Labor Day Is a Holiday that Isn’t Holy

Tim Challies shows the classic confusion of redemption and providence by calling everything grace:

It is God’s grace that you can be industrious instead of idle. Flavel says, “Sin brought in sweat, but now not to sweat increases sin. He that lives idly cannot live honestly.” The Bible’s warnings about laziness and idleness are many and stern. So when God puts you into a vocation that is legal and moral, he has done you a great benefit. He has given you the blessing of allowing you to earn your own living. Your hard work allows you to avoid the temptations of idleness and to care for your own needs rather than having to rely upon others. Further, through God’s provision to you, you have enough to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves. It is, after all, more blessed to give than to receive.

But what if I am not as industrious as H. L. Mencken or Woody Allen who seemingly have not lived in a state of grace?

It is God’s grace that you have a job that is lawful before God and men and especially suited to you. There are many people who are employed in jobs that are sinful or even illegal. “They do not only sin in their employments, but their very employments are sinful.” To have a job that dishonors neither God nor men is no small mercy. To have a job suited to your passions and skills is a double mercy. Then, if your job allows you to provide for yourself and others without working you to the bone, without consuming all of your waking hours, you have more reasons still to thank God for what he has given you.

My skills as a historian, such as they are, did not come through the means of grace or conversion. I studied and learned from lots of non-redeemed historians.

It is God’s grace that he has directed you into the kind of job that neither you nor your parents may ever have expected. You may well be involved in a job that your parents did not plan for you to do, and perhaps one that even you did not plan to do. Just like a compass needle turns this way and that before settling on true north, so “a child is designed for this, then for that, but at last settles in that way of employment to which Providence designed him.” Many of us can attest that “Not what we or our parents, but what God designed shall take place.” This is certainly the case with me and I owe God great thanks and praise for his kindness and his wisdom in giving me a passion for writing and then allowing me to do it.

I say it’s providence but it’s also the accident of growing up at a time when college education became wildly available and when graduate schools were opening their doors wide. That kind of economic development is not grace. It is providence.

It is God’s grace that he secures what you have earned. God’s favor toward you is what has allowed you to earn what you have. That same favor is what has allowed you to keep what you have earned.

Let’s not forget civil magistrates and police many of whom are not living in a state of grace. Their non-sanctified labors maintain my security and property.

It is God’s grace that your vocation is sufficient for you. Some people have work, but not enough strength to complete it. Some have strength, but no work to commit it to. Some have both strength and work but even then not sufficient to provide for themselves or others. If God blesses your labors to give you enough or even more than enough to meet your needs, you ought to give him praise and thanks.

If I am content with my vocation — some days — that is partly a function of sanctification. But I know lots of non-believers who seem to have as much job satisfaction as I do.

Tim either needs to get out more or needs to read more on providence (preferably without Petra blaring in the background).

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59 thoughts on “Labor Day Is a Holiday that Isn’t Holy

  1. If he replaced the phrase “God’s grace” with “God’s goodness toward you” would you still have a problem with the article?

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  2. if we follow the regulative principle, the new covenant gives us no duty to turn work into our “vocation”. We are allowed to work because we need the money. Not all work is fun or influencing the majority culture. But it is legalism to not allow us to work only for the money. And to work to eat. It is also legalism to suggest that not working merely for money is better for Christians. Would-be elitists like Os Guinness and Gene Veith disapprove the idea of Christians working as peasants, without thought for tomorrow. The neo-Calvinists teach us that It’s a waste of your Latin to work in a grocery store, and that no Christian needs to be something “non-professional” or less than “comfortable” Such traditional Protestants support property (not “union”) consciousness.

