Bible GenevaThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

2 Corinthians 8:16-24

Commendation of Titus

16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going[a] to you of his own accord. 18 With him we are sending[b] the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. 19 And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. 20 We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, 21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man. 22 And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers[c] of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24 So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.

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Last week’s entry discussed Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to be as generous in giving to his fund for the church in Jerusalem as the churches in Macedonia were.

In today’s reading, Paul commends Titus to the Corinthians. Titus will be collecting their donations for the church in Jerusalem.

As false teachers in the church in Corinth were trying to besmirch Paul’s character in any and all ways possible, the Apostle is very careful in how he works with the congregation from a distance. Surely, some mischief maker will say that Paul is going to spend the money on himself or on something unworthy.

They already know and love Titus, because he has been delivering Paul’s letters to them. However, Paul wants to dot all the ‘i’s and cross all the ‘t’s to convey that everything regarding this fund is above board and acceptable.

As such, Paul thanks God for making Titus’s heart such that he cares for the Corinthians as much as he himself does (verse 16).

Paul adds that not only does Titus agree with the fundraising, he willingly wants to go to Corinth and collect the money himself (verse 17).

John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

You see, Paul was the leader, the dominating force, this hard-driving man, this great mind, this visionary, this man able to embrace the whole of the redemptive purposes of God, the plan of God doctrinally, and also to embrace the whole of the church. He was bigger than life, but Titus was more like them. We never hear him preach. We don’t have any of his sermons in Scripture. We don’t see him leading any meetings. He’s just always serving, serving, serving. They must have seen him not as some kind of a powerful entrepreneurial man, some kind of great mover, and shaker, and motivator, and mobilizer, but as a man who loved God, who loved them, a man who knew the truth.

And so, Paul happily says to them, “Titus agrees with the plan.” How important that is. The whole enterprise for the benefit of the Jewish poor and the Corinthian church was not just Paul’s passion, it was no one-man concern. Paul wants them to know that Titus, whom they knew so well, and whom they loved so deeply, was wholeheartedly in agreement.

Paul then describes Titus’s travelling companion in glowing terms as being famous for preaching the gospel among all the churches (verse 18).

Not only that, but the churches have agreed to appoint this man to travel with Paul and Titus in administering these donations — ‘this act of grace’ — for the Lord’s glory and as a sign of good will (verse 19).

Who is he?

Matthew Henry says it was Luke:

He commends another brother, who was sent with Titus. It is generally thought that this was Luke.

However, MacArthur disagrees:

I’ve heard people say it might be Tychicus, or it might be Trophimus. Some have said it probably is Luke, because it says “whose fame in the gospel has spread through all the churches” – and they think it’s probably a reference to Luke’s gospel. The problem with that is Luke’s Gospel was not in circulation yet when 1 Corinthians was written, so the people wouldn’t have known of Luke’s Gospel. So, it’s not Luke. We don’t know who it is. The name is not given. But they would know who it is.

MacArthur says they would know who the man was because he accompanied Titus when the latter was delivering one of Paul’s letters:

… he would be standing there with Titus when he delivered the letter. They would know him, and they would recognize him. He didn’t need to give his name because he was well known. It says, “He’s the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches.” He doesn’t name the man, and there’s no way to know who he was for us, but clearly the Corinthians knew him, and they knew him as a man who was famous for preaching the gospel. A distinguished preacher. Known and esteemed by all the churches. A prominent and unimpeachable brother who was sent with Titus to receive and transport the money.

Paul explains that he is sending these two men so that no one can cast aspersions on the donations (verse 20). Furthermore, he and they are aiming at what is honourable both in God’s sight and in man’s (verse 21).

Henry says:

He would not give occasion to any to accuse him of injustice or partiality in this affair, and thought it to be his duty, as it is the duty of all Christians, to provide for things honest, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men; that is, to act so prudently as to prevent, as far as we can, all unjust suspicions concerning us, and all occasions of scandalous imputations. Note, We live in a censorious world, and should cut off occasion from those who seek occasion to speak reproachfully. It is the crime of others if they reproach or censure us without occasion; and it is our imprudence at least if we give them any occasion, when there may not be a just cause for them so to do.

A third brother in the faith will also be going to Corinth, a man who has been tried and tested and whose earnestness is even greater than ever because of his confidence in the Corinthians (verse 22).

Henry says this man could have been Apollos:

He commends also another brother who was joined with the two former in this affair. This brother is thought to be Apollos. Whoever he was, he had approved himself diligent in many things; and therefore was fit to be employed in this affair.

MacArthur says that we do not know who he was but the Corinthians would have known of him:

This is another one, and we don’t have his name either, but that would obviously be known to them as soon as he arrived. He describes him with some glowing terms, “Whom we have often tested” – that’s that word dokimazō which means to be approved after testing, like testing metals and having them come out proven. “We have tested him, and he has passed. We have found him diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you.”

Just to take the extra precaution, here’s another one. Again, no name is given, but a great commendation, “whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things.” What does that mean? Diligent, it’s zealous, passionate. He’s just a – he’s a zealous person. Just in general, he’s passionate; he’s devout. “But now even more diligent, more zealous than normal because of his great confidence in you.” Perhaps he had heard the wonderful report of Titus in response to the severe letter and the restoration of their relationship to Paul. He heard that the Corinthians indeed proved to be teachable, responsive, responsible, repentant and loyal. He’d heard such good things, and he was now so encouraged he wanted to be a part of the whole enterprise.

So, now you’ve got Titus, and you’ve got the brother whose fame spread through all the churches because of his preaching, and now you’ve got a brother many times tested and found zealous and now committed to this whole process as well, with a greater zeal. Very, very careful accountability.

Paul winds up his commendation, saying that Titus is his partner working for the benefit of the Corinthians and that the two brothers are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ (verse 23).

MacArthur explains the words as written in Greek:

This is the summary of this little group, of this little financial committee. “As for Titus” – let’s go over it again – “he is my partner and fellow worker among you.” He’s my partner; he’s my koinōnos; he’s my close companion. “And he’s a fellow worker among you” – synergos; you know him; he’s been there; he’s worked with you, and you love him, and you know his character, and you know his heart. “As for our brethren” – these two brothers, the preacher and the man tested and proven – “they are messengers of the churches” – and again, that reminds us of back in verse 19, appointed by the churches – “they are messengers of the churches.”

I want to stop at that point and just make a couple of comments that are really very important. The word “messenger” here is apostolos, it’s apostles. They are apostles of the churches. What does that mean? Well, it’s a term used to refer to somebody who was officially authorized to be a representative. Likely the churches in mind here are the churches of Macedonia. Apostle or messenger is someone charged or commissioned with an official duty, and his role – listen – can only be understood by knowing who commissioned him and for what …

They were not commissioned by Christ to be witnesses of the resurrection and preach the gospel. They were commissioned by the churches to go with Paul and Titus to help secure the money and bring it all the way to Jerusalem.

So, they are messengers of the churches. So, you don’t include them with the apostles. They are official men commissioned by the churches, not Christ, and for the purpose of securing the money and taking it to Jerusalem.

But I want you to notice the caliber of men who were given to this task, the end of verse 23. This has got to be the single best, the single highest compliment ever given to a believer, “They are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.” Wouldn’t you like that on your epitaph? What more could be said? They are a glory to Christ. They bring glory to Christ by their holiness, by their virtue, by the excellencies of their spiritual commitment, by their obedience to the Word of God they bring honor to Christ. They are a glory to Christ. The best of men.

Paul ends by encouraging the Corinthians to give evidence of their love towards the churches and proof that these these men were correct in boasting about the congregation (verse 24).

MacArthur explains that verse’s message:

Therefore, give, and do it openly. Literally, the Greek says, “in the faces of the churches.” Let everybody see how generous you are; let everybody see how magnanimous you are; let them see the proof of your love.

You say you love? Prove it. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” Jesus said. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you’re My disciples, if you have love one for another.” Let’s see your love. Put it on display for all the churches. This is the opportunity to give visible demonstration of our love for the saints, of your love for the Lord of the Church.

Paul has a bit more to say on this topic in 2 Corinthians 9.

Next time: 2 Corinthians 9:1-5

The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity — Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost — is October 17, 2021.

Readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Mark 10:35-45

10:35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

10:36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”

10:37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

10:38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

10:39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;

10:40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

10:41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.

10:42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.

10:43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,

10:44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

10:45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This reading about pride and humility would have been more powerful had the Lectionary editors added the preceding verses, which follow last week’s reading, about the rich young ruler. It ended with Mark 10:31:

But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Here are verses 32-34, where, for a third time, Jesus tells His disciples what will happen to Him (also see John MacArthur’s sermon):

Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

After hearing that, it is incredible that James and John, the sons of Zebedee, would have the utter brass neck to ask that He do whatever they ask of Him (verse 35). Well, early on, Jesus had called them the ‘sons of Boanerges’, the sons of Thunder:

a name signifying sons of thunder , given by our Lord to the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, probably on account of their fiery earnesty. (Mark 3:17) See (Luke 9:54; Mark 9:38) comp. Matt 20:20 etc.

Matthew Henry’s commentary points out that, in Matthew 20, their mother petitioned on their behalf and they seconded it:

This story is much the same here as we had it Matthew 20:20. Only there they are said to have made their request by their mother, here they are said to make it themselves; she introduced them, and presented their petition, and then they seconded it, and assented to it.

Note, 1. As, on the one hand, there are some that do not use, so, on the other hand, there are some that abuse, the great encouragements Christ has given us in prayer. He hath said, Ask, and it shall be given you; and it is a commendable faith to ask for the great things he has promised; but it was a culpable presumption in these disciples to make such a boundless demand upon their Master; We would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. We had much better leave it to him to do for us what he sees fit, and he will do more than we can desire, Ephesians 3:20.

So Jesus asked what it was they wanted Him to do for them (verse 36).

Henry says this was a way of putting them in check so that they might realise the folly of what they were doing:

He would have them go on with their suit, that they might be made ashamed of it.

They continued in their conceit and pride, asking that Jesus place one of them on His left and the other on His right in glory (verse 37).

Henry explains the two brothers’ reasoning:

James and John conclude, If Christ rise again, he must be a king, and if he be a king, his apostles must be peers, and one of these would willingly be the Primus par regni–The first peer of the realm, and the other next him, like Joseph in Pharaoh’s court, or Daniel in Darius’s.

John MacArthur has more:

Now as we look at this incident with James and John coming to Jesus and making their request, I want you to see how this breaks out into three characteristics of self-promotion, three characteristics of self-promotion, the path to greatness through self-promotion.

First of all, it’s motivated by self-ambition, or its defined by selfish ambition. Verse 35: “James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus saying, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.’” James and John called the sons of thunder, they were brash, bold men. They were the inner circle. They were with Jesus intimately with Peter, the most intimate of all the disciples and apostles. They were close to Him on a regular daily basis, and they think they have gained some ground by that because of their intimacy, because of their participation in the transfiguration, because they have been privy to so many private conversations in times with Jesus. They are sure that they are certainly above and beyond the rest of the men, and so this has come to the place in their minds where they’re bold enough to ask for privilege in the coming kingdom.

MacArthur tells us why their mother petitioned on their behalf in Matthew’s version of the story:

Now this is important. Why would you bring your mother? Come on, be a man. What, you bring your mother? Well, it’s not just that they brought their mother, it’s who their mother was. When you study the crucifixion of Christ in the account of Matthew, Mark, and John, you see three women at the cross: Mary the mother of our Lord, Mary Magdalene, and a third woman. The third woman who is at the cross is identified in three different ways. Matthew calls her the mother of the sons of Zebedee; so it’s this woman, which means she hung in there. When the apostles had fled she hung in there, she was at the cross. So, strong faith there.

Matthew calls her the mother of Zebedee. Mark calls her Salome; so that was her name. John calls her the sister of Jesus’ mother. So their mother is Jesus’ aunt. So this is now a family deal. They’re going to play the family card here, okay. “Not only were we at the transfiguration, not only are we intimately involved with You in the inner circle, but Your mother is our mother’s sister. That’s got to be good for something big, really big.”

She bought into it. She didn’t ask for anything for herself, she didn’t ask if she could have a seat on the dais, she would find her proud fulfillment through her children, like unsuccessful people with bumper stickers, and others on the Internet. She comes worshiping proskuneō. She comes bowing low, and Mark – Matthew says she’s desiring a certain thing of Jesus, and what she’s desiring is exactly what they asked.

So they’re really – this is serious ambition. This is not just personal ambition, this is not whimsical ambition, this is family ambition. Everybody’s in on this deal; and they’re going to come and they’re going to gang up on Jesus thinking they have the right

There’s another feature of pride that rears its ugly head as well, and we could call it arrogant overconfidence, arrogant overconfidence, arrogant overconfidence. This is so much a part of people’s life and attitude today, it’s just absolutely everywhere. They say, “We want to sit one on Your right hand and one on Your left, in Your glory.”

Jesus tells James and John that they do not understand what they are asking; can they drink the cup that He will drink and can they be baptised with His baptism (verse 38).

