quote again, the part where we're delivered from fears.

Being delivered from fears doesn't mean that the fears are vanquished. It says nothing about whether the fears were based on real or imagined circumstances. Most likely, in fact, they will have been imagined circumstances. I'll say more on that in a bit. Either way, being delivered from those fears means, I think, being calmed. It's like being rescued from the open ocean. When the Coast Guard helicopter drops you a line and plucks you out, your condition changes, but the ocean remains fierce as ever.

Whether or not you're being delivered from the things that make you afraid or just from the sense of fear is a point of debate here. Or is it both? No telling how many people have been afraid of some threat long after the threat itself is gone. This leads me to the "imagined circumstances." I say it may well have been imagined because the same word "Fear" is used only a few verses down and, in this case, it is considered a good thing - "fear of the Lord". (That's not a quote, but a paraphrase.) This is lauded. Jesus will say much the same thing later whenthe suggestion is made that we shouldn't fear the Devil since he can't condemn us. Fear the Lord. It seems then, that the only thing worth fear in the Universe is God himself. Or rather, or perhaps, displeasing God. In comparison, all other fears we may harbor are of imagined dangers. The true danger is in sin.

A hard psalm. Lots of great lines. Maybe it deserves a closer look and a more closely argued opinion and commentary.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Colossians 4:12

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

The catch here, of course, is the word "labouring." First, we see that prayer is work. That is, it costs energy and it has effect. This is, I think, a fair definition of work or labour. Effects had without the expenditure of energy might be called accidents, I think. I might be missing some other way of looking at that...

Energy expended without effect is just a waste. I seem to recall being taught this principle in the second grade. Ms. Ferracho said if we all went outside and tried to push the building off its foundation, it wouldn't be work no matter how tired we got because there would be nothing to measure in terms of foot-pounds. Don't know if that definition still stands.

Yet, how is it possible for a prayer to have the effect Epaphras seems to want here? I mean, I can see praying because I want to be a better person - in cooperation with the Almighty, that is an attainable goal. Possibly even without the Almighty, I'd be able to affect some change in myself for the good. I can even see praying for some divine intervention on behalf of someone else during an emergency situation - sickness, for instance. But "standing perfect and complete in all the will of God" feels a little like a stretch to me. I mean, can we pray people to perfection? To completeness? If so, if that was what Paul meant, then we could expect that mothers could pray their children into heaven without their children ever having to pray for themselves. Convenient for the children at least.

But if that's not what is meant, what is? I suspect, and it is only a suspicion (recall that I am not a professional theologian thought I do think for a living...) I suspect that cannot be eficacious by itself. What he prayed for was probably something like a smoothing of the path the Colossians would be facing on the way to becoming perfected and complete. This then could be helpful without doing the work for them.

The other thing to look at is the dual meaning of "labour." If I recall correctly, Epaphras had been instrumental in founding the church at Colossae. He's a parent. He labours as with child for each of the Colossians. He frets for them, he prays for them, he wishes them well - perfection even. Since the walk to perfection and completeness is one that can never be considered finished, Epaphras is in for a long birthing.