    Kuyper, The Problem of Poverty, p 33—“And whenever the magistrate came forward as a servant of God to protect the weak, the more powerful class of society soon knew how to exercise such an overpowering influence that the government, which should have protected the weak, became an instrument against them. This was not because the stronger class was more evil at heart than the weaker, for no sooner did a man from the lower class rise to the top than he in his turn took part just as harshly – yes, even more harshly – in the wicked oppression of those who were members of his own former class”

    Kuyper, p 40 –“The church’s second influence was through an organized ministry of charity, which in the name of the Lord – the single owner of all goods – demands that good be shared so that no man or woman in the circle of believers is allowed to suffer want or go without necessary apparel”

    Kuyper, p 67 —”Scripture excludes every illusion of a right to dispose of one’s property absolutely, as if one were God, without considering the needs of others

    Kuyper, p 72—“The government should help labor obtain justice. Labor must also be allowed to organize itself independently in order to defend its rights…

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2012/09/vocation-day-reading/

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  3. That can be true. Quick question though. Is there a reason that you take the approach that you do when engaging with New Calvinistm as opposed to Horton’s? I ask this as someone who has come from being a Baptist (and Piper fanboy) to a confessional Presbyterian largely thanks to his work starting me down the path. It seems that he is just as critical as you are towards the Yrr movement but isn’t so dismissive that he simply mocks it from the outside. Isn’t that a better balance to strike?

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  4. It would be a bit of an oversimplification to compare picking out a sweater with choosing which methodological approach is best to use in critical dialogue.

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  5. To those folk, whatever is on your mind is wrong and sinful. Be grateful they are there to point this out to you in the name of religion.

    Must be a horrible gig though, attacking every thought or deed or action or leisurely inaction that one comes across in everybody else.

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  6. Dustin, once upon a time Horton was dismissive. Mod Ref was a lot more interesting to read when it had an edge, when it critiqued evangelicalism.

    Plus, so much of what the New Calvinists write is embarrassing. How do they ever learn that what they do is cringe worthy if we come along side them the way Pope Francis does everyone except bankers.

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  7. Still waiting for that full ‘neo’calvinsim distinctives definition please maybe from cw?

    Anyway in the meantime, re grace, commongrace, providence, God’s unmerited favor Appreciate this comment from long ago Jeff Cagle says (in February 2013):

    The main reason to push the notion of “common grace” — meaning “non-salvific unmerited favor” — is to account for Jesus’ words and commands.

    “God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
    This is providence, certainly — but so is methane rain on Titan. What distinguishes providence in general from common grace in specific is the notion of “being good towards”, the element of care for another person.
    The term “common grace” arose to correct a certain specific error: That God only brings rain on the unrighteous in order to increase their guilt, and does not have genuine kindness towards them.
    If this were so, then the unrighteous would have cause to hate God (!!), for He would be ostensibly providing them with “apparently good, but not really good, in order to make things worse for them later.”
    No, the guilt of the unrighteous is real because the gift of rain is real, and kindly intended.

    Likewise with Jesus’ commands.
    “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven”
    Under the hyper-Cal scheme, God is incapable of having genuine care-and-concern for His enemies (unless they happen to be elect enemies). So we ask a simple question: If God is unable to love His enemies, then how can He grant us grace to do the same? Jesus’ command would thus be vacated, for we cannot fulfill it (or any command) without the Spirit’s aid; and the if the Spirit has no love for His enemies, then neither can we.
    So why the term “common grace”? To distinguish truth from error. God’s merciful actions towards unbelievers are distinguished from general providence by their intent. He is not merely dropping rain here and not there for His glory (though this would suffice), but specifically to glorify Himself in the evidence of His goodness.

    The secondary reason is that Rom 13 makes no sense without it: A magistrate could not be “minister of God” (in the secular office) without common grace.
    And finally, because some church courts, at least, have said so. Acts of the CRC Synod 1924, pp. 113ff.

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  8. funny. That’s it ? and those are all 1)true? and 2) the ones that are true are bad??
    Can’t you just see God frowning 🙂

    anyway, did you see this one this am,cw ?
    SAVED PEOPLE LOVE TO SING Sep 06, 2016 | Kevin DeYoung
    There was singing at creation. The Lord says to Job that when he laid the foundation of the earth “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). All the angels sang for joy at the birth of Jesus (as did Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon). Now we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to each other (Col. 3:16). The drama of redemptive history is actually a musical. Will you join the chorus?

    therefore just for you this am, cw (and Susan)

    This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength Isa 30:15

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  9. Dustin, it seems that the Yrr have hardened into a distinct position. They’re no longer on a journey as much as they are becoming entrenched as an alternative to confessional Presbyterians. This seems evident from the parachurch orgs to the church plant ministries to Keller’s ecosystems symbiosis within the PCA. They’re not listening much but instead advancing their lines and taking ground. There’s a fight for the identity of Presbyterianism, particularly within the PCA. They want fluidity which is already giving way to syncretism(they like to call it contextualization) while the confessionals are looking for definition, boundary, historical connection and precision.