MacArthur tells us what Jesus was saying. The cup was one of God’s wrath and the baptism was not one of water but being submerged in something profoundly horrible, akin to what we would call a baptism by fire:

“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?” That’s an Old Testament idiom for taking in something, draining it. And it’s the cup in Isaiah 31 of God’s fury: “Can you handle, can you handle all that is to come?” Jesus was going to drink the cup of God’s fury. Remember in the garden He said, Matthew 26, “Let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done,” the cup of God’s wrath, He would drink it to the bottom. That was the image. Drinking the cup was literally imbibing it all in. It’s an Old Testament idiom meaning fully absorbing something, fully experiencing something, taking it all in.

Psalm 75, verse 8 talks about the ungodly drinking the cup of wrath. So that cup is very often associated with suffering. “Are you able to do that? Are you able to be baptized?” meaning not Christian baptism, but immersed into, plunged into, submerged. “Are you really able to go all the way under and suffer, to be, as it were, drowned in persecution, and ultimately martyrdom?” This is strong language. “Can you literally drink it all in and be submerged in it, because that’s what you’re really asking, because if you want the glory, the glory is the reward correspondent to the suffering.”

Naively, the brothers asserted that they were able, so Jesus agreed that they would drink His cup and be baptised into His baptism (verse 40).

Of the two, John was present at the Crucifixion and stayed until the end, with Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus. Jesus commended John to Mary before He died. In fact, John was the only one of the twelve Apostles to be there. Judas killed himself that day and the other ten, James included, hid themselves away in fear.

James and John had no idea what they were affirming and what lay ahead for them. Jesus granted their request about drinking His cup and bearing His baptism, as MacArthur tells us:

“Jesus said to them,” – verse 39 – ‘The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.’” That’s a prophecy, folks, that’s a prophecy. “Oh, the suffering? Yeah, you’ll have that. You will have that. Yes, you will drink the cup in full, and you will be submerged in suffering.”

For James, he’s the first martyr; for John, he’s the last martyr. James’ martyrdom – had his head cut off – came fast, soon, sudden, lightning quick. For John, his was a slow agonizing, disappointing death as an exile at the end of the century on the island of Patmos which was virtually a prison island. “You will, you will drink the cup.” Rejected, exiled, in John’s case; rejected, executed, in the case of James – the first and last who died because of the gospel.

Then Jesus said that He could not grant them a seat at His right hand or his left, because that status has already been prepared, and not by Him (verse 40). The implication here is that God determines who will sit right next to His Son in glory.

Mark tells us that the ten Apostles listening to this conversation became angry with the two brothers (verse 41).

MacArthur says this was not because they thought the two were prideful but because they got there before Peter and the rest did in asking the question about sitting next to Jesus in glory:

Ha, they got preempted; James and John got there first. They were furious not because they were spiritually offended, but they thought they were getting cut out of the deal. And this is the third aspect of this, and it is ugly competitiveness.

This argument about who will be first continued until the Last Supper, even though Jesus was constantly reminding them of the pre-eminence of service, such as in Mark 9:34-35:

9:34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.

9:35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

MacArthur says:

Look, they’re still arguing about this at the upper room. They just had a hard time humbling themselves.

Jesus called the Twelve together and reminded them of the Gentile tyrants who lord themselves over their subjects (verse 42).

He said it would not be that way for the Apostles, because greatness lies in service; the one who wishes to become great must be the other’s servant (verse 43).

Jesus went further, saying that whoever wishes to be first must be the slave to everyone else (verse 44). Talk about radical theology: there it is.

MacArthur discusses the Greek words for ‘servant’ and for ‘slave’:

Here’s the path: Be a servant. Be a servant. Diakonos is the word. “Table waiter” was its primary meaning. “Be a waiter.” Don’t be the person that everybody serves, be the person who serves everybody. Big difference, you know. The fancier the restaurant you go to, the bigger the gap between the people eating and the people serving. You be the server, not the one served. You be the table waiter. That’s what it is to be a servant.

There are six words in the New Testament for servant, all of them Greek words. All of them describe a function: oikonomos, a house servant; hupēretēs, an under-rower in a galley ship pulling oars down in the bottom of a big trireme ship. Be a servant. Be somebody who does something for someone else. You’re not served, you are serving. Be a servant. He doesn’t say, “Be an archōn, be a ruler.” He doesn’t say, “Be a timē, a dignified official.” He doesn’t say, “Be a telos, possessing a powerful office. He doesn’t say, “Be a hiereus, a priest.” The word is, “Be a waiter. Be a waiter. Give your life giving people what they need. Spend your life giving people what they need.”

And it doesn’t end there. Go down even from there, verse 44: “If you want to be first,” – prime – “then be the slave of all.” Wow! The slave of all? This is the word doulos about which you have heard much because of the book Slave. I cannot tell you, folks, how important it is that you read that book; it’ll change your entire understanding of what it means to be a Christian, slave. Slaves were inferior to servants. Servants did a job; slaves were owned, totally controlled. He’s saying, “Consider everybody a person to be served, and consider everyone to be your master.”

Jesus ended by telling them about His primary purpose: to serve and to give His life, ‘a ransom for many’ (verse 45). Notice that He said ‘many’ and not ‘all’. Not all will be saved, because God has already chosen whom He will save: past, present and future.

MacArthur says that Jesus was the slave of His Father:

The greatest service and the greatest slavery was exhibited in Christ, right? He didn’t come to be served. He’s not like other kings, He’s not like other rulers. We say He condescended. That’s one of the ways. He didn’t come like all kings to be served, He came to serve. He didn’t come merely to be Lord and Master, He came also be slave of His Father, and do His Father’s will. He came to be the servant – diakoneō is the verb – but to serve.

But it goes down from there. In giving His life He actually offered a level of obedience that could be deemed slavery. And that’s the language of Philippians. Listen to this: “Do nothing” – verse 3, Philippians 2 – “from selfishness or empty conceit.” This is the same kind of instruction coming from Paul that our Lord gave the apostles. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves.” That’s exactly what our Lord is saying.

And then, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but the interest of others.” And here is the model: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a doulos, the form of a slave. Humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on the cross.”

And what happened to Him? “For this reason God highly exalted Him.” He made the greatest sacrifice, so He was the most exalted. “God gave Him a name above” – what? – “every name.” So, He got the highest name because He made the greatest sacrifice. That’s the principle. The greater the sacrifice, the more the glory. The greatest sacrifice gets the greatest glory. That’s Christ; That’s the model, that’s the pattern.

We are slaves to sin. We cannot help it. Sin is in our nature and sin is our master.

Through His horrifying and humiliating death, Jesus paid our ransom in blood to God the Father, the only efficacious propitiation for our sin. We are redeemed in God’s eyes, and He welcomes us into His kingdom.

MacArthur discusses ‘ransom for many’:

You want greatness in the kingdom? It’s correlated to your selfless serving slavery on behalf of others in sacrifice. And what was the actual service that Christ rendered? End of verse 45: “He gave His life” – we know that; why? – “a ransom for many, a ransom for many.” Lutron is the Greek word; it means “the price paid for the release of a slave,” the price paid for the release of a slave. Only used here and in Matthew 20; parallel account. He gave His life as the price paid for the release of a slave.

To whom was the ransom paid? To God. To God. God is the judge who had to be satisfiedGod is the executioner who had to be appeased, propitiated. This has now today, gratefully and thankfully, become the dominant theme in our understanding of the gospel, that Jesus is the ransom, Jesus is the substitute. Jesus dies a vicarious, substitutionary death on behalf of sinners. That’s what it says. He gave His life to pay the price in full. The price of sin had to be paid to God, to His divine justice; His justice had to be satisfied. The price that Christ paid satisfied God, propitiated His anger, settled His justice. He did it for many. I love the, kind of, Hebraic way of saying this: “for many,” in exchange for many.

What does that mean? What’s the emphasis there? Why does the word “many” appear? Because it’s juxtaposed with “Son of Man.” The ransomed bought by the sacrificial death of Christ are the many in contrast to the one Son of Man. One Son of Man pays the ransom for many.

Somehow I doubt whether any clergy are going to discuss serving or slavery in their Sunday sermons about this reading.

Let us put away our pride and instead embrace humble service.

Blessings to everyone for a good week ahead.

It’s unclear whether this is good news or bad: the common cold is back in England and has hit with a vengeance.

On Thursday, October 14, 2021, The Times reported (emphases mine):

Figures from the Royal College of General Practitioners show that the incidence of the common cold is about a third higher than this time last year, at 3.1 per 100,000 people in the week ending October 3, compared with 2.1 in the week ending October 4, 2020.

In London, levels went from 1.8 per 100,000 in the week ending September 26 to 4.2 per 100,000 in the week ending October 3. In the north of England, levels went from 2.5 to 3, in the south from 2.4 to 2.5, and in the Midlands and east of England from 2.6 to 2.9.

This strain seems to be much stronger than the colds we used to get:

Dr Mohammed Abbas Khaki, a GP in London, said that there was “a horrific cold going around”. He added that he had been telling patients to “stay at home until they feel well”.

Some have dubbed it the ‘super cold’:

Increasing numbers of patients are calling 111 or their GP with symptoms of a so-called super-cold

Recent days have seen large numbers of people complain on social media of suffering “the worst cold ever.

The cold seems to be affecting those aged between 15 and 44 the most.

The Telegraph lists the symptoms:

Since last month, increasing numbers of people have reported symptoms ranging from sandpaper throats to muscle aches, with some saying their cold has left them exhausted or bedridden.

The paper blames the lack of immunity we have because of lockdown:

The “super cold” sweeping Britain is likely to be no worse than normal – but it is hitting people harder because of a lack of immunity.

Health experts said lockdowns, social distancing and masks had left Britons unable to shake off common infections.

Because the common cold is a form of coronavirus, sufferers should be attentive to their symptoms:

… experts warned that some symptoms of colds and Covid can be similar and said it was important to get tested if a fever or cough develops or people begin to lose their sense of taste or smell.

This is yet another reason why lockdown and masks were a bad idea.

Furthermore, most of us have bought wholesale into Project Fear, which our government and experts have stoked so well since March 2020. Any common cold we get now is going to be blown out of all proportion.

In any event, it might be worth stocking up on a product like Vicks First Defence and take it as soon as the first symptoms begin to appear.

Anyone, especially men, who worked in London in the 1980s will tell you how wonderful business lunches were in that era.

They were long and languorous, fuelled with alcohol.

The 1990s put paid to all that, and lunch al desko with fizzy pop or coffee became the norm, which, sadly, still exists today.

Therefore, it is good to read that long 1980s style lunches are back, in England, at least.

That’s the only good thing that can be said about coronavirus.

According to food critic Kate Spicer, writing for The Sunday Times, the trend started during curfew mandates in Ibiza in 2020 (emphases mine):

Daylight decadence is back. As someone recently said to me: “It’s literally carpe diem.” It arguably all started in Ibiza. With clubs closed, hedonism was a sit-down affair, and lunch became the island’s big ticket.

When holidaying Britons returned from the Spanish resort and our restaurants reopened, lunch followed.

Restaurateurs in London are loving it:

Dan Keeling can tell you what a good lunch sounds like. The co-owner of the highly praised Noble Rot restaurants in London has his office above the dining room at the Lamb’s Conduit Street site. “There’s no maybe about it — people are relishing lunch,” he says. “I know when we’re having a good service because the rumble of laughter, the roar of conversation, the actual vibrations of convivial good living rise up through the floorboards. A service like that can go off on a Tuesday. I love it. I feel like a kid up there, listening to my parents having a party.”

“We’ve been scooping grown men giggling into taxis at 6pm all summer,’’ says Fitzdares’s CEO, William Woodhams. ‘‘What I see is people planning lunches weeks in advance — off the cuff is over, it’s all about a lunch as a main event. Reservations start with a table for two and snowball. With everyone half in the office, half WFH, people are not in London all the time. They’ll come in, plan a morning of, say, three meetings where they might have originally done eight in a day, and then devote the afternoon to lunch.”

This phenomenon is an urban one:

Keeling thinks the urban exodus during the pandemic has reminded people exactly why we love our big British cities: “It’s impossible to recreate that urban glamour and energy in the shires.”

How true!

Other big cities are benefiting, such as Manchester:

At Manchester’s Hawksmoor, the high-end steak and seafood restaurant, lunches are as busy as they have ever been since opening in 2015. Co-founder Will Beckett puts it down to people wanting “face time not FaceTime. It’s not about what’s new and centred round the ‘chef’s vision’. They want a restaurant that nails the food and atmosphere but puts customers at the centre of the meal, somewhere they’ll feel comfortable and loved.”

Not everything is rosy, however. Brexit and coronavirus resulted in Europeans moving back to the Continent. That said, we have six million who successfully applied to remain in the UK, so we should be able to get European hospitality workers, surely.

Still, for those restaurants that can open for lunch, the world is their oyster. One London restaurant co-owner described it as ‘Christmas every day’:

At Luca, the unimpeachable Italian in Farringdon, the co-owner Johnny Smith says they could book lunch sittings several times over. He describes the energy then as celebratory. It feels like Christmas every day. And when people come they have it all — the prelunch drink at the bar, all the courses.”

Good!

Here’s a glimpse of the 1980s lunch, as served at Langan’s, which is reopening on October 30:

At its epicentre was Langan’s Brasserie in Mayfair, then owned by Peter Langan and the actor Michael Caine. It was the destination for “languid, long, late and liquid business lunches”, as Richard Young, the photographer who documented its glory days, remembers. When the stars came out, he would often spot the same people sitting there at 8pm, rolling lunch over to dinner. One of the restaurant’s new owners, Graziano Arricale, says it won’t be having any express-menu business either when it reopens in October after recent refurbishment. “People see Langan’s as an escape from work,” he says. I don’t think the two-bottle business lunch will come back, but going out for friends is different. Our lunch crowd will be in for a long, celebratory two or three hours.”

