2 fingers to the inheritance of vipers

15 12 2009

No babes in mangers but broods of vipers. No chestnuts roasting on an open fire but the rotten fruit of the children of Abraham. No royalty privilege but repentance.

brood of vipers

The set reading for this Sunday was a bit of surprise for those who think Christmas has already started. According to the Church of Retail and Commerce, it begins in September when the suntan lotion is replaced by tinsel and baubles. But according to the Church of England lectionary (like Pictionary only without the giggles), we are still firmly in advent. So, for us this week there were no shepherds or kings, no stables or donkeys. Instead, some fiery John the Baptist having a pop at his own followers.

The crowds follow him, as he preaches his message of repentance. He spots a bit of hypocrisy. Some people coming who are in it for the ride, going through the motions, don’t fully get it. He doesn’t have a quiet word. “You brood of vipers!” Wow. These are the people who are coming to him; not the classic scary street preacher having at go at those who don’t come. Why does he do this? Because repentance is a serious business. There is no room for elitism. And definitely no room for hereditary holiness: “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our Father'”. To a nation and belief system based on the assumption that they were the chosen ones and therefore were ok, this is big stuff.

We, of course, would never fall into that trap. We, the Church of England, the ‘proper’ church. We would never be arrogant enough to assume that we had it right. That all others were a pale reflection of proper worship, proper repentance, proper priesthood. Would we? We, the nation of the United Kingdom, a ‘proper’ country, would never assume we have a right to be healthy, wealthy, rich and comfortable at the expense of any others. We are the good people.  Aren’t we?

christmas crunch

When questioned, John goes on to give examples of living out true repentance, rather than paying it lip service. “Anyone who has two shirts should give to one who has none. Anyone who has food should do the same.” Here comes the Christmas crunch. In a time of excess of things and food, we are called to share. Our food our clothes our presents our chocolate our families our wealth. Not just some loose change as an after-thought.

This is bigger than you, me and our next-door neighbours. A global economy means global consequences. Who makes the clothes we wear? Who makes the chocolate we eat? If we close our ears to those difficult, very un-festive questions we are no better than a brood of hypocritical vipers looking for a salve to our conscience without a change to our lifestyle.

know this logo

Did you know that if your chocolate isn’t marked as fair-trade, then there is no guarantee the farmer was adequately paid? Or that slaves were not used in its production? Slaves! Often children. Most of our cheap chocolate comes from the Cote d’Ivoire, where use of chocolate slaves is rife. Now, thankfully there have been some significant victories in the world of chocolate production recently. Some of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars are now Fairtrade. Nestle have recently announced that their 4-finger Kit Kat bars will be Fairtrade from January. These are big hitters and this is big news. It is an encouragement to people who have been campaigning for years. But it is still a tiny proportion of the market.

christmas crunch

If we want to take seriously John the Baptist’s challenge; if we want to take seriously the true, raw, honest and painful meaning of Christmas; if we want to be followers of Christ and not the crowd, then we must act differently. It may make us unpopular. Our families may not like us only buying fair-trade chocolate as presents. It is more expensive, so we buy less. (Why is it more expensive? Ask Tescos why they cannot absorb the extra cost into their vast profits.)  Our families and friends may not like us turning our lives around to fit Jesus in rather than just turning the lounge around to fit the tree in.  Tell them why.  And tell Cadbury’s, tell Nestle. Thank them for the fair-trade 4-finger Kit Kat, then give them 2 fingers, and ask them why not that bar too. Because we have no inherited right to chocolate produced in the dark, underbelly of slavery. We have no inherited right to have 2 shirts when others have only 1. We have no inherited right to speak of repentance if it does not impact us where it hurts.

Now that is a Christmas message. And John ended up dead for it. Nice.

For more information on these issues go to the Stop the Traffik campaign, the Fairtrade Foundation, visit your local Oxfam shop, and remember to always ask for Fairtrade coffee in in your local coffee shop. Contact Cadbury’sNestle and Mars here to thank them and ask them for more Fairtrade products.




15 responses

15 12 2009

Ah good, so that’s it then. All I have to do is buy fair trade chocolate and I am demonstrating love to my neighbour! well that’s not too much of a sacrifice, I like Kit Kat anyway.

No I don’t think that’s what John had in mind. He talks to the religious leaders and tells them to repent and to produce fruit in keeping with their repentance. He talks of baptism with fire and a burning of chaff with an unquenchable fire.

