I seriously HATE the English word “you” and all its ambiguity! It is hard enough figuring out the context of someone saying, “Hey you!” is it to an individual or to the group? For me, this context is even harder to discern in writing. I do not believe we were created to think predominantly in terms of a singular “you.”
Every language that I am aware of (other than English) has a plural you. I am not suggesting we should return to using, “thee,” “thou,” “thine,” etc; however, if this were not an issue we would not have regions of the USA that say, “y’all,” “all y’all,” “yous guys,” “yuns,” “you all” etc.
Eight years ago when I was serious about learning Spanish, I decided the best way to learn was to read the Bible. I was stunned when I read Jeremiah 29: 11-13 and that “I know the plans I have for you” was ustedes which is a plural “you.” While God certainly knows the plans He has for us as individuals, this passage’s original audience, intent and meaning was to Israel, the plural remnant. [Pastors who insist on preaching this out of context, could at the very least focus on the plural rather than the individual.] This was a defining moment for me and the Lord started me on a quest to learn about the Bible in its original form.
This is both an OT and NT frustration for me. A few months ago I was reading Philippians 1 and I was amazed by how many times the “you” and “your” Paul was addressing was plural (vv. 3-10; 19-30). Most who read this blog are not wired like this (myself included). We think of “you” first as being singular/individual rather than plural.
The Psalms are rife with plurals. One of my MOST favorite Psalms and verses that I quote when I am excited is “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8). Both taste and see are plural imperatives meaning that all of David’s audience is commanded to taste and see the Lord’s goodness! In verses 13-14 it switches, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” are singular (ESV, emphasis mine). David is now addressing the individual.
We truly need the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and discernment when it comes to reading the Bible! Whenever you read the word “you” I would love if you would take a moment to find out if the “you” is plural or singular. Then, I would love for you to dig in further and learn if the “you” is addressing Israel, an individual and/or the church. This small three letter word has serious theological implications and consequences. I have suggested that English Bible translators make a footnote when a “you” is plural. At the least it would inform the reader how the “you” was meant in the original text.
The singular and plural is a tension that God has created us to live with. The sooner we realize this, the better off we will be as Christians both individually and corporately!
I look forward to reading any and all comments and feedback from Y’ALL!
Father God, You care about individuals and You care about Your Bride as a whole. Lord, help those who are in a more individual culture to read the Bible with community in mind. For those in a pluralistic culture, help them read the Bible knowing that You do ascribe worth to individuals and that You have created each person uniquely with their own set of gift(s) to glorify You and build up Your Body. Lord, help us to be a people who is truly known for our love. Lord, help us to discern “you.” Help us to know what is for Israel, for individuals and for the church. Lord, thank You for this individual reader and thank You for this blogging community as a whole. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.