Excellent!

Another fan of the 1980s lunch was the late Keith Waterhouse, who even wrote a book about it:

The writer and satirist Keith Waterhouse rose at dawn, worked until lunch and then spent the rest of the day over a meal he eulogised in The Theory and Practice of Lunch. The book, published in 1986, is worth digging out to remind our fretful, workaholic Pret generations what it’s like to breathe into the afternoon and take time over eating during the daylight hours. “Lunch at its lunchiest,” he wrote, “is the nearest it is possible to get to sheer bliss while remaining vertical.”

I could not agree more.

However, alcohol is not necessary for a good lunch:

… it doesn’t have to be drunken. Good company is its own high, says the model, make-up artist and sidesaddle stuntwoman Lady Martha Sitwell, who has mastered the sober long lunch. “If it’s a good crowd I’ll slam a few sugary drinks and a good atmosphere will pull you into the afternoon. It doesn’t have to be messy.” Not that she’s anti that. “It’s just pointless pretending you can work,” she says. “It’s straight to the sofa to rehydrate and brainless Friends reruns.”

Yes, it is one’s lunchmates who make the afternoon a memorable one.

That’s why my far better half and I are looking forward to another long, languid London lunch with friends next week. I can hardly wait.

What is ‘luxury wellness’?

Posh spas and rehab centres, available only to the wealthy.

Let’s open the door and find out more.

Villa Stéphanie Spa & Wellbeing, Baden-Baden, Germany

When it comes to spas, wealthy women already look beautiful, so one wonders how much extra lingering beauty a week-long stay at one actually produces.

On October 2, 2021, the Daily Mail published an article about Victoria Beckham’s stay at Villa Stéphanie Spa & Wellbeing in Baden-Baden, Germany (emphases mine):

The retreat – which is described as an entire house dedicated to the world of spa – on its website, offers rooms starting from €270 a night (£231) and massages from €170 (£145). A seven night programme starts from €4,000 (£3,430) per person.

That means treatments are added on to the base price.

The article has several photographs from Mrs Beckham’s Instagram account. The photos look as if she were asking, ‘Don’t you wish you were here?’ Of special note is the one with Dr Harry Koenig, who tailors treatments to individual needs:

Showing off her slim figure in a black tank top and accessorising with a black cap, Victoria told fans: ‘So we are here in Baden-Baden in Germany having our annual checkups, MRIs… gosh checking literally everything. It is absolutely incredible.’ 

The former Spice Girl said she was also taking the opportunity at the lavish retreat to ‘detox and have infusions and go for lots of amazing hikes’. 

Victoria shared a photo of herself clad in khaki sweats and embracing Dr Harry Koenig who tailored all of their treatments at the retreat based on their test results …

Victoria shared photos of an egg white omelette with sliced avocado and a dish of fresh salmon and vegetables, and said she’s learnt a lot about food and diet’ that has now ‘influenced’ how she eats at home.

Also detailing the more expensive treatments on offer, Victoria shared a photo of nurses Ellen and Sophia bringing her tray of ‘daily vitamins and amino acids’.

She also opted for a ‘heavy metal chelation supplement’ which is said to aid in detoxification and protect the liver and kidneys, daily IV drips, and a hyperbaric oxygen treatment. 

Victoria also used the opportunity to flaunt her own skincare line as she showed off her radiant and makeup-free visage during a beauty treatment, and shared stunning footage of herself hiking through the Black Forest surrounding the retreat. 

This woman needs none of that, because she barely eats when she goes to a restaurant:

It comes after last week Victoria’s revelation that her favourite meal of all time is salt on whole grain toast left fans in disbelief.

Speaking to Ruth Rogers on the River Café’s Table 4 podcast the fashion designer admitted she was a restaurant’s ‘worst nightmare’ because she was happy with just a slice [of bread] with a sprinkling of the seasoning. 

Ugh!

Judith Woods of The Telegraph wrote a great article about the Beckhams’ stay at the retreat:

When Victoria Beckham gave us a sneak peek into her recent physical MOT at a lavish spa retreat in Baden-Baden, it was hard to decide which delicious treat we envied most.

Was it her daily personalised IV drips? The artisan-crafted egg-white omelettes? Or the hyperbaric oxygen treatment? Yum. Or maybe it was the presence of husband David, who was also getting his annual once-over? Because nothing screams enduring love more loudly than his ’n’ hers MRI scans followed by a hearty hike in the Black Forest.

Here she is, face scrubbed and smooth as a preternaturally girlish 47-year-old milkmaid, snuggling up next to Dr Harry Koenig, the handsome silver fox who tailored all her treatments.

Meanwhile:

Back in Britain we struggle even to catch sight of a GP, who are second only to HGV drivers and slaughtermen in their scarcity. Yet here was Mrs B with a buff Bavarian medic all to herself, personalising every esoteric infusion and rejuvenating elixir. This isn’t just wellness: this is luxury wellness. Actually, scrap that. This is exclusive, bespoke, ultra-luxury wellness.

We discover how much a week’s stay can actually cost:

At up to £19,000 a pop for a week’s stay, that is one shock and awe shellac. And let’s not forget the integrative holistic medicine and the “vampire facelift”, where the client’s own platelets are injected under the skin along with a hyaluronic acid filler.

On the Beckhams, Woods concludes:

Sorry to be blunt but this sort of high-end “Because I’m worth It” intervention really isn’t for amateurs.

In the competitive wellness stakes, the Beckhams pretty much ace it. Just as engagement ring metrics traditionally equate purchase price with strength of ardour, so do modern lavish spa treatments convey exactly how much self-love a celebrity possesses.

Goop at Sea, floating spa

Woods tells us about a spa cruise scheduled for 2022 that is attracting American women on the celebrity circuit:

Happily, celebrities really do excel at leading by example. Why, Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow has entered into a pact – sorry partnership – with Celebrity Cruises and will set sail round the Med next summer in a venture dubbed Goop At Sea.

Aimed at the sort of person who uses “juice” as a verb, this gorgeous floating spa will feature “trailblazing healers and transformative workshops for mind, body and soul” along with personal butlers, a private restaurant and an exclusive lounge.

Woods rightly points out that female celebrities already look good. These spa visits are a pampering top-up:

Ageless and wrinkle-free; not young per se but not old. Therein presides the spa delusion; civilians imagine that they will emerge relaxed, rested and youthful, just like the beautiful people.

Except they were already beautiful before they handed over their Amex cards. It’s their day job. A-listers have no problem being stripped down and rebuilt like a Formula 1 car every so often; it counts as red-carpet running repairs in a profession where optics matter more than anything else.

Agreed.

It is far better and cheaper to book an appointment with a licensed aesthetician, especially in the UK, as they can provide a wide range of beauty treatments and detoxes.

Gentlemen, if these are what the lady in your life wants, get her a gift certificate for a half-day session for Christmas. She will love you even more for it.

Paracelsus Recovery, Zurich, Switzerland

On the rehab side of things, The Telegraph‘s food critic William Sitwell noticed he was having a few physical problems at the age of 51:

… I don’t like sitting down and I’m scared of food. Lower-back pain and acid reflux are now rendering me nervous at the prospect of eating out, uncomfortable doing it, in pain writing about it, and in fear at the physical consequence of it.

The Telegraph treated their treasured food critic to a three-day stay at Paracelsus Recovery in Zurich. The clinic:

promises a ‘safe haven’, with ‘individualised treatment programmes that are designed to address a client’s unique set of needs.’

I’m dispatched by The Telegraph, which is fortunate because regular clients at Paracelsus are high-profile, high-net-worth individuals, and the price tag for a week’s admission is £75,000

Sitwell tells us that many of the clinic’s patients enter a three-month programme. Incredible.

Before going, he spoke with Paracelsus’s founder and CEO, Jan Gerber, who told him:

‘We’ll give you your own apartment with views over Lake Zurich. You’ll have a housekeeper who will cook and clean for you as well as a team of 10 of us caring for you,’ he tells me. ‘We’ll conduct an array of assessments: physical, emotional and biochemical. We’ll identify areas of concern or ones to watch, and with treatments, therapy, yoga and massage we’ll implement a programme. Our aim is to add quality years to your life.’

‘These are first-world problems, right?’ I say. ‘That may be true,’ he replies, ‘and we work with a lot of financially privileged people, but that doesn’t mean they don’t experience very real emotional or physical pain. What we do here is super complex. Are you willing and able to help us open your can of worms? Don’t worry, our responsibility is not to go to places where we leave the doors open.’

The clinic is used to dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. Sitwell went in order to resolve his food issue:

I really love to eat and also hate it – gives me a little wind in my sails. I am worthy of a brief visit. Paracelsus, here I come.

The article comes with photos of his stay, which are well worth looking at.

The clinic’s managing partner Pawel Mowlik, a German, met Sitwell at Zurich’s airport. A chauffeur drove them into the city centre:

Whisked out of the airport and into the clinic’s Bentley Flying Spur, we are soon in the city centre and turning into a nondescript car park behind an apartment block.

Luggage taken care of, doors held open, we go through an entrance with no signage. ‘This place is very discreet and highly confidential,’ says Mowlik. ‘We have the very famous – the richest people, heads of state – and no one needs to know that they are here.’

The apartment was fully kitted out, with a separate area for a live-in therapist:

My apartment is airy and light, with lake views, a large bedroom, comfortable sitting room, kitchen and dining area and my own therapy room. Behind the kitchen is another bedroom and bathroom. ‘That’s for a therapist to stay,’ says Mowlik. ‘We can provide that 24/7 if need be. We sent a therapist back to the Middle East with one client,’ he adds, ‘and they stayed out there for five years.’

The housekeeper, Elizabeth, is there to unpack my things.

Founder and CEO Jan Gerber was already there to greet his new patient:

We sit down to discuss my schedule. Across three days I’ll have an intense programme of clinical, psychiatric, fitness, lifestyle and nutritional assessments as well as yoga, psychotherapy, physical training, intravenous therapy, something called bioresonance and then a presentation of results by the team.

Gerber told Sitwell that coronavirus has exacerbated every type of mental health problem.

Chaperones are de rigueur, in case a patient tries to escape. Gerber’s mother:

Christine Merzeder, is the senior clinical coordinator. She will chaperone me from meeting to meeting. Mowlik, it turns out, will chaperone me for anything else.

I mention a swim in the lake. ‘A lovely idea, we can go tomorrow at 8am,’ he says …

I note that the physical assessment and training are at a private gym. ‘Is it far to walk?’ I ask. ‘It’s a simple route,’ says Mowlik. ‘I will show you… and then bring you home.’

The super rich need a crafty chaperone, and this one knows how they think. By his early 20s Mowlik, working for a Zurich-based hedge fund, was earning up to £2 million a month. He began splashing it on private jets, alcohol, drugshe checked into Paracelsus and liked the place so much he later became a partner. Clients can relate to him, and he’s quite handy at finding new recruits, too.

Paracelsus isn’t any ordinary rehab clinic:

‘Being famous and wealthy can be a very lonely place,’ says Mowlik. ‘You can’t trust anyone, you find yourself exploited and that can be a vicious circle that brings separation from people. Which can lead to depression and medication with substances. We exist because such a person can’t go to an average rehab.’

‘Did you know that the incidences of addiction among the wealthy are much higher – maybe five-fold – than the average?’ states Gerber.  ‘And it is relative. Pain is very real for the person who feels the pain. In fact it can be harder for someone who is famous and very wealthy to find empathy. Emotionally we are all human, we all need love and social interaction.’

Gerber also argues it is vital the rich and powerful can get confidential help. They can have a lot to lose if the public learns of their difficulties.

‘If a head of state or famous entertainer is unwell, that can have a very large effect on their family network or across their business empire: a head of state with a nation in crisis, a lead actor in a major production…’ he explains. ‘So what we do here is a big lever to heal the world.’

He adds that his therapists need to understand the reality of being rich. ‘We call it affluent neglect,’ he says. ‘There are children brought up by nannies and sent to boarding school.’

Sitwell underwent a battery of physical tests, from blood to stool to urine and more:

I’m wired up to a Metatron, which scans my body for inflammation, I have a portable heart monitor attached to my chest, a live-monitoring glucose implant on my upper left arm, they take blood from my veins, blood from my fingertips, I have strict timetables to deliver urine and stool samples.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Thilo Beck was Sitwell’s therapist, asking him all about his recent life history:

he teaches me the fascinating concept of the observing self, watching the theatre of life as it progresses. ‘The next time you feel angry, pause for a second and consider the idea that you’re noticing yourself becoming angry… You are the driver of your bus; your anxiety and fears, the parts you don’t like, are parts of you. They are your passengers, stroke them, soothe them, be proud of your bus and drive towards your values.’

Nicole Züllig, a psychotherapist, conducted a separate session on trauma:

‘I specialise in trauma,’ she tells me. ‘I have discovered that most people have unresolved trauma.’ It sounds like Prince Harry’s been in this chair, I think to myself, recollecting his habit in the press, for example, of describing partying antics in his 30s as not ‘fun’, but ‘unresolved trauma’.