In today’s post modern world we think we can do everything remotely without getting our hands dirty. We can buy carbon offsets, we can give some money to charity, we can buy fair trade goods, we can use drones to fight our wars so that fewer of the goodies (our side!) get hurt and more of the baddies (the other lot) get killed without us having to be close and experience it.

I think John and Jesus are calling for a sacrificial, life changing love that gets us involved and flows out of us through the world. Maybe it starts with the neighbours and those living near us of other faiths. Maybe it leads us on to do great things and become a Wilberforce, challenging society’s norms. Maybe in our personal context it is just in our family in the seemingly trivial things which show love to others. But for sure it will be costly love which we can’t buy off with a bar of chocolate.

15 12 2009

Of course this isn’t the end of what John had in mind; it is a tiny part. It might seem insignificant – pointless even – in the grand scheme of things. However, it is not pointless to the farmers, the chocolate slaves and the companies who are beginning to realise their social responsibility. .

It is also not to be part of acting in a removed and remote way, but as part of our belief in fair and honest trading and dealing closer to home – in keeping with biblical principles of honesty, justice and mercy in all places. So it applies to fair wages and conditions in Asda, Aldi, Waitrose and the local corner shop. That comes under the banner of ‘fruit in keeping with repentance’.

As a ‘religious leader’, part of my fruit (I hope) is to encourage myself and others to buy wisely, and to repent of our contribution to some shocking working conditions worldwide that we have outlawed previously, because of the work of our predecessors like Wilberforce. It is not insignificant. It is not pointless. It is not removed. It is part of a much greater whole. Called life in all its fullness.

15 12 2009
Mike Brady

A bit more context regarding Nestlé’s Fairtrade KitKat, which I hope will be of interest. It is not as good news as Nestlé wants people to believe. Nestlé Fairtrade KitKat involves just 1% of Nestlé’s cocoa purchase. Also interesting to note that the amount Nestlé will pay on the Fairtrade premium for the cocoa it is due to buy in 2010 (less than £400,000) is less than 1% of expenditure on its current UK Nescafé advertising campaign (£43 million). For its money, Nestlé has generated stories that miss out some of the following key facts.

Nestlé has been taken to court in the US for failing to act on a 2001 agreement to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain and in the past has boycotted a meeting by Senator Harkin (co-sponsor of the Harkin-Engel Protocol in the US) called to examine lack of progress. There are 11 million people dependent on cocoa farming in West Africa, many of them dependent on Nestlé. The KitKat products involved in this scheme will benefit only 6,000 farmers. There is a danger that the improved conditions for these farmers will divert attention from the many others outside the scheme, and be used deliberately to this end by Nestlé.

Stop the Traffik, founded by Steve Chalke, the United Nations Special Advisor on Community Action Against Human Trafficking, said in response to the announcement that ‘two finger’ Kit Kats and all of Nestlé’s other chocolate products ““will continue to exploit the chocolate slaves of the Ivory Coast from where Nestlé source most of their cocoa”.” See:

This is a similar situation to its Fairtrade coffee, which involves just 0.1% of the coffee farmers dependent on it, but is used to suggest it is making a huge difference, providing cover for continued unethical practices.

In addition, Nestlé is the most boycotted company in the UK and one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet according to GMIPoll because of the way it pushes its breastmilk substitutes. Nestlé systematically breaches the baby milk marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly, undermines breastfeeding and contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of babies. According to UNICEF, 1.5 million babies die around the world every year because they are not breastfed. Even Nestlé’s Global Public Affairs Manager, Dr. Gayle Crozier Willi, admitted in 2007 that Nestlé is ‘widely boycotted’.

Fairtrade KitKat will be added to the boycott list. The boycot has forced some changes in Nestlé marketing practices and policies, but the company, the market leader, refuses to make all necessary changes and is still the worst of the baby food companies. At the present time it is being targeted for practices that include claiming its infant formula ‘protects’ babies – it does not, babies fed on it are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and in conditions of poverty, they are more likely to die. See:

Perhaps most disgraceful of all is that the UK Minister for Trade and Development, Gareth Thomas MP, brushed aside a question at a UN press conference about Nestlé’s record in developing countries by citing the benefits to the farmers supplying cocoa for the Fairtrade KitKat. For what I think he should have said see:

Nestlé’s Fairtrade product should be seen in this context.