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  10. Sean, this is why certain Wokeminsterian *PCA worship leaders* who say that traditional Reformed worship and tunes are inherently and unavoidably white supremacist. These disruptors serve the wider movement…for the moment.

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  11. The OPC, probably completely lost by this definition: “Intercultural worship should be the impulse of the church. If we are not living interculturally, we are probably not part of Jesus body.”

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  12. CW, what’s Machen’s line about the church serving as respite from the battles of everyday life including politics. Get the frick out of my worship. Go chase your racial, social, economic, marriage, family, therapeutic, musical and sexual identity utopias elsewhere and on your own time and dime.

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  13. I’ve always thought singing hymns and psalms to tunes written by people from other continents, centuries, and millennia was intercultural. But I don’t think that’s what *PCA worship leader* has in mind.

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  14. Dg: I’m not sure it would be fair to say that Horton has lost his edge. Have you read his book “Ordinary”? It is a pretty punchy critique of big Eva’s tendency to promote “radical” Christianity. And his solution is essentially “become a Presbyterian”. He is able to be openly critical and actually listened to because he is more strategic. I’m not saying stop the criticism. You have a lot of useful stuff to say. But why not tone the curmudgeon factor down a tad for effectiveness? The leaders might be unswayable, but that doesn’t mean the casual “Calvinist” evangelical is.

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  15. To appeal to New Calvinists we must begin singing Getty songs….but, no…too white….black gospel songs, tunes, and styles….no, too woke — what about when my white trailer park neighbors show up? Genevan psalms with a CCM folky-Irish twist, a little funky bounce and a banjo! Solved!

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  16. Dustin, I guess it would depend on the immediate context, but it’s always easy to discount polemicists as being shrill. I actually find the ‘winsome’ crowd offensive and patronizing as they politically maneuver to put “their people” in place and poo poo resistance all with a gentle demeanor. I prefer a strong arm robber to a con. You don’t get the reformation without Luther’s personality, you don’t get the OPC without Machen’s. As I read the Gospels I’m more and more struck with how cutting Jesus was with his religious opponents and Paul doesn’t seem to have spared much for his or even his own who failed him. Then there’s Luther, Calvin, the Scots Presbyterians………………Maybe the problem is our inability to fight well. Maybe we require too much special handling.

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  17. The road to ecclesiastical hell is paved with nice moderates. Google Machen, Erdman, Stevenson. Chuck, “moisturizes” is short for “the guy is an effete metrosexual”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Pass the Pelligrino and the artisanal pasta with organic pesto, please.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. CW- Ha Ha! Thanks for the definition. “Metrosexual” doesn’t fly too well over here in WV. The sporadic existence of Starbucks is about as close as we get.

    “Moisturizers” may pertain to what type of gun oil we may choose.

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  19. Had they found themselves living in Luther’s time, the New Calvinists / YRR / alt-*whatever* wouldn’t have had the cojones to stand with Luther. Probably Erasmus.

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  20. TLDL, cw?

    Letmesplainsean says: I prefer a strong arm robber to a con. You don’t get the reformation without Luther’s personality, you don’t get the OPC without Machen’s. As I read the Gospels I’m more and more struck with how cutting Jesus was with his religious opponents

    Sean, gonna have to do better than this:
    cw l’unificateur says: Neos
    Macbook
    No real denominational allegiances.
    Transdenominational proclivities.
    Jonathan Edwards.
    CS Lewis quotes.
    Francis Schaeffer quotes.
    Moisturizer.

    to claim to be like Jesus doing His work, being in opposite to those you don’t like/who ‘irritate’ you.
    In any case, Jesus would never say the end justifies the means. He never sinned and never promoted sin.