Where is that trauma, that loss?’ she asks. ‘I look for that very deep loss. We have a tendency to put it away in anger, to deep-freeze it, we must get it out of the freezer, thaw it and deal with it…

‘So tell me about your relationship with your mother.’

Sitwell described his beautiful mother in glowing terms. The article has a picture of her holding him as a boy.

Züllig asked him how he felt, and he replied, ‘Guilty’ for having spoken to someone about her behind her back.

Then came the real issue, his schooldays, including at Eton, which were not his best days:

As I talk, I laugh at various moments. ‘Why are you laughing?’ she asks, appalled.

‘Because I think it’s funny,’ I reply.

‘Funny?’ she exclaims. ‘You think this is funny? It is not funny. It is tragic. You were abandoned. This is trauma. You must take this trauma, understand it and thaw it. You must not laugh to avoid it.’

‘Whatever,’ I mutter. Soon I’m chatting about my more recent work; a few big awards, books, television I ponder how I’ve turned out compared with the boy at Eton aged 16, having failed the annual exams, officially labelled in front of 600 of my peers as a General Total Failure.

And I sob. Züllig has done her work and is on hand, brandishing tissues. ‘How does this make you feel?’ she asks. ‘Exhausted,’ I reply.

Sitwell fell asleep during his yoga session, after which he received a deep massage, which he described as ‘rigorous’.

Another session involved physical training at the Dolder Grand spa, in the city’s grandest hotel:

Mowlik lurks outside to prevent any attempt at escape. Later, as I lie on a sunbed for a moment, I look to the plunge pool to my right – and jump with fright as Mowlik emerges from the water.

Sitwell rode in the Bentley there and back.

When he returned to the clinic, Dr Manuel Riegner gave Sitwell the results of his physical exams. On the one hand, he has a ‘biological age of 29’. On the other hand:

I have high levels of mercury and uric acid, low levels of zinc, and a very concerning, almost negligible, level of iron. ‘No wonder you feel fatigued,’ he says.

Nutritionist Priscilla Sanchez gave Sitwell diet and eating advice, which included omitting milk and most carbohydrates as well as cutting down on alcohol:

Then I’m strapped to an intravenous drip, fed amino acids, vitamin C and a detoxmix, given two weeks’ worth of supplements, and told I must have an infusion of iron back in the UK, urgently.

Then it was time to pack his bags and leave:

I have a last swim in Lake Zurich, the water and distant sight of the Alps soothing my mind. ‘Time to leave,’ says Mowlik, coming up for air beside me.

He doesn’t leave my side until I’m through departures at the airport.

Once at home, Sitwell stuck to the eating and exercise plans and had not experienced any of his old symptoms.

But something equally important also happened — a sense of gratitude:

Three days of gratuitous self-reflection and I realise I’m so lucky to have the family I have, the wife, the kids, the home, the friends, the most utterly fabulous job writing about my most favourite subject.

Good for him. I have read this article a few times and enjoyed it more every time.

————————————————————————–

Well, that’s it for an introduction to ‘luxury wellness’, something few of us will ever experience.

Previews of a 151-page report from two parliamentary select committees appeared on October 12, 2021.

Jeremy Hunt, chairs the Health and Social Care Committee, and Greg Clark is chairman of the Science and Technology Committee. The report represents the unanimous conclusions of the 22 Conservative, Labour and SNP MPs serving on them.

Whilst one can appreciate the hours of work it took to create a report out of many hours of testimony since 2020, it might as well have been compiled from newspaper reports.

I have not yet found the full report online, but media reports have been appearing throughout the morning.

In summary, although the vaccine rollout was a great success, the Government made a lot of mistakes: not locking down sooner (!?!), neglecting the elderly, being late in creating a test and trace system and relying too much on SAGE:

Guido Fawkes looked at the criticism of SAGE (emphases in the original):

… What caught Guido’s eye in the report, however, was how critical it is of the scientific advice that dictated the government’s response at the start of the pandemic:

“In the first three months the strategy reflected official scientific advice to the Government which was accepted and implemented. When the Government moved from the ‘contain’ stage to the ‘delay’ stage, that approach involved trying to manage the spread of covid through the population rather than to stop it spreading altogether […] The fact that the UK approach reflected a consensus between official scientific advisers and the Government indicates a degree of groupthink that was present at the time which meant we were not as open to approaches being taken elsewhere as we should have been.”

In other words, the government was wrong to consistently accept the scientific advice, and should have challenged SAGE’s input more often. Quite the departure from the Twitterati’s squawks that the government should always and only “follow the science”…

The report later adds:

“We accept that it is difficult to challenge a widely held scientific consensus. But accountability in a democracy depends on elected decision-makers taking advice, but examining, questioning and challenging it before making their own decisions.”

The government made lots of mistakes last year, yet it’s clear they were also being guided by ill-informed voices. Of course, that’s bound to happen in the chaos of a pandemic; it was a novel virus and no one really had all the right answers. Hindsight makes this look a lot easier. Still, this hardly vindicates Whitty, Vallance, and SAGE – and going forward, as the report says, there should be an effort to “include more representation and a wider range of disciplines” when making these decisions…

The Times picked up on ‘group-think‘:

“Group-think” among ministers, scientific advisers and civil servants meant that a lockdown was not brought in quickly enough early last year, ranking as “one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced”.

However, the Daily Mail reports that Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance hit back, especially about ‘following the science’ (emphases mine):

Ministers shouldn’t have said they were being ‘led by the science’ throughout the Covid pandemic, Sir Patrick Vallance has said.  

No10’s chief scientific adviser claimed science doesn’t decide nor does it ‘lead the way’, insisting that there were other complex matters that needed to be factored in for crucial decisions.

He said No10 should have stuck to the phrase ‘informed by science’, rather than implying they were ‘slavishly following’ evidence ‘because science doesn’t have all the answers to these things’.

In his first in-depth interview since the virus hit the UK, he also said he doesn’t ‘sugar coat’ information for the Government.

Sir Patrick, who became a household name during the course of the pandemic due to his frequent appearances at daily televised press briefings in Downing St, said he views his job as ‘giving scientific advice, like it or not, to the Prime Minister and Cabinet to enable them to make decisions’.

And he revealed that his mantra has always been to act early when adopting lockdown restrictions to thwart the spread of coronavirus.

Did Vallance ever advise the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers against saying ‘follow the science’ or similar? It would appear not, as they said it dozens of times in press conferences and in Parliament.

Dominic Cummings took advantage of the report to lambaste Boris again. The Mail reported:

Speaking to Sky News outside his home, the Prime Minister’s former chief adviser said: ‘Me and others put into place work to try to improve the system in 2020 after the first wave.

‘Unfortunately, the Prime Minister being the joke that he is has not pushed that work through.

Mr Cummings, who has been a vocal critic of Mr and Mrs Johnson since he left Downing Street, added: ‘Now we have a joke Prime Minister and a joke leader of the Labour party, and we obviously need a new political system.’

The report recommends better planning for the future. Ho-hum. The Government had a chance to do that following a 2016 report and the three-day-long Exercise Cygnus on how better to manage influenza. Jeremy Hunt, one of the authors of today’s report, was Health Secretary at the time. He didn’t do anything about the recommendations then. Therefore, it’s a bit rich for him to criticise now, yet, he heads the Health and Social Care Committee and that’s part of his job. 

A formal inquiry on the UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is expected to begin in 2022.

As I write, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on holiday in Spain.

He, his wife Carrie and their young son Wilfred left for Lord Goldsmith’s holiday villa after the Conservative Party Conference ended on Wednesday, October 6.

It is a well-deserved break. His stay in Cornwall in August lasted 24 hours before he had to return to Downing Street to deal with the fallout from Joe Biden’s abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Despite Britain’s crises of fuel and food, he needed a break before Parliament resumes next week.

However, a pivotal personal event also occurred during this time: the death of his mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl, whose funeral was held on September 28.

A Remainer campaigner sent a nasty tweet asking who was in charge of the Government:

Boris’s sister replied:

Boris has not taken any bereavement leave until now.

However, with every lamented death comes new life. Carrie Johnson will be giving birth again in a few weeks’ time, which will be a consolation to the Prime Minister.

Budding artist

Charlotte Maria Offlow Fawcett was born in 1942 in Oxford to Frances (née Lowe) — ‘Bice’ — Fawcett.

Her father, James Fawcett, was a barrister. Three decades later, Sir James Fawcett assumed the presidency of the European Commission for Human Rights.

Years later, Charlotte described her childhood family and friends as ‘rich socialists’. She never voted Conservative, although she told Boris that she did vote ‘Leave’ in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Charlotte’s mother, Bice, was close friends with a woman from another prominent family, Elizabeth Pakenham. Elizabeth and her husband had a baby girl, Rachel.

In a tribute to her friend which she wrote for The Times, Rachel Billington said (emphases mine):

In May 1942 our mothers, Bice Fawcett and Elizabeth Pakenham, both had babies in Oxford and walked our prams side by side. Her family, the Fawcetts, were clever, artistic and international; the Pakenhams were political and literary. Charlotte and I were fat little girls together, waving our Peace in Europe flags and trying to keep up with our siblings. She ended up with four siblings, while I had seven. When both families were in London, I was jealous of music in her house and the sense of an intellectual world beyond my grasp. And she was jealous of my rumbustious life, with a house in the country and horses. Not that she had any wish to ride.

Rachel Billington says that Charlotte attended Catholic school and said her prayers every night, kneeling at her bedside. This religious education might well have imparted the wisdom she gave to Boris, who remembers her talking about ‘the equal value of every human life’.

The Fawcetts moved to the United States for a time. Billington recalls:

When her family went to live in America and her youngest brother acquired an American accent, I realised she inhabited a wider world.

The family returned to England. By then, Charlotte was interested in painting and pursued her artistry at Oxford, the university that Billington also attended. Charlotte was reading English:

At Oxford, her intensity was reflected in her small college room where the objects were ordered as if already in a painting. She was painting and drawing complicated faces and patterns. Her essays were remarkably short and there was never anything regurgitated from “further reading”. She discovered her views from the text and from her imagination.

Meeting Stanley at Oxford

Charlotte met her first husband, Stanley Johnson, at Oxford.

In a 2015 interview, she recalled how they met at a university dinner:

… she told Tatler magazine in 2015: ‘I was engaged to somebody called Wynford Hicks, who was extraordinarily beautiful to look at but actually quite boring.

‘Anyway, [after the dinner] Stanley sent me a note asking if he could come to tea and go for a walk. 

‘So a few days later we went for a walk and he suddenly said, ‘Love is sweet. Revenge is sweeter far. To the Piazza. Ah ha ha har!”, which made me laugh so much I fell in love with him.’

When he earned a scholarship to study in America, Charlotte accompanied him. They married in 1963 and their first child, Alexander Boris, was born a year later.

Billington explained his middle name. Stanley and Charlotte were on holiday in Mexico City at the time:

The name Boris, incidentally, arose when they ran out of money at the airport on the way to New York where Charlotte was to have the baby, and an impatient passenger in the queue offered to pay what they needed. “That’s terrific,” Stanley said gratefully, “We’ll call the baby after you if it’s a boy. What’s your name?” “Boris,” answered the gentleman. In fact it is our prime minister’s second name; while he was at Eton Alexander was dropped in its favour.

However, Boris is still known to his nearest and dearest, Billington included, as Al or Alexander.

Charlotte painted a portrait of her son as a young boy, who grew up with shoulder-length hair:

The casually dressed, floppy-haired boy looks up from his painting. He is relaxed but serious, his complexion fair.

The Johnsons returned to England for a time. Charlotte and Rachel resumed their friendship:

Nothing seemed impossible to this glittering couple and Charlotte returned to resume her degree with Stanley and Alexander while also pregnant with her daughter Rachel. Through these perambulations and my own, Charlotte and I remained close; I was Al’s godmother and later Charlotte was my eldest son, Nat’s. Friendship was very important for Charlotte and she had the kind of loving warmth that made even newer friends bond to her for life. And tell her their stories and listen to their jokes and laugh. Lots of laughter.

It seems likely that Charlotte named her daughter Rachel in honour of her friend.

Charlotte completed her degree at Oxford as the first married female undergraduate at her college, Lady Margaret Hall.

Ruined marriage

Stanley received a transfer back to the US to work at the World Bank in Washington DC.

Billington was also in the US, working for ABC television in New York.

She remembers meeting up with her friend, the mother of four:

With the Johnsons living in Washington, where Stanley was working at the World Bank, enjoying a highly sociable life, plus now having four children, it seemed extraordinary that Charlotte’s painting life could continue. Yet when I visited from New York where I was working for ABC TV, she still had the energy to go down to Rehoboth Beach [Delaware] and bebop with the rest of us.

In the 1970s, the Johnsons’ marriage began to break down once the family returned to London.

The Mail alleges:

Mrs Johnson Wahl had an unhappy marriage to Boris’ father Stanley, who was accused of breaking her nose in the 1970s.

Charlotte’s mental state disintegrated, to the point where she had to be admitted to the Maudsley Hospital in London.