15 12 2009
Edge the mocha

You are absolutely right to highlight the abuses in this world. But are you sure you’re identifying the right abusers?
I blame the consumers. We live in a supply and demand economy where the lowest price is the right price. That’s our fault and our responsibility. We are selfish and careless and ignorant and complicit. Someone should be shouting at us and shocking us into repentance.
I’m pretty sure the chocolate companies are systemically compromised. They control the source and the means of production. They should be accused and shamed into being ashamed and changing their supply chains.
And the slaves are victims that someone should be protecting and rescuing and helping into sustainable, meaningful and dignified employment (or education, if they are children).
But why should Tesco’s bring the price of Fairtrade products down? Maybe they should put up the price of bread to subsidise their loss on Fairtrade goods? Or do you see them as a charity rather than a business?
The retailer’s job is to charge whatever the market price is on a range of goods and let us consumers choose what we want to spend our money on. Tesco’s is an easy target. But if we didn’t want to buy cheap chocolate or clothes from unethical sources, Tesco’s wouldn’t stock it. And if people were prepared to pay more for Fairtrade chocolate and clothes, Tesco’s would stock more of those lines. And take shelf-space away from the unethical product ranges if demand for those was to go down.
A question for you:_
We have the following ingredients: John the Baptist; Cadbury’s/Nestles, Tesco’s, Fairtrade/Stop the Traffik lobbyists and wage slaves. If we were to re-cast this story as the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16, which of them would be the rich man, the steward and the debtors?

15 12 2009

Now that is a good question. And I’ll need to think about it…! Any other takers out there in blogville?

16 12 2009

Edge – a quick response about Tesco: I get your point about bread and profits, but at the same time, I didn’t realise companies only had one choice – business or charity – I thought perhaps they could be an ethical business, a business with a social conscience…

And an ethical business wouldn’t sell food/clothes etc… that they know to be produced in squalid, illegal conditions, even if it meant they were cheap. That wouldn’t make them a charity, but it would make them human. And yes, we shouldn’t buy it either 🙂

16 12 2009
Edge the Sledge

Fair comment, Kevin. I agree with you. But a ‘business’ exists to manage its assets on behalf of its shareholders. The shareholders determine whether they want their company to be a slave to profit, an engine for capital growth, a good employer benefitting the best interests of its staff, a benefactor for the local community, or a political or charitable or ethical values targeted organisation, etc. Most businesses are a combination of all of the above, of course, with the stresses and emphasis placed on different aspects depending on their overriding strategic goals. And Tesco’s, as you would expect, is no different. But it is a public company, so it’s shareholders are… people like us! We are all guilty! Again!
There is a Plan B (but don’t tell M&S): we could buy up Tesco’s shares, take executive control of the company and dictate a new Fairtrade only policy. Of course, the value of our shares might go down very fast as all our customers abandon us to go and buy their goods in Sainsbury’s.
This may sound defeatist. It’s just ecomonics, really. It’s all about supply and demand. What we demand, our supermarkets will supply.

16 12 2009
Mike Brady

Just to jump in with some insight on shareholder democracy as it works at Nestlé.

Baby Milk Action has a few shares to be able to attend the shareholder meeting and raise questions. I was there in 2007 and a shareholder raised the issue of Nestlé being taken to court in the US over failing to act on child slavery in its cocoa supply chain – something the Fairtrade KitKat has successfully painted over in the recent coverage.

The shareholder asked some pertinent questions regarding Nestlé’s possible liabilities if it lost the case etc. as well as raising the ethical issues.

As soon as the other shareholders realised the question was critical of their company, many of them started hissing and booing – and there were about 2,700 shareholders present. It was really unpleasant.

The same happened to anyone who raised issues that questioned the glossy image that the Board was presenting. It seemed the majority of shareholders were keener to get to the free food in the adjoining hall.

You can find a translation of the question at:

It is also worth noting that when there was a shareholder rebellion over the Chief Executive, Peter Brabeck, declaring himself Chairman as well in breach of good governance practice, they could only get 38% of the vote – part of the reason being Nestle holds its own shares and, as I found myself, they make it impossible for people buying shares through brokers to register their share to have voting rights – my broker said this is most unusual as they usual only have to provide a letter certifying that they are holding the share in your name.