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  21. If I understand correctly, Darryl shouldn’t adopt Horton’s approach because:

    1) “Reformed” evangelicalism isn’t listening
    2) Being “winsome” is patronizing
    3) Jesus and Paul weren’t winsome
    4) Nice moderates are the spawn of Satan

    In regard to the first point, “Ordinary” by Horton was received pretty well as a corrective to overdoing the radical thing. Not by everyone mind you, but isn’t this an example of some listening going on? As far as the polemics of Jesus, He was hardest on the Pharisees because they were hypocrites who refused to acknowledge His identity as the Son of God. Paul reserved the anathema for those who preached a different gospel. Is “reformed” evangelicalism denying the identity of Christ or preaching a different gospel? And being winsome can be patronizing. But would you really lump Horton in with the “winsome” or “nice moderate” category because he isn’t as abrasive as Darryl? Is Robert Godfrey not reformed enough because he participates in Ligonier conferences? Does R Scott Clark need to wash himself 7 times in the Jordan because he is friends with Kevin Deyoung? Does Jv Fesko’s “Truly Reformed” card get revoked because he reviewed a book for the gospel coalition earlier this year? What about Dennis Johnson’s TGC article at the beginning of last year? It is a false choice to choose between being a nice moderate and being a total curmudgeon. I don’t think any of the people I just mentioned could be classified as “nice moderates”, though I think their balance of criticism and engagement is more effective than Darryl’s. That’s really the point I’m trying to make.

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  22. Dustin, it’s the cruises that tend to make WHI/Ligonier just this side of less-than-interesting.

    But, seriously, I think you may have OL a bit confused with the wider Calvinist gadfly society. OL can perhaps be an acquired taste, and I say this as one who cut his Reformed teeth with Horton, but it is a welcome relief from all the religious earnestness and celebrity that more or less surrounds those you’re holding up here; OL is smart without being obnoxiously so and without roaming the wider scene seeking whom it may dare to knock batteries off its shoulders, incisive without either the chest thumping of gadflies or the stroking of fraternal fires. It’s pretty unique that way and one of the best kept secrets of conservative Protestantism.

    I don’t know what you mean by Darryl’s abrasiveness. He could’ve made a tidy mint in modern dentistry–he can smash teeth without his patient feeling a thing. Must be all in the wrist.

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  23. Dustin, anathema? Saying the new Calvinists are not Calvinists is not anathema.

    Rejection is not engagement. I reject the new Calvinists as Calvinists.

    How do you think Horton or Godfrey’s “engagement” is working? Are new Calvinists becoming Calvinists? Or are Horton and Godfrey getting a bigger platform?

    Plus, you have to admit that the new Calvinsts do lots of embarrassing things. I do too. I usually know when I do. The New Calvinists are so pious they are beyond embarrassment. Sometimes you need the fool.

    At some point, you need to thank me.

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  24. Poor choice of phrase on my part. I just meant Paul reserved most of his harshest criticism for people toying with the gospel.

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  25. Dustin, Okay. But why does TGC have an arts & culture channel? What do they have to do with “the gospel”? If you’re going to identify yourself by THE GOSPEL, shouldn’t you be circumspect.

    They are wannabe Neo-Calvinists with few of the smarts or intellectual scaffolding.

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  26. Hart is not even attacking sacred buildings, but is to be commended for his moderate iconoclasm against tired old shibboleths (like “Wordview” and “common grace”)

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2014/07/the-breaking-of-images/

    John the Baptist’s style was shrill and skewed and sectarian, but what about Jesus?

    Matthew 21: 12 Jesus went into the temple complex and drove out all those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you are making it a den of thieves!

    Luke 4: 25 But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them—but to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had serious skin diseases, yet not one of them was healed —only Naaman the Syrian. 28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged. 29 They got up, drove Him out of town, and brought Him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl Him over the cliff.

    John 3—Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “But how can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked Him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?…….you must be born again. 8 The wind blows where it pleases…..19 “This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light BECAUSE their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids the light so that his deeds will not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light.

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  27. again and still, sheesh, or should I say woe.

    It is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.

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  28. Dustin, it was more why should Darryl adopt Horton’s approach? And the example wasn’t the failed approach of those at West West( I learn a lot from all those guys) my retort was how the interactions were going within the PCA, specifically. I stand by that assessment by the way. The confessionals are getting trucked all the while being smiled at, patted on the head and not infrequently shamed.