Billington visited her:

… suddenly I was visiting my brilliant friend in the Maudsley Hospital suffering from the problems that pressure and an obsessional nature can bring, properly called obsessive compulsive disorder. While the children ran round in the garden, Charlotte and I talked and I discovered that every day she was painting for hours at a time. Eventually, nearly 80 paintings were exhibited in the hospital, terrifying pictures of people in despair, agony or just misery. Yet also implying hope in the vibrant beauty of the colours and quite often a kind of wry humour, as if saying, “This is my life at the moment.”

The Times obituary notes:

She had already become “extremely phobic . . . terrified of all forms of dirt”. Eventually she had a breakdown and spent eight months at the Maudsley hospital in south London as a patient of Hans Eysenck, the influential psychologist.

While Charlotte was in the Maudsley, Stanley was transferred to Brussels. He took the children with him.

Charlotte discussed the difficult marriage in a 2008 interview:

“My husband and I were not making each other happy, to put it mildly. It was ghastly, terrible,” she told the Daily Telegraph in 2008, tears filling her bespectacled eyes. “The children used to come over from Brussels to see me in hospital. They’d run down the passage and it was sickeningly painful because then they’d go away again. It took me a long time to recover.”

Once Charlotte recovered, she was able to move to Brussels and, during holidays, welcome guests at the family farm in Exmoor in Devon. Billington remembers her stays with the Johnsons:

As Charlotte recovered, the family moved to Brussels, but when they were in England I would join them in the house on Exmoor that Stanley inherited from his father. It was a glorious cold comfort farm, but friends, if they survived the long pot-holed driveway, were fed hugely and taken on challenging treks that usually included river swimming and mountain climbing. Well, hills. It was hard for Charlotte to paint there, yet the pictures of her children and her friends’ children prove she was still managing. I have three from that period.

The renowned journalist and author Tom Bower has written a biography of Boris, The Gambler. The Mail‘s obituary of Charlotte recaps how Stanley treated her:

A biography of the Prime Minister claimed her marriage became ‘irredeemably fractured’ due to her husband’s ‘neglect and philandering’.

The Gambler, by Tom Bower, alleged that doctors spoke to Stanley ‘about his abuse’ while the couple’s children were told a car door had hit their mother’s face.

The most shocking claim was that in the 1970s Stanley hit the Prime Minister’s mother in a domestic violence incident that broke her nose and left her requiring hospital treatment.

Mr Bower describes Stanley’s first marriage, to Mr Johnson’s mother Charlotte, as violent and unhappy, quoting her as saying: ‘He broke my nose. He made me feel like I deserved it.’

It was claimed that the incident took place in the 1970s when Mrs Johnson Wahl was suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder and had ‘flailed’ at Stanley, who broke her nose when ‘flailing back’.

Stanley, now 81, is said to have deeply regretted the incident and denied he had been violent on any other occasion

By the end of the decade, the couple separated. They divorced in 1979.

Billington lived five minutes away from Charlotte, once she separated and could really throw her energies into painting:

After her separation from Stanley, paintings poured out from her flat at the top of a large building in Elgin Crescent in Notting Hill, London, happily just five minutes’ walk from me.

The Mail says Charlotte refused financial support from Stanley:

After moving to a flat following her divorce, she refused to accept money from her ex-husband and made a living selling paintings. She later recalled she was ‘very hard up’.

Dr Nick Wahl, second husband

Charlotte found happiness with her second husband, Dr Nick Wahl, an American professor. They married in 1988.

The Times obituary tells us how they met in 1982 and summarises their life together:

… she met Nick Wahl, an American academic. “We were at a dinner party in Brussels given by [the diplomat] Crispin Tickell and Nick asked could he see my paintings,” she told Tatler. “He was on a trial separation from his wife. There was an immediate connection. I flew out to see him and he came to see me. There were an incredible number of crossings of the Atlantic.” They married in 1988, by which time her youngest son was in his final year at Eton, and lived on Washington Square, New York. Wahl died from cancer in 1996 and she returned to London, settling in Notting Hill in a flat that, according to one visitor, resembled “an Aladdin’s cave with exotic carpets, a dolls’ house, flowers, cherubs on the wall and oil paintings everywhere, including several of the flaxen-headed children”.

Billington recalls those years:

That was a great period of creativity that was reinforced by her marriage to Nick Wahl and a double life in London and Washington Square, New York where Nick was professor at the university. It gave her a chance to play with the Manhattan skyline and the sardine tin of the subway to dazzling effect, sometimes on giant canvases. In London, she modestly remarked, “I just paint what I see”, but Elgin Crescent had never looked so dramatic. My son Nat snapped up one, which I visit just to see what she made of a fairly ordinary London street.

As her beloved children grew up and made their own paths, and she no longer had the constant responsibilities of motherhood, I saw a painter at the peak of her powers. Now when I visited Manhattan, we ate out for every meal, feeling young and independent, both of us with four adored children, but free to do what we wanted. She painted, I wrote, and of course Charlotte had a whole lot of fascinating New York friends.

Unfortunately, around the time Charlotte met her second husband, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. That was in 1982, when she was only 40 years old.

Her quality of life diminished until 2013, when she underwent state of the art treatment in London.

The Times obituary says:

A cocktail of drugs helped to slow the progress of the disease, but the quality of her life was impeded. “The worst thing is a terrible stiffness,” she said. “When you want to walk you can’t — you freeze and your feet become attached to the ground.” In 2013 she achieved something of a medical breakthrough when Ludvic Zrinzo at the National Hospital in Bloomsbury introduced two electrodes into her brain and linked them to a battery in her chest. “It means I don’t jerk any more and I can go to the cinema and the theatre again. It’s bliss,” she said.

Political opposites

The Mail‘s obituary states that Charlotte was amazed to be the mother of four children who are all Conservatives:

She was described in a 2015 article in the Evening Standard as ‘left-wing’.

Boris Johnson’s sister, Rachel, said in the article, about two-party families, ‘We are a very mixed-race family politically and my father tends to marry socialists.

She later described her mother as ‘the only red in the village when we lived on Exmoor’And she herself once admitted that she had never voted Conservative, despite two of her sons being Tory MPs.

She told the Radio Times in 2015: ‘I find it extraordinary that I should have married a Tory and have four Tory children.

‘I’ve never voted Tory in my life. My parents were very socialist – rich socialists with three cars and two houses, but they were socialists in the days when that happened’

Along with Boris Johnson, she was also the mother of former Conservative MP Jo Johnson, journalist Rachel Johnson, and entrepreneur Leo Johnson.

The Prime Minister’s son Wilfred was her 13th grandchild. 

Charlotte had several exhibitions of her paintings, and she sold many. She was also commissioned to paint celebrity portraits, which were equally well received.

May Charlotte Johnson Wahl rest in peace. Hers was a life well lived. Most importantly, she was able to overcome adversity.

Sources:

Boris Johnson’s mother Charlotte Johnson-Wahl dies “suddenly and peacefully” at the age of 79, Daily Mail (includes family photos)

‘Charlotte Johnson Wahl was my best friend’, The Times

‘Charlotte Johnson Wahl, the prime minister’s mother, dies aged 79’, The Times

Bible openThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

2 Corinthians 8:1-7

Encouragement to Give Generously

We want you to know, brothers,[a] about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor[b] of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you[c]—see that you excel in this act of grace also.

————————————————————————————

Last week’s post discussed Paul’s instruction to not associate with unbelievers in a profound way because it is akin to linking Christ with Satan.

The first verses of 2 Corinthians 8 concern the donation he has been collecting from the Gentile churches for the poor church of Jerusalem, including Judea.

Acts 4 tells us that, after the first Pentecost, the members of the church in Jerusalem pooled together all their resources — money, property sales and so forth — for their mutual benefit. Many pilgrims to Jerusalem who witnessed the first Pentecost never returned to their Gentile homelands. The church there was spiritually dynamic, with the Apostles having been invested with the gifts of preaching and healing, so miracles were taking place regularly. Who would not want to stay and witness these joyful experiences?

However, money is a finite resource, and what started out as a financially healthy church became an impoverished one. The Christian converts could not find work, either, with Jerusalem being the capital of Judaism. The Jews did not want followers of Jesus working for them.

John MacArthur tells us (emphases mine):

It wasn’t very many years until the rich weren’t rich, until it was just a whole bunch of poor people because they had all given it away.  It was so overwhelming for them, then, to try to sustain the needs of that church as persecution elevated and escalated And as pilgrims now stayed and couldn’t find work, of course, that Paul took upon himself the burden He understood it.  He even classifies himself in 2 Corinthians 6:10 as one of the poor. 

And, occasionally, in his life that’s how it was and he was dependent on the gifts of others many times in his life when he was not able to work.  So when he began his third missionary journey, he determined that he was going to collect money for the poor in Jerusalem because they had no more resources left So as he goes on his third missionary journey, this high priority of collecting the money is on his heart He wants to collect it from the Gentile churches and take it back to the poor in Jerusalem.

Furthermore, Jerusalem and the rest of the Roman empire outside of Rome was impoverished. The taxes the Romans collected were largely spent on Rome:

The economy of Jerusalem and the area around Jerusalem, the area of Palestine was as poor as any part of the Roman Empire And don’t for a minute think that the Roman Empire was wealthy.  Rome was fine, but the Empire was poor, very poor.  And it was made even poorer by the Romans who managed to extract everything out of all of the territories they occupied for their own aggrandizement.  

Paul’s plan was to create Christian unity between Gentile and Jew:

It wasn’t only economics; it was also spiritual love that he wanted demonstrated Do you remember that in Ephesians chapter 2, Paul said that the Jew and the Gentile were separated by a wall, but in Christ the wall had come down and they had been made one new man in Christ Well, racial bitterness and racial animosity and racial hatred run real deep, even in converted people.  Even in converted people.  And there was still lots of latent hostility between Jew and Gentile

And Paul knew there needed to be a real reconciliation and that what had happened spiritually needed to happen personally And so he knew that if he could collect money from Gentile churches and bring it as a love gift to the Jews in Jerusalem, it would go a long way to elicit a mutual affection It would express the spiritual unity of the church which is the true body of Christ It would also afford tangible evidence to a watching world that that middle wall of partition had been shattered and the Jew and the Gentile had come together It would also be a dramatic setback to the Judaizers and it would be a dramatic setback for the Hellenizers, both of which wanted to perpetuate the division.

Paul also wanted the Corinthians to continue to build their donations to this fund, something they had already started a year earlier. He refers to the ‘grace of God’ — the donations — from the churches in Macedonia (verse 1). More on this follows.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

The apostle takes occasion from the good example of the churches of Macedonia, that is, of Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and others in the region of Macedonia, to exhort the Corinthians and the Christians in Achaia to the good work of charity

He certainly means the charitable gifts of these churches, which are called the grace or gifts of God, either because they were very large, or rather because their charity to the poor saints did proceed from God as the author, and was accompanied with true love to God, which also was manifested this way. The grace of God must be owned as the root and fountain of all the good that is in us, or done by us, at any time; and it is great grace and favour from God, and bestowed on us, if we are made useful to others, and are forward to any good work.

Paul says that, despite severe affliction affecting those churches — similarly poor and persecuted — their joyfulness, poverty notwithstanding, produced a wealth of generosity (verse 2).

Henry says:

(1.) They were but in a low condition, and themselves in distress, yet they contributed to the relief of others. They were in great tribulation and deep poverty,2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 8:2. It was a time of great affliction with them, as may be seen, Acts 18:17. The Christians in these parts met with ill treatment, which had reduced them to deep poverty; yet, as they had abundance of joy in the midst of tribulation, they abounded in their liberality; they gave out of a little, trusting in God to provide for them, and make it up to them. (2.) They gave very largely, with the riches of liberality (2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 8:2), that is, as liberally as if they had been rich.

Paul says he can testify that they gave willingly, within their means and beyond their means (verse 3).

MacArthur says this was because the grace of God was at work in them:

The primary motive of their generosity was not human kindness.  The primary motive was not human philanthropy.  It wasn’t a desire to sort of satisfy their conscience.  It wasn’t a desire to do well, to share the milk of human kindness.  What motivated them was the grace of God at work in their hearts producing this generosity And listen, this kind of giving which we will see the Macedonians did is not normal It is not just human giving

It is prompted by something far beyond anything that you can find in the noble character of the human heart made in the image of God.  And I would agree that though man is fallen there are still vestiges of the image of God in him, and there is still a knowledge of right and wrong and still a conscience excusing or accusing.  Man can still do something that is humanly good, but at its highest level, human good will not reach the proportions of that goodness and that righteousness prompted by the transforming grace of God And that is true in giving as well.

MacArthur also points out that there is no New Covenant mandate to give a certain percentage of what we have:

God does not expect you to give what you don’t have.  He expects you to give what you have.  That’s all God asks is that you give according to your ability Giving is to be proportionate

This sets no fixed amount It sets no fixed percentage It isn’t a tenth.  It isn’t 15 percent.  It isn’t 5 percent.  It indicates no fixed figure.  It simply says they gave according to their ability.  And everybody certainly was different.

MacArthur says that it was the Corinthians who inspired the Macedonians to donate so generously:

It was the zeal of the Corinthians that stirred up the Macedonians originally Now, remember what we have here.  As Paul is writing 2 Corinthians, we told you that it is a year that has passed since he first told the … Corinthians about giving.  He mentions that. 