A final thought, the Methodist Church bought £1 million of Nestlé shares in 2007, I believe it was, as a means to gain access and influence, despite the advice of campaigners that they would have more impact by refusing to invest until Nestlé changed its practices. The only visible result so far is that Nestlé falsely implies the investment is an endorsement of its policies, despite repeated request by the Church for it to stop doing so. See the report in the November 2009 Boycott News, at:

16 12 2009

Well done Edge for thinking about the morality of the market place. I’ve spent my working life in it and wrestled with these issues. It isn’t quite as simple as you suggest. A lot of the shares of the big multi-nationals aren’t owned by individuals but by investment funds working on behalf of groups of people, pension funds etc. The managers of these funds have quite a lot of power as they hold large tranches of shares and demand growth of share value and profits to be distributed as dividends. So, indirectly we do own shares and do benefit from the stewardship of the companies.

Another huge stakeholder in these companies is their banker. Businesses need finance from Banks and the banks will put enormous pressure on these companies to deliver savings (i.e.increased profit from the same turnover) and growth but would rather that profit was used to pay for even more loans, not paid as dividends.

A company worth its salt will also be concerned about the well-being of its employees. At the moment that means struggling to keep people in jobs and struggling too to make up massive pension fund deficits, usually caused not by bad management but by government raids and incompetent regulation.

So a harassed finance director is struggling to keep the demands of these three stakeholders and more in balance, meet masses of regulation and keep the company trading meeting the needs of its customers who almost always want more for less. Explaining that you lost market share because you were more ethical than your competitors is of no use unless you can show how you have used it to deliver more growth and profits.

Actually the market is probably morally neutral but may even be positively moral. Take the Bankers, and who would! If the market had been left to its course then some banks would have failed and the shareholders would have lost their money and the employees their jobs. Lesson learned and no more such mistakes for a few years. However the government in its infinite wisdom stepped in and bailed them out sop the shareholders didn’t lose all that much and most employees kept their jobs. Who was moral – the Government or the Market?

So how to go forward? Well there isn’t a simple answer of course, but a few thoughts:
1. The size of these companies must be restricted. many are now larger and more powerful than nations and understandably they feel they can ignore what governments say.

2. Don’t think that regulation will do it. If legislation gets too hot in one place they will move to another.

3. Individuals can make a difference, but probably not be protesting. To go back to our cocoa farmers, if we force Nestle to pay them more than the market rate there will always be a distortion and eventually someone will find a way around it. Investing in alternative crops or businesses for them so that they can earn more would help them much more. And it would force up the price for other growers so eventually the market level would be right.

Sorry, I’ve gone on a bit. Over to somebody else.

16 12 2009
Edge the mocha

You’re right c2drl, these are complex issues and the questions are easier to ask than the answers are to find. I like it when people go over the top. Keep running and jumping and don’t fear the edge!
Many of the institutional investors in a business like Tesco’s are, indeed, pension funds. Kevin would possibly think it a low blow if I was to point out that the Church of England’s prospective pensioners all probably have a vested interest in our top 100 companies growing and prospering over the longer-term. A vicar’s pension is as likely as any body else’s to be heavily dependent upon the investment judgement decisions entrusted to a bonus-incentivised fund manager somewhere in the (murky) city of London. The reason the Government thought it couldn’t allow the banks to fail is partly, I believe, because their financial spider’s web entangles us all. Our mortgages, our savings, our insurance, our moneyflows, our debt mountains, our pensions, our economic hope and all our exotic, toxic intoxications are somehow all dependent upon our governments and markets having continuing confidence in something that no one really understands. Maybe we should have let a bank or two die when the prospect was real a couple of years ago. But we couldn’t work out what the collateral damage would have been. So we bailed them out with the kiss of life. Naive? Prudent? Courageous? Christian? Hmmm… messiah complexes are everywhere if you look for them.
Can we restrict the size of some of the global corporate monoliths now, as you suggest we need to? Possibly. But if legislation is impractical, then, as I think you infer, the free market itself will have to somehow kick in with its own controlling and limiting effect. We will watch and wait to see whether the markets can correct themselves to reign in the excessive dominant tendencies of the voracious acquiring giants. I’m a fan of the forgotten economist E.F. Schumacher, who advocated that small is beautiful. And he said something to the effect that if profit is not the goal, then it is a very useful bi-product. But if it becomes the goal in itself, then all the things that are likely to be slaughtered on the altar of pursuing profit will be the things that are most valuable to the stakeholders in a civilised society e.g. fairness, community, social welfare, etc. Everyone’s economic needs should be able to be met, not just those with the biggest appetites.
I’m not sure that an economic david is about to slay an economic goliath any time soon, but occasionally giants fall (Hanson… Polly Peck…). And dinosaurs die out too (not that dinosaurs exist in the Bible, of course, though someone might have thought to mention them somewhere, methinks…).
If individuals can’t make a difference, then we are in trouble. If protesting is all we have to offer, then protest we must. A decontextualised biblical paraphrase might be: here I am, start with me. Or as Gandhi said: be the change in the world that you want to see.
That’s why I’m rooting for Kevin and his ethical crusader generation. They’ve hopefully got more energy and principles and conviction than me. I’m far too cynical and corrupted and, anyway, I usually prefer the questions to the answers.
Mind you, Kevin still hasn’t worked out what that parable in Luke 16 is all about. Perhaps morality is in the eye of the interpreter?