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  29. oh hey, good morning cw, thanks for the reminder, as always, ever taking off-track, by the usual name calling, generic disparaging, and of course the ever charge of ‘pious’ …. back to the post

    DGHart Tim Challies shows the classic confusion of redemption and providence by calling everything grace

    Don’t see any ‘classic’ or for that matter any confusion in that post

    Jeff Cagle says (in February 2013):
    The main reason to push the notion of “common grace” — meaning “non-salvific unmerited favor” — is to account for Jesus’ words and commands.
    “God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
    This is providence, certainly — but so is methane rain on Titan. What distinguishes providence in general from common grace in specific is the notion of “being good towards”, the element of care for another person.
    The term “common grace” arose to correct a certain specific error: That God only brings rain on the unrighteous in order to increase their guilt, and does not have genuine kindness towards them.
    If this were so, then the unrighteous would have cause to hate God (!!), for He would be ostensibly providing them with “apparently good, but not really good, in order to make things worse for them later.”
    No, the guilt of the unrighteous is real because the gift of rain is real, and kindly intended.
    Likewise with Jesus’ commands.
    “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven”
    Under the hyper-Cal scheme, God is incapable of having genuine care-and-concern for His enemies (unless they happen to be elect enemies). So we ask a simple question: If God is unable to love His enemies, then how can He grant us grace to do the same? Jesus’ command would thus be vacated, for we cannot fulfill it (or any command) without the Spirit’s aid; and the if the Spirit has no love for His enemies, then neither can we.
    So why the term “common grace”? To distinguish truth from error. God’s merciful actions towards unbelievers are distinguished from general providence by their intent. He is not merely dropping rain here and not there for His glory (though this would suffice), but specifically to glorify Himself in the evidence of His goodness.
    The secondary reason is that Rom 13 makes no sense without it: A magistrate could not be “minister of God” (in the secular office) without common grace.
    And finally, because some church courts, at least, have said so. Acts of the CRC Synod 1924, pp. 113ff.

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  30. oh wait….. translator…..thanks for the reminder, cw….. things weren’t taken off-track, right cw?….. the ‘track’ was to disparage; the specific topic was inconsequential, not really for debate/reasoning//sharpening purposes

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  31. …finally, Dustin, may I say (opinion), your premise seems a bit misguided -sure, we want to act a certain way ‘win over’, but the primary reason to act righteously, is because believer’s are righteous and the Lord says for those who are righteous to keep practicing…. righteousness. (Rev 22:11)

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  32. The Canons of Dort refer to “common grace” as the “light of nature” – a phrase that shows up in the WCF as well (I take this to be “general revelation”). This would seem to be consistent with the idea of providence. But as Jeff notes, providence can be good or bad. The Lisbon earthquake was an act of providence, but I don’t think it makes sense to refer to it as “common grace” or the “light of nature”. Rather it seems that common grace and general revelation are subsets of providence. As part of God’s providence, he allows us to understand how creation works (science, history, etc…) whether one acknowledges him or not. Also, as part of God’s providence, he allows humans to construct institutions and gives them characteristics like empathy, a sense of fairness, etc… that allows them to thrive in this world whether one acknowledges him or not. These benefits are a form of grace, but they are not the grace that saves one from the penalty of their sins.

    Does Berkhof have something else in mind in talking about common grace? Is the problem that the concept of common grace leads believers who should know better to sacrilize the common and thus dilute the holiness of the special? I do agree making everything holy (like the guy who justifies spending Sunday afternoon at the links because he worships God by playing golf) we profane things that really are. I’m not so sure that the concept of common grace does this, but perhaps I’m missing something.

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  33. “zrim, well, since my wife views real estate the way men view porn dot dot dot.”
    Your’s too? It’s a good thing HGTV isn’t pay per view!

    Like

  34. cw l’unificateur says:Good grief. Ali. How is a sentient being to respond to this? “again and still, sheesh, or should I say woe.”

    morning cw. looked up in the bible ‘woe’ for you this am (you’re probably too busy) ; used ~100 times; the theme of woe warnings generally: defiant sinfulness

    here’s a sampling for us all: Woe to those who:
    -drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood and sin as if with cart ropes;
    -call evil good, and good evil
    -are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight
    -enact evil statutes
    -deeply hide their plans from the Lord
    -execute a plan, but not the Lord’s
    -quarrel with their Maker
    -are shepherds and prophets who (lots of things)
    -those who scheme iniquity
    -through whom the stumbling block comes
    -by whom the Son of Man is betrayed

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