A year ago he had told the Corinthians about giving and they had started to give.  We saw that right there in chapter 8.  They had already begun to give as much as a year before.  Apparently, it was their initial interest in responding to Paul and giving that the Macedonians heard about.  When Paul told the Macedonians about the generosity of the Corinthians, it stirred up the Macedonians to want to give

So we could suggest then that the Macedonians were following the example of the Corinthians, who started a year before, and that the Corinthian generosity, initially motivated the Macedonians and then they just ran with it.  And maybe Paul never really overtly asked them to give knowing how poor they were They volunteered it.  Based upon the pattern of the Corinthians, they wanted to get involved

That would fit with verse 4. Not only did they give, Paul says they begged to give, considering it a privilege — favour — to help relieve the plight of the saints in Jerusalem.

MacArthur says:

That, too, might indicate that Paul was reluctant to ask them for anything because they had so little but they were begging to be able to participate.  They volunteered It was right out of their hearts.  They were freely, voluntarily, willingly giving from the heart.

The Macedonians, Paul observes, gave in an unexpected manner: giving themselves unto the Lord first, then, by God’s will to Paul (verse 5) and perhaps Titus and Timothy.

Henry gives us a practical application for our own use:

This, it seems, exceeded the expectation of the apostle; it was more than he hoped for, to see such warm and pious affections shining in these Macedonians, and this good work performed with so much devotion and solemnity. They solemnly, jointly, and unanimously, made a fresh surrender of themselves, and all they had, unto the Lord Jesus Christ. They had done this before, and now they do it again upon this occasion; sanctifying their contributions to God’s honour, by first giving themselves to the Lord. Note, [1.] We should give ourselves to God; we cannot bestow ourselves better. [2.] When we give ourselves to the Lord, we then give him all we have, to be called for and disposed of according to his will. [3.] Whatever we use or lay out for God, it is only giving to him what is his own. [4.] What we give or bestow for charitable uses will not be accepted of God, nor turn to our advantage, unless we first give ourselves to the Lord.

Paul explains that, as Titus began the collection in Corinth, he should complete this act of grace, meaning the donation (verse 6). That would have meant during the previous year, when Titus was first there.

MacArthur says now that the Corinthians are improving their behaviour as a congregation, Paul feels more comfortable in the reminder about the donation:

The relationship has been restored now and Paul wants to reaffirm his emphasis on the giving Through the restoration and reconciliation, Paul feels the freedom now Even though the relationship, admittedly, is still fragile, as we’ll find out in later chapters, he wants to reaffirm the pastoral authority over their need to follow the Macedonian example and continue their giving Get back on track with your giving.

Then, even though he has corrected them severely via letter, he commends them by saying they ‘excel’ in many things, therefore, they should excel equally in this act of grace (verse 7).

MacArthur expands on Paul’s compliment:

In verse 7, he says, “But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also.”  It’s not giving in a vacuum.  It’s not giving in isolation.  It’s not giving contrary to what’s in your heart.  This kind of giving is in perfect harmony with other Christian virtues.  You find me a heart filled with faith and utterance and knowledge and earnestness and love and I’ll show you a generous heart It’s in combination; it’s a network.

He says, “Just as you abound in everything”  Now, that’s a very complimentary statement to these vacillating Corinthians But back in chapter 1, verse 4, he said…chapter 1 of 1 Corinthians, verse 4, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus that everything you were enriched in Him.”  He says, “From the beginning you had everything that the grace of God could give.  You had it all.  God gave it all to you.” 

Here he says, “I’m starting to see it abound in you just as you abound in everything, faith…”  What is that?  Strong trust in God, a saving, securing, sanctifying trust in the Lord.  And “utterance.”  What is that?  It’s the Greek word logos It really means doctrine.  It’s used for the word of truth, the word of righteousness, the word of Christ, sound word.  You have doctrine You have faith.  And then knowledge.  You have understanding of how doctrine applies, how divine truth applies.  And you have earnestness There’s that word spoud We’ve seen it earlier in chapter 7.  It means eagerness, it means energy, vigor, diligence, spiritual passion.

And he adds, “You have love, agape, the love we inspired in you.”  How did he inspire it?  By example, by teaching, by preaching.  “You abound in these things, in faith and doctrine and knowledge and passion and love; see that you abound in this gracious work also.”  See that your giving is in concert and harmony with these other Christian virtues You overflow in these others, overflow in this one.  It should go right along with everything else.

In closing, MacArthur touches on the reason for the lack of giving in churches:

A little footnote here.  Whenever people in a church become disillusioned about their leaders, their giving drops And it happened in Corinth and it happens today.  It always happens.  It’s happened in our church when people have spread lies and rumors and untruths about leadership in this church.  It has an immediate effect on people’s giving because where they have confusion and chaos or anxiety or distrust at the level of leadership, they are hard-pressed to be generous

I can confirm that is true. Many years ago, we had a vicar whose faith I wondered about. In the pulpit, he sometimes sounded as if he were agnostic, possibly atheistic. Outside of Sunday contributions, I stopped giving regularly to the annual fund drive. Since then, we have had better vicars, and I have resumed my annual contribution.

Next week’s post will be about Paul’s commendation of Titus to the Corinthians.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 7:16-24

The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity — Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost — is October 10, 2021.

Readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Mark 10:17-31

10:17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

10:18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

10:19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'”

10:20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”

10:21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

10:22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

10:23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

10:24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

10:26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?”

10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

10:28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”

10:29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news,

10:30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age–houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions–and in the age to come eternal life.

10:31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This is a long read, so grab a cuppa and a snack.

We pick up where we left off last week.

Jesus is in the last phase of His ministry and is in Peraea.

John MacArthur says:

He’s on the east side of the Jordan River, down in the south. He is in the last days of His ministry in a place called Peraea, the region east of the Jordan, been ministering there. He’s headed for Jerusalem for the final time to die and rise again. Verse 32 of this chapter says they were on the road going to Jerusalem. They first arrive in Jericho and then up the hill to Jerusalem. So it’s at the end of His ministry, the end of this brief ministry in the region called Peraea. We don’t know any more detail than that about the location.

There are two themes in this reading. Verses 17-23 deal with what is considered ‘good’, and verses 24-31 address what is humanly impossible.

I have had problems in the past with verses 17-23, because it seems that Jesus was harsh with this young man.

If you are of the same mind, this is MacArthur‘s explanation for our Lord’s reaction. The young man’s:

idol was property, money, possessions, and self. He was, therefore, a blasphemer of God. He was a breaker of the back half of the Ten Commandments and the front half. Every time he used the name God, it was in a blasphemous way in vain. Every time he went to the synagogue or the temple on a Sabbath day, it was with hypocrisy because his true God was money. He wanted eternal life but only in addition to what he really worshiped. He had another god. In the end, it was himself.

And what the lesson here is that if you want anything more than salvation, if you want anything more than eternal life, if you want anything more than Christ, if you want anything more than God, you lose everything – you lose everything. He went away sorrowful, it says. He went away saddened. He went away grieving because he owned much property. So he exchanged his eternity for time. That’s a sad story – a sad story. He wanted eternal life but he wanted it as an addition, not as a complete substitution for everything else in life.

As Jesus (and the disciples) set out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him, addressing Him as ‘good teacher’ and asking what he must do to inherit eternal life (verse 17).

There is much to look at in that verse, as Matthew and Luke also tell the same story. The man was a young ruler, therefore, a senior layman in a synagogue. That sort of position normally went to an older man by dint of increased religious knowledge and application. The fact that this man achieved so much for his age means that the elders in the synagogue held him in very high esteem. Therefore, so did everyone else.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that this could have been a potentially hopeful encounter for the young man:

I. Here is a hopeful meeting between Christ and a young man; such he is said to be (Matthew 19:20; Matthew 19:22), and a ruler (Luke 18:18), a person of quality. Some circumstances here are, which we had not in Matthew, which makes his address to Christ very promising.

People in his elevated position would not run, yet he did:

1. He came running to Christ, which was an indication of his humility; he laid aside the gravity and grandeur of a ruler, when he came to Christ: thus too he manifested his earnestness and importunity; he ran as one in haste, and longing to be in conversation with Christ. He had now an opportunity of consulting this great Prophet, in the things that belonged to his peace, and he would not let slip the opportunity.

2. He came to him when he was in the way, in the midst of company: he did not insist upon a private conference with him by night, as Nicodemus did, though like him he was a ruler, but when he shall find him without, will embrace that opportunity of advising with him, and not be ashamed,Song of Solomon 8:1.

3. He kneeled to him, in token of the great value and veneration he had for him, as a teacher come from God, and his earnest desire to be taught by him. He bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus, as one that would not only do obeisance to him now, but would yield obedience to him always; he bowed the knee, as one that meant to bow the soul to him.

4. His address to him was serious and weighty; Good Master, what shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life? Eternal life was an article of his creed, though then denied by the Sadducees, a prevailing party: he asks, What shall he do now that he may be happy for ever. Most men enquire for good to be had in this world (Psalms 4:6), any good; he asks for good to be done in this world, in order to the enjoyment of the greatest good in the other world; not, Who will make us to see good? But, “Who will make us to do good?He enquires for happiness in the way of duty; the summum bonum–chief good which Solomon was in quest of, was that good for the sons of men which they do should do,Ecclesiastes 2:3.

However, Jesus responded, focusing on the word ‘good’, saying that no one is ‘good’ except God alone (verse 18). How did the young ruler know Jesus was good when He was a total stranger to him?

MacArthur explains ‘good’ in Greek:

“Good teacher.” Good teacher. He acknowledges Jesus as not only a legitimate teacher, not a teacher to be rejected, but as a good teacher, agathe didaskale, agathe. That’s the word agathos from which we get the old name Agatha. Agathos means good internally, virtuous. Kalos, the other word for good, means looking good, good in form. This means good to the core, virtuous, beneficent. This is a deep kind of inherent goodness.

MacArthur then goes into the reaction from Jesus, which revolves around the word ‘good’:

Now, as you look at that, you say, “Well, you know, it seems like everything is in the right place here. Where is the problem here?” Amazingly, it comes up where you wouldn’t expect it. The problem shows up in one word. That word is in verse 17, and it’s the word “good.” It’s the word “good.” You know, if there’s any word that the world doesn’t understand, it’s that word. Good. Stop anybody on the street and say, “Are you a good person?” What are they going to say? “Of course, I’m a good person” …

Now remember, he thought he was good and everybody he associated with good and the whole synagogue crowd was good and everybody was good. And so he’s loose with the word. Thinks he’s commending Jesus by using that word for Him. That’s the problem. And if you understand that that word is the problem, then you begin to understand Jesus’ answer. “Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”…

If somebody comes running up to you and says, “What do I do to take possession of eternal life?” You say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ – believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Well, Jesus didn’t say that. He did not say that because there’s something else that has to be confronted here. Faith, essential. But something else is essential as well and it is repentance – repentance. The gospel hangs over this account but it never enters. You can feel it because you know it, but Jesus never says it. It looms in the shadow of this event. It is never uttered. No word of faith ever appears. No comment about believing is ever stated because the issue here is sin and the law and repentance first.

And our Lord makes that clear in one profound statement. “Why do you call me good?” Why are you throwing that word around? You don’t know me. I am a total stranger. Why are you calling me good? He used the word casually. It was a word he used concerning himself and most of the people in his world …

Now, as a Jewish religious leader, he should have known the Psalms – should have known the Psalms. And if he knew the Psalms, he would know that the Psalms say this: “There is none righteous, no not one.” There is none who is good. There is none who seeks after God. All of that comes from the Psalms but it is also collected by Paul in Romans 3. In Romans 3, verses 10 to 18, Paul collects sayings out of the Psalms, none righteous, no not one, none does good, no one. He borrows from Psalm 14, Psalm 53, Psalm 5, Psalm 140, Psalm 10, Psalm 36 and even throws in a verse from Isaiah 59.

He collects from the Old Testament the testimony that no one is good, no one, because good is not a relative reality, it is an absolute – it is an absolute.

What does it mean? To be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. As God says, “I am holy, I am holy, I am holy, I am holy, without sin, without flaw, without error.” It is perfect righteousness, perfect holiness, absolute goodness. The law is given to reveal that. How perverted had these Jewish people become when they took the law as a means to establish their own goodness when the purpose of the law was to reveal the goodness of God to which they could never attain? You understand the difference?

Jesus recited the six Commandments that concern our relationships with others (verse 19).

Henry looks at the way Jesus recited these Commandments:

He mentions the six commandments of the second table, which prescribe our duty to our neighbour; he inverts the order, putting the seventh commandment before the sixth, to intimate that adultery is a sin no less heinous than murder itself. The fifth commandment is here put last, as that which should especially be remembered and observed, to keep us to all the rest. Instead of the tenth commandment, Thou shalt not covet, our Saviour here puts, Defraud not.

The man replied that he had kept these Commandments since his youth (verse 20).

Henry says that this was the man’s mistake. He thought himself better than he was:

He thought he had [kept the Commandments], and his neighbours thought so too. Note, Ignorance of the extent and spiritual nature of the divine law, makes people think themselves in a better condition than they really are.

MacArthur compares and contrasts this man’s attitude with St Paul’s, starting from when he was still Saul the Pharisee. Post-conversion, Paul came to understand that the law is meant to convict us and lead us to repentance:

The testimony of the apostle Paul would be very much like this young man. I see a lot of parallels. The apostle Paul was doing really well for a while as a legalist, wasn’t he? Circumcised the eighth day, born of the tribe of Benjamin, Philippians 3, he goes through all of that. He says he was a traditionalist. He was zealous for the law. He was blameless before the law. He toed the line. He had all these credits to himself as a legalist. And then something happened to Paul, which he speaks of in Romans 7:7.