17 12 2009

Thanks guys for these musings and reflections on complicated things that you know more about than me. I’m stuck between wanting to be a naive idealist, and knowing too much about the realities of life to be so. A quandry that makes us either give up, or actively choose not to. that is my choice today.

As for the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16 that Edge wants explained, here goes (for which I am heavily indebted to Tom Wright) (as usual):

First thing to remember – it is a parable, not a piece of moral teaching about money and how to use it. Secondly, it is a Jewish story about a Jewish situation, so we need to understand it that way. The master in the story has probably been acting in an underhand manner himself: Jews were forbidden to lend money at interest, but got around that by lending in kind instead (oil, wheat etc…). Here, probably what the manager deducts is not the amount lent, but the amount of interest lent. Otherwise surely the manager would not commend him.

What is it about then? Being a 1st century Jewish story about a master and a steward, we know that the master is God, and the steward is Israel, those entrusted with looking after God’s world. The steward (Israel) has not done a good job. What should they do? Pharisees response: pull the law even tighter, make ourselves more holy, do better. Jesus’ response: if a crisis is imminent, then throw caution to the wind, forget the extras of the law, and make friends wherever you can. Why?

If this parable is directed at the disciples, for them a particular crisis was coming, one in which they would lose friends, lose income, and would need alternatives. The crisis – Jesus’ ministry, death, and the disciples becoming social pariahs. Jesus is calling on them to learn from the cunning people in the world about how to cope with that crisis – not to retreat into heaping up rules, but in being generous. That will win you friends! Think differently.

And to go back to Edge’s questions about a re-casting of the parable in modern times… perhaps we could imagine a situation in which the rich countries were extremely economically dominant, but a crisis is on its way that will reverse fortunes. Maybe a “Day After Tomorrow” climatic change, or the total collapse of the Western economy (imagine that?) such that we were suddenly entirely dependant on developing nations, who currently are in debt to us. The shrewd manager is the one who, before that happens and just in case it does, cultivates good relations with the developing world – through Fairtrade, through social awareness, ethical trading, whatever – so that when the collapse happens, and the debt is on the other foot, he already has the friends he needs.

So, the shareholders of Tescos/Cadbury’s are happy to cultivate good relationships with those upon whom they may one day depend. The Stop the Traffik lobbyists commend and help them to do that, and persuade unconvinced shareholders of the benefits. The current debtors have some debt relief; future debtors will hope to be treated as such as well. That is shrewd business. No-one is too big to fail.

17 12 2009

Mmm. a number of scientists i know well have a great ability to make the data fit the hypothesis they have made. I wonder whether Kevin’s conclusion doesn’t fall in the same category. So here is my totally openminded and unbiassed alternative building on his opening exegesis with which I find no fault.

I don’t think this parable is about lending money and interest. The crisis we are heading for seems to me to be a world sliding into secularism and greed, with the poor getting poorer and the rich (and the ruling classes) richer. What the servant was commended for, according to Kevin, was getting back his master’s property for his master, which he did by negotiation.

So the servant go to those to whom custody of the masters assets has been given and gets it back. We need to get back respect for religious faith, a worldview that values all people, especially the poor, freedom of expression for people of faith and an acceptance that man on his own cannot save the planet or himself and needs a higher authority.