He says this: “I wouldn’t have come to know sin except through the law.” Once he began to really understand the law of God, he saw how sinful he was. What is the law of God? The law of God, which defines for us sin and holiness, is simply a revelation of the nature of God. God discloses His nature as holy in His law. God has revealed Himself in His law. And when Paul saw the reality of the nature of God in the law and knew he couldn’t keep the law, he said, “The law killed me,” Romans 7. “It slew me, it resulted in death for me,” he says, verse 10 …

You say, “What’s the purpose of that?” So that you’re slain, so that you’re devastated, so that you’re crushed and broken. Then the law becomes, Galatians 3:24, the tutor that drives you to Christ who alone can save you from your own corruption. The purpose of the law is to kill, to crush, to show how perfectly good God is and how utterly evil man is, therefore to produce guilt and fear and dread and remorse.

Well, the rich young ruler totally missed that. Totally. He had a superficial view of the law, like all legalists do, all phony religionists. His response is consistent with fallen human nature that thinks it’s good, and the religious people think they’re better than everybody else. He is sure that he’s good. He has met the law’s demands. He is good. Since Jesus is a teacher from God, He’s good, too.

Jesus, looking at the man, loved him — only Mark’s version has that part — and told him to sell everything he had, give the proceeds to the poor, thereby gaining treasure in heaven, and then follow Him (verse 21).

MacArthur says the love Jesus had for him was one of sorrow:

Maybe a tear like the tears He shed over Jerusalem, coursed down Jesus’ cheeks, tears of sympathy and compassion. So sad because this man was a blasphemer and didn’t know it. This man was a violator and didn’t know it. This man was the worst.

By telling him to sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, Jesus was homing in on the man’s sin.

The young man was ‘shocked’ by what Jesus asked him to do and went away ‘grieving’ because he had many possessions (verse 22).

MacArthur explains the idolatry involved:

Here comes the exposure. “One thing you lack, just one thing.” You say, “How can you say that? One thing?” “Go sell all you possess, give to the poor, you’ll have treasure in heaven.” It’s what you said you wanted. “Come follow me.” How can it be that simple? “But at these words, he was saddened and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.” Hmm. You know why he is a blasphemer? Because he has another god. Who is his other god? He had much what? Property? He had an idol. He didn’t love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, and mind.

That’s the one thing Jesus asked him to do. Let me just have you do one thing. Get rid of the idol, which is your money and your possessions. You don’t get saved by lowering your bank account, you get saved when you get rid of your idol and you embrace the true God. He’s a blaspheming idolater. And again I’ll say it, every time he opened his mouth, he took the Lord’s name in vain. Every time he showed up on a Sabbath, he violated that Sabbath as a hypocritical, idolatrous blasphemer.

Earthly wealth, temporal satisfaction was his God. In fact, he was his own god. Jesus preached the law to him and he never got to the gospel because you can’t get to the gospel, which is the good news, until someone accepts the bad news, the condemnation of the law. How do you tell a highly respected, revered, honored, religious man who sees his prosperity as the beneficence of a God who is pleased with him, who sees his position in the synagogue as evidence of his true spiritual virtue, how do you tell that man that good is not relative, it is absolute, and there’s only one who is good and that’s God, and he is not?

And then tell him, as a student of the law, that he is a regular violator of the whole law of God from the top to the bottom who worships himself. And that’s the way it is with all people who refuse the gospel, who never get to the gospel. That’s why I say the gospel hangs in the shadows silently here. If the law doesn’t drive you to Christ, it will drive you to hell in your own spiritual pride. He’s a blasphemer who has another god. If he would do one thing, it would be to get rid of the other god and love the Lord with all his heart, soul, and mind.

Jesus, indirectly referring to the man’s idolatry while eyeing the crowd, said how hard it is for those with wealth to enter the kingdom of God (verse 23).

MacArthur says:

Looking around, just taking stock of who was there, perhaps making eye contact with certain people He knew that fit into the category of those who were rich. “He then said to His disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. How hard it will be.’”

Then Jesus said, to the disciples’ shock, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God (verse 24) and that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the wealthy to inherit that kingdom (verse 25).

The rich have everything, and many believe they achieved it by themselves, so why would they want anything to do with the afterlife? Note how many celebrities and captains of industry are unbelievers. They have it all, so they think.

The disciples were shocked because, in the Jewish world at that time, wealth meant divine blessing. Lack of it was believed to be a divine curse.

MacArthur tells us about this traditional belief:

Our Lord said this about a very religious man. “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God.” In the context of Israel, these are religious people who are wealthy. And according to their theology, they were wealthy because they were blessed by God. If you were wealthy, you were blessed by God, and if you were poor, you were cursed by God. If you were healthy, you were blessed by God; if you were sick, you were cursed by God.

That was the simplicity of their theology – and a wrong theology to be surebut the idea was that a very, very religious man like this who was very, very wealthy would be easily able to enter into the kingdom of God because he had so much money he could buy all the animal sacrifices, he could buy the spotless lamb where somebody else with less money would have to take a blemished lamb by the sheer money factor, or even lesser than a lamb, maybe even down to a bird.

This man had the money to purchase as many sacrifices as he wanted, maybe in the morning and evening sacrifices, they were capable, the rich were, of making more than the rest. Also, the fact that they continued to be blessed meant that God was pleased with them and it just kept escalating. And so up the ladder of spiritual confidence they would climb – not only in their own eyes but in the eyes of the people around them.

The rabbis said that with alms, one purchases his redemption. That’s what they said. Some of the writings are very interesting. One writing taken from Tobit says this: “It is good to do alms rather than to treasure up gold, for alms deliver from death, and this will purge away every sin.” Okay, that was Judaism. If you want your sins washed away, give money, or Sirach 3 says, “Alms will atone for sin.” Or the Talmud, “Almsgiving is more excellent than all offerings and is equal to the whole law.”

In other words, if you give alms, you have virtually kept the whole law and further will deliver from the condemnation of hell and make one perfectly righteous. Wow. So how do you become perfectly righteous? How are you delivered from the condemnation of the law and of hell? By giving money – by giving money. That was their system. So when Jesus says, “Look, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” this is completely counterintuitive to them. They don’t get that at all. It is a shocking statement, it is a jolt to their system.

Now remember, they had come to faith in Christ – and Peter will make that confession again in verse 28, as we’ll see in a few minutes – but they still had all the stuff of the legalistic system, which they had imbibed for their entire lives. They still saw wealth as a sign of divine blessing and wealth as a means of entering the kingdom of God because you bought your way in with your giving. They assumed a causal relationship between wealth and power and blessing from God.

Now we come to analysing the word ‘camel’. This is where we enter the theme of something being humanly impossible.

MacArthur looks at ancient writings outside the Bible for the answer:

What is this talking about? This is an expression found in writings outside the Bible. It is found in the Talmud, Jewish writings. And the expression there uses an elephant. It is easier for an elephant to go through the eye of a needle. That statement is used in the Talmud to reflect something that can’t happen. This is impossible. Since the elephant was the largest animal in the Middle East, an elephant was used in the Talmud. In this case, the largest animal in Israel – there were no elephants, as far as we know – was a camel, so they used the camel – fit their experience.

What is our Lord saying? It’s impossible, that’s what He’s saying. You cannot put a camel through the eye of a needle. Some have tried to tamper with that saying. Really, some have tampered even with original manuscripts, kamēlos, camel, kamilos, slight difference in the vowel, rope. Maybe some scribe made a mistake, put the wrong letter and it came out camel but it should be rope. That doesn’t help because you can’t put a rope through the eye of a needle, either. But that’s not the point. The point is this is a very common expression that appears even outside the Bible to express something that is impossible – it’s impossible.

The disciples, still astounded, asked who could be saved (verse 26).

Jesus replied that it was impossible for mortals to save themselves, but not for God, because, with God, all things are possible (verse 27).

MacArthur tells us:

That same phrase is used in Luke 1 to refer to the virgin birth. That’s an impossibility, right? This is an impossibility of that same category. As a child cannot be born without an earthly father, so a sinner cannot be reborn without a heavenly work of the Spirit of God.

It’s interesting that those two statements are made in those two contexts. One having to do with the virgin birth of Christ, which is a divine miracle from above, the other having to do with the regeneration of a sinner, which is a divine miracle from above. Only God can do this mighty, mighty work. John 1 opens up, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believed in His name who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” – but of God.

Or John 3, Nicodemus says in his heart, “What do I do to be born again? What do I do to get into the kingdom?” And Jesus says, “You need to be born again, but that which is born of the flesh” – is what? – “is flesh.” You need to be born from above, anōthen, you need to be born of the Spirit, born from above. Only God can work the work of regeneration. It is a divine miracle, and it is possible with God.

Peter said that he and the other disciples left everything to follow Jesus (verse 28).

Jesus replied that anyone who leaves his or her house, family, friends and livelihood (‘fields’) behind for His sake and that of the Good News (verse 29) will receive ‘a hundredfold’ the same comforts — with persecutions in this life and eternal life to come (verse 30).

Mark is the only one to mention persecution in this story.

Henry offers an interpretation, saying that the comforts we receive in following Christ might not be literally the same but will be comparable to what we left behind:

They shall receive a hundred-fold in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters; not in specie, but that which is equivalent. He shall have abundance of comfort while he lives, sufficient to make up for all his losses; his relation to Christ, his communion with the saints, and his title to eternal life, shall be to him brethren, and sisters, and houses, and all. God’s providence gave Job double to what he had had, but suffering Christians shall have a hundred-fold in the comforts of the Spirit sweetening their creature comforts. But observe, It is added here in Mark, with persecutions. Even when they are gainers by Christ, let them still expect to be sufferers for him; and not be out of the reach of persecution, till they come to heaven.

Jesus concluded by saying that many who are first (on earth) will be last (in the life to come) and the last will be first (verse 31).

Henry says that Jesus was telling the disciples to stop squabbling about their status, as there would be further and greater disciples to follow in the future, e.g. St Paul:

because they talked so much, and really more than became them, of leaving all for Christ, he tells them, though they were first called, that there should be disciples called after them, that should be preferred before them; as St. Paul, who was one born out of due time, and yet laboured more abundantly than all the rest of the apostles, 1 Corinthians 15:10. Then the first were last, and the last first.

On the other hand, MacArthur says this is a verse of equality:

“Many who are first will be last and the last first.” That principle – so important. They were always arguing about who’s going to be the greatest – right? – who’s going to be first, and our Lord says this to make a statement that can’t be mistaken, and yet many people mistake the meaning of the statement. What does it mean? It means everybody ends up equal, that’s what it means. If you’re first, you’re last, and you’re last, you’re first, then everybody’s the same.

This is defined for us in Matthew 19, verse 30, through 20, verse 16, when Jesus tells the story about people who worked one hour, three hours, five hours, eight hours, all different amounts of work and they all received the same pay. And Jesus said, “That’s because the last are first and the first are last,” everybody ends up the same.

At the conclusion of his sermon about the young ruler, MacArthur leaves us with these thoughts:

And the question is for you. What will you do? Many of you come near to Christ. You have a conversation with Him here on Sunday mornings. You walk away clinging to your cherished blasphemy, holding onto your own self-worship, your own pride, your own achievement, unwilling to recognize the profound depth and damning power of your own sin. You ignore the law’s condemnation. And instead of letting it be the tutor that drives you to Christ, you let it drive you into hell.

You just want to say to this young man, “Don’t you understand that the goodness you can’t achieve will be given to you as a gift? The righteousness you cannot attain will be given to you as a gift through the sacrifice of Christ? He was made sin for you, that you might become the righteousness of God in Him?”

This is Paul, isn’t it? That the thing that he pursued was garbage when he found there was an alien righteousness, the very righteousness of God that would be credited to his account. You can’t come into eternal life unless you’re as good as God, and the only way you can be as good as God is to have the goodness of God credited to you. That’s the gospel. Christ takes your punishment, pays for your sin, gives you His perfect goodness.

Beware of the selfish seeker, deluded about his own goodness, her own goodness. Stop the selfish seeker in his tracks with the law and judgment and a biblical definition of what it really means to be good.

May everyone reading this have a blessed Sunday.

Yesterday’s post discussed the first three days of the Conservative Party Conference.

Today’s entry will look at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech on Wednesday, October 6, 2021.

It was still content-light, but at least he explained what ‘levelling up’ is. More on that below.

But first, let’s look at what happened the night before, the last opportunity for MPs and the party faithful to get together on the dance floor.

Tuesday, October 5, after hours

Pensions minister Thérèse Coffey had a great time as the temporary £20 Universal Credit boost came to an end.

A cold fish at the despatch box at the best of times, Coffey showed us a different side of herself as she, a chemist by training, belted out ‘Time of My Life’ from Dirty Dancing (video credit to the Daily Mail):

The Mail reported (emphases mine):

The cabinet minister in charge of Universal Credit was slammed today for belting out Time of My Life at a boozy Conservative party Conference karaoke bash hours before cutting payments to six million people.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey enthusiastically belted out the 1987 power ballad from the film Dirty Dancing in a duet with fellow Will Quince – a former welfare minister.

It came as a £20-per-week Covid uplift payment was removed from UC for families across the UK.

The Government has pressed ahead with the cut despite concerns – including from Tory backbenchers – that hundreds of thousands of people will be plunged into poverty.

From today, no assessments will include the uplift, meaning that from October 13 – a week later – no payments will be received that include the extra money.

I don’t know what I think about removal of the £20 uplift. The Government always said in Parliament that it was temporary and stated months ago that it would end in October 2021. I feel for those families. On the other hand, the last thing I want to see is Universal Basic Income, and if this £20 were maintained, it would have been a slippery slope along that road.

Furthermore, there are plenty of job vacancies and salaries are going up. Note the decrease in people clicking on the vacancies, however. Hmm:

Two other MPs, Levelling Up minister Michael Gove, in the process of divorcing his wife, and Tom Tugendhat, danced together. Guido referred to this season’s Strictly Come Dancing:

It was only a few weeks ago that Gove spent the early hours of one morning dancing in a nightclub in Aberdeen, his home town.

The Mail reported:

Michael Gove has been spotted rocking the dance floor again – this time busting moves to Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and belting out Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart at the Tory party conference. 

One hilarious clip shows the Levelling Up Secretary, 54, arm in arm with Tom Tugendhat as he throws his finest shapes to a cover of the 1987 hit while wearing a suit and tie – just a month after his infamous night out in Aberdeen.  

Newly-single Mr Gove, and Mr Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, are seen taking turns to spin each other as they go all out at the gathering – which is not usually known as a hotbed of hedonism

In a second clip shared by The Sun, Gove can be seen passionately singing along to Bonnie Tyler’s hit 1983 anthem with his mouth wide open, hands interlocked with an unidentified woman in front of him.

Meanwhile, at another Conference party event, Liz Truss danced to Beyonce (video credit to Guido Fawkes):

Wednesday, October 6

Wednesday was Boris’s big day.

He abandoned his diet temporarily:

Guido Fawkes has the calorific coffee order:

Sat in the conference exhibition hall ahead of Boris’s speech Guido was astonished to overhear the Speccie’s Katy Balls being told by a barista that Boris’s aides turned up at his stall yesterday to fetch the boss a coffee. The coffee order in question was a stomach-churning triple shot flat white, with extra caramel syrup with three sugars – an astonishing departure from the diet Carrie supposedly put him on after his Covid hospital trip.

Later, an appreciative crowd gave their Party leader a standing ovation:

Guido has the full text of Boris’s speech, which was not much shorter than Keir Starmer’s last week but was delivered in half the time: 45 minutes compared with 90.

Before going into Boris’s speech, Keir Starmer’s speechwriter dived in to say that his went on ‘absolutely’ too long:

Guido reported that Philip Collins, Starmer’s speechwriter (and Tony Blair’s), said the policy sections were ‘a bit baggy’ (red emphases in the original, purple one mine):

Philip Collins, the man who drafted Sir Keir’s epic 90-minute address at Labour Conference last week, has admitted the speech “absolutely” went on too long – and even claimed the sections on policy (such that they were) were “a little bit baggy” and yes, “boring“. This is a speech he wrote only a week ago…

Speaking on Politico’s Westminster Insider Podcast, Collins said:

“It’s always the same bits […] the policy bits are very, very difficult to bring to life. If you don’t include them, everybody will write that you have nothing to say, that you’re empty […] those bits, if I’m critical, could have been tighter, could have been more compressed. I think they were a bit long, a little bit baggy.”

Which in view of criticisms of Boris that his conference speech was light on policy detail, suggests he made the right call. Collins, who was also Tony Blair’s wordsmith, goes on to say that while he thought Starmer handled the inevitable heckles well, the interruptions and subsequent applause (“people enjoyed it far too much!“) contributed to the running time, claiming Starmer “was getting standing ovations for things that were just basically boring lines that were meant to just take you to the next stage of the speech“. “It got ridiculous”, Collins said…

Returning to Boris, Guido also has videos of his speech.

It was clear that Boris, a former journalist, penned the words himself.

He opened with an amusing put-down of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, recalling the 2019 election:

Isn’t it amazing to be here in person, the first time we have met since you defied the sceptics by winning councils and communities that Conservatives have never won in before – such as Hartlepool. In fact it’s the first time since the general election of 2019 when we finally sent the corduroyed communist cosmonaut into orbit where he belongs

Then he threw in a joke about Michael Gove:

The Mail was on hand to give us Gove’s reaction:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson later referenced Mr Gove’s disco moves at his conference speech today, branding him ‘Jon Bon Govi’ – prompting the minister to turn bright red.

Here’s Guido’s video:

Boris said:

… for months we have had one of the most open economies and societies and on July 19 we decided to open every single theatre and every concert hall and night club in England and we knew that some people would still be anxious, so we sent top government representatives to our sweatiest boîtes de nuit to show that anyone could dance perfectly safely and wasn’t he brilliant my friends? Let’s hear it for Jon Bon Govi, living proof that we, you all, represent the most jiving, hip, happening and generally funkapolitan party in the world.

Tom Harwood, a Guido alum now working for GB News, gives us tweeted highlights.

Despite the rise in National Insurance tax, Boris insisted that Britain would move towards a low-tax economy:

Boris then had a go at Labour:

He then went on to slam Insulate Britain, which had blocked the roads for ten consecutive days at that point (12 as I write):

He discussed immigration from Afghanistan and Hong Kong …

… adding:

We are doing the right and responsible thing and, speaking as the great grandson of a Turk who fled in fear of his life, I know that this country is a beacon of light and hope for people around the world, provided they come here legally, provided we understand who they are and what they want to contribute, and that is why we took back control of our borders and will pass the borders bill, because we believe there must be a distinction between someone who comes here legally and someone who doesn’t, and, though I have every sympathy with people genuinely in fear of their lives, I have no sympathy whatever with the people traffickers who take thousands of pounds to send children to sea in frail and dangerous craft. And we must end this lethal trade. We must break the gangsters’ business model.

He made reference to 2022’s general election in France and the newly-conservative outlook on the EU and immigration from our Brexit negotiator:

And is it not a sublime irony that even in French politics there is now a leading centre right politician calling for a referendum on the EU. Who is now calling for France to reprendre le controle?? It’s good old Michel Barnier. That’s what happens if you spend a year trying to argue with Lord Frost, the greatest frost since the great frost of 1709.

Boris then illustrated what he means by ‘levelling up’. Different areas of England will get solutions to their specific needs:

I will tell you what levelling up is. A few years ago they started a school not far from the Olympic park, a new school that anyone could send their kids to in an area that has for decades been one of the most disadvantaged in London. That school is Brampton Manor academy and it now sends more kids to Oxbridge than Eton. And if you want proof of what I mean by unleashing potential and by levelling up, look at Brampton Manor, and we can do it.

There is absolutely no reason why the kids of this country should lag behind, or why so many should be unable to read and write or do basic mathematics at the age of 11. And to level up – on top of the extra £14 bn we’re putting into education and on top of the increase that means every teacher starts with a salary of £30k – we are announcing a levelling up premium of up to £3000 to send the best maths and science teachers to the places that need them most.

And above all we are investing in our skills, skills, folks. Our universities are world beating. I owe everything to my tutors and they are one of the great glories of our economy, but we all know that some of the most brilliant and imaginative and creative people in Britain – and some of the best paid people in Britain – did not go to university. And to level up you need to give people the options, the skills that are right for them. And to make the most of those skills and knowledge and to level up you need urgently to plug all the other the gaps in our infrastructure that are still holding people and communities back.

As I’ve been saying over this wonderful conference to you when I became leader of this party, there were only, can you remember, what percentage of households had gigabit broadband when you were so kind as to make me leader? 7 percent, only 7 percent, and by the new year that will be up to 68 per cent. Thanks to Rishi’s super-deduction the pace is now accelerating massively as companies thrust the fibre-optic vermicelli in the most hard to reach places.

On that topic, he had a witty go at Scotland’s Ian Blackford MP, a multi-millionaire who gives the impression he has nothing. This bit is about the remote video connections Parliament had during the pandemic:

It’s wonderful, for years SNP leader Ian Blackford has been telling the Commons that he is nothing but a humble crofter on the Isle of Skye. Well, now we have fibre optic broadband of very high quality that we can inspect the library or is it perhaps the billiard room of Ian Blackford’s croft. And that is levelling up in action.

Boris wants to get Britons back in the office:

And my friends it is not good enough just to rely on Zoom. After decades of ducked decisions, our national infrastructure is way behind some of our key competitors.

It is a disgrace that you still can’t swiftly cross the Pennines by rail, a disgrace that Leeds is the largest city in Europe with no proper metro system, a waste of human potential that so many places are not served by decent bus routes. Transport is one of the supreme leveller-uppers and we are making the big generational changes shirked by previous governments.

We will do Northern Powerhouse rail. We will link up the cities of the Midlands and the North. We will restore those sinews of the union that have been allowed to atrophy: the A1 north of Berwick and on into Scotland, the A75 in Scotland that is so vital for the links with Northern Ireland and the rest of the country, the North Wales corridor. And we will invest in our roads, unblocking those coagulated roundabouts and steering-wheel-bending traffic lights, putting on 4000 more clean green buses made in this country, some of them running on hydrogen.

And as we come out of Covid, our towns and cities are again going to be buzzing with life because we know that a productive workforce needs that spur that only comes with face to face meetings and water cooler gossip.

If young people are to learn on the job in the way that they always have and must, we will and must see people back in the office. And that is why we are building back better with a once in an a century £640bn pound programme of investment.

And by making neighbourhoods safer, by putting in the gigabit broadband, by putting in the roads and the schools and the healthcare, we will enable more and more young people everywhere to share the dream of home ownership, the great ambition of the human race that the left always privately share but publicly disparage.

And we can do it.

He discussed rewilding Britain:

We are going to re-wild parts of the country and consecrate a total of 30 per cent to nature. We are planting tens of millions of trees.

Otters are returning to rivers from which they have been absent for decades. Beavers that have not been seen on some rivers since Tudor times, massacred for their pelts, and now back. And if that isn’t conservatism, my friends I don’t know what is.

Build back beaver.

And though the beavers may sometimes build without local authority permission, you can also see how much room there is to build the homes that young families need in this country.

He talked about the housing crisis and the importance of home ownership, especially for the young:

He praised the success of the coronavirus vaccine rollout and the contribution of private enterprise:

He wittily criticised Labour’s reluctance to accept the Government’s pandemic strategy:

Boris discussed the Labour Party conference and Sir Keir Starmer. This is classic Boris:

Did you see them last week, did you watch them last week in Brighton? Hopelessly divided I thought they looked.

Their leader looked like a seriously rattled bus conductor, pushed this way and that by, not that they have bus conductors any more, unfortunately, like a seriously rattled bus conductor pushed this way and that by a Corbynista mob of Sellotape-spectacled sans-culottes or the skipper of a cruise liner that has been captured by Somali pirates desperately trying to negotiate a change of course and then changing his mind.

He discussed getting a trade deal with the United States, especially our export of British beef:

He touched on AUKUS …

… and Labour’s opposition to that alliance:

He also addressed political correctness, which, frankly, has only worsened under this Government. He really does need to tackle it, so I hope he means what he says here. On a lighter note, he mentioned Michael Gove again:

We are led by our values, by the things we stand for. And we should never forget that people around the world admire this country for its history and its traditions. They love the groovy new architecture and the fashion and the music and the chance of meeting Michael in the disco. But they like the way it emerges organically from a vast inherited conglomerate of culture and tradition. And we Conservatives understand the need for both and how each nourishes the other. And we attack and deny our history at our peril. And when they began to attack Churchill as a racist I was minded to ignore them. It is only 20 years ago since BBC audiences overwhelmingly voted him the greatest Briton of all time, because he helped defeat a regime after all that was defined by one of the most vicious racisms the world has ever seen.

But as time has gone by it has become clear to me that this isn’t just a joke. They really do want to re-write our national story starting with Hereward the Woke. We really are at risk of a kind of know-nothing cancel culture, know-nothing iconoclasm. And so we Conservatives will defend our history and cultural inheritance, not because we are proud of everything, but because trying to edit it now is as dishonest as a celebrity trying furtively to change his entry in Wikipedia, and its a betrayal of our children’s education.

He closed by paying tribute to England footballers, Emma Radacanu and Team GB’s Olympians and our Paralympians, who did so well this year:

The spirit of our Olympians. It is an incredible thing to come yet again in the top four, a formidable effort for a country that has only 0.8 per cent of the world’s populationbut when we come second in the Paralympics as well – that shows our values, not only the achievement of those elite athletes but a country that is proud to be a trailblazer.

To judge people not by where they come from but by their spirit and by what is inside them.

That is the spirit that is the same across this country, in every town and village and city that can be found. That can be found in the hearts and minds of kids growing up everywhere.

And that is the spirit we are going to unleash.

The crowd loved every minute:

Tom Harwood interviewed party members afterwards, all of whom gave Boris’s speech rave reviews:

I could go into the pundits’ analyses, but why bother? So many are disgruntled Remainers, still licking their wounds over Brexit, which means that they will attack any Conservative policy.

As a former boss of mine used to say: ‘Onwards and upwards!’

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