With whom should we negotiate?
Those of other faiths with whom we have much mre in common than divides us.
Scientists and philosophers who, whilst they may not share our doctrines are often much closer to accepting the possibiloity of an unexplained creator force than we might think.
The ruling classes, who want to continue to rule and have stolen our birthright of freedom.
Financial institutions and companies within the market, which yes I still believe in and think can work if we expose people’s lies, greed and dishonesty.

I think the nutshell of the message here is stop being affraid of the rest and go and talk with them in their language, on their terms in the public square.

Easy then!

19 12 2009

Thanks C2DRL – another interesting reading of the passage. I’m not sure that really fits, but I think we are both trying to squeeze a little more tenuous interpretation of the passage than it really contains!

I would also like to pick you up on this rose-tinted world we need to get back to. You say “We need to get back respect for religious faith, a worldview that values all people, especially the poor, freedom of expression for people of faith and an acceptance that man on his own cannot save the planet or himself and needs a higher authority.”

When was this time? When was there ever freedom of expression for people of faith? When was there a prevailing world-view that valued all people, especially the poor?

It can be easy to criticise where we are now, but I’m not sure the past has ever been much better; at least, there have always been issues, just different ones, be it feudalism, racism, super-capitalism…

But I do agree with your last point – getting out there and talking with people is a huge part of the battle towards sanity.

As you say, easy then!

19 12 2009
Edge the mocha

Jesus spoke in parables which, arguably, are open to numerous interpretations. My take on that is that he didn’t want to tell people what to think, but was more interested in teaching people how to think and encouraged them to focus on the things that were really worth thinking about. We live in a more literal, process-driven, time-poor society where thinking is an indulgence and quick decision making is often seen as a strategy rather than a tactic. So we seek simple solutions to thorny problems.
But it is good to wrestle with the issues. Often nowadays, we hear people ask the question: what would Jesus do? An unanswerable question. A better, more practical question might be: what did Jesus do? And one answer to that might be: well, he confused a lot of the people a lot of the time and then he didn’t really help them work out what he was getting at. I offer the Luke 16 parable as evidence for my case, your honour.
My reading of that parable is that Jesus says it is possible to be dishonest if you are shrewd but if you are really shrewd you might choose to be honest in the first place. There are lots of other possible interpretations.
But if that is what Jesus was saying, is that what he meant to say? Yes, I would imagine. But if that is what Jesus meant to say, is that what he meant us to think? No, I would imagine.
God is first a creator. And one of the things he creates for us is problems and challenges. So that we, who are created in his image, can exercise our own creativity in trying to work out creative solutions to the challenges and dilemmas we face.
The fact that we are having a debate here about whether our actions can make a difference, and to who, and in what way, and to what extent, and with what consequences, etc, etc, might be the most important thing. If we don’t think about these things, then we will never think through them fully to reach a point where we can make informed decisions. And then, if and when we reach such a point, we might actually do something. We might do something about the way that we think, or the way that we behave, or the way that we trade, or the way that we protest, or the way that we abstain, or the way that we take responsibility, or the way that we influence, etc, etc. And through those processes, maybe that’s how we grow to be more like Jesus? Maybe it’s the taking part, by taking these things apart, that equips us for God’s purposes? If we engage, we grow. And if we grow, we might thrive.
Another take on the parable is that Jesus might be saying: if you mess about on someone else’s blog in a juvenile and dubious way to a point where you are regularly winding them up, they might get really fed up with you and want to censor you, but if you are shrewd enough to occasionally say something that sounds like it might be sensible, you’ll probably be allowed to keep posting your comments in future…

19 12 2009


I like your interpretation and conclusions. Is a logical conclusion from what you are saying that finding the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer isn’t always the most important thing. It is the process of thinking, praying and weighing and the intent with which you do it that is the real point, as God works in each of us differently to achieve growth in us?

If so i think I agree, although it sounds a dangerous message (which probably means it is what Jesus meant!) and is open to misinterpretation. It doesn’t say the means are justified by the end, but that we all have to wrestle with our consciences and may come to different answers.

In so much as blogs like this help us do that, they are surely an instrument of growth. Maybe even irritating wind up bloggers then serve a purpose. m- do you suppose they are among the blesseds in the modern day Beatitudes?

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