Sin and the Speed Limit
The following is a transcript of the audio.
Podcast listener Ben writes in to ask: “Pastor John, very few people actually drive the speed limit, including Christians. Especially during rush hour on the way to work, it is socially acceptable to be 5–10 MPH over, and it just seems like unreasonable legalism to drive the limit when everyone else is safely driving faster (including the police!). Is this a matter that merits repentance? Or is it simply a matter of conscience that I shouldn’t worry about?”
Ok. Let’s start with the math facts. Suppose you have 10 miles to drive to work. Suppose the speed limit is 55. If you drive the speed limit, you arrive in 10 minutes and 48 seconds. If you drive five miles an hour over the speed limit, 60, you arrive in 10 minutes. If you drive 10 miles an hour over the speed limit, 65, you arrive in nine minutes and 12 seconds. So if you drive five miles an hour over the speed limit you add 48 seconds to your day at work. And if you drive 10 miles an hour over the speed limit you add one minute and 16 seconds to your day at work. And you can do the math. If you drive 20 miles to work or five miles to work or whatever. So that is the first thing. Those are the math facts.
Second, let’s mention Romans 13. Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. Now there are a lot of possible exceptions to this rule. For example, when a ruler uses its power to do evil and not good against Romans 13, you might have warrant to rise up and be part of some kind of civil disobedience. But I have never heard anybody make a sufficient case that speed limits is an abuse of federal power or local power. That is... if anything, they have a right to do is help us all drive in ways that will get us safely across town. So the command, it seems to me, stands. Submit to the governing authorities. You see a speed limit sign? That is the word of God, because he said the authority is from God.
Third, let’s bring in humility. Going over the speed limit is the exaltation of your preference over the law. What is this called? It is called pride. That is what pride was in the garden, Eve’s preference over God’s law. That is what it has been called ever since. It is pure and simple. I will do it my way, thank you very much. I think this is a stupid speed limit and so now I am God.
Fourth, let’s combine the math and the faith. And this is where, frankly, Tony, I struggle. And, you know, as little and as insignificant as this is on the moral scale of things, like, say, compared with human trafficking or poverty or abortion or same sex relations, whatever, you know, whatever you may think, faith in God is a big thing everywhere that it is challenged.
So on your way to work if you have got 10 miles on your way to work, you gain a minute and 16 seconds if you go over the speed limit. So ponder two things. There a hundred ways that God can take that one minute and 16 seconds away from you and for all you know, he does that every single day. You make them. You think you get there when you want to get there and he takes it away from you everyday. Someone arrives late for an appointment. The printer breaks down at work. The waitress takes someone else’s order first. You have to reboot your computer. Someone puts you on hold at the bank for two minutes, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. You don’t control your day. God controls your day and he has taken minutes away from you all day long any time he wants for whatever reason he wants. Or imagine the other direction. There are hundreds of ways God can give you back one minute and 16 seconds every day and lots more. Just reverse those time stealers. People arrive on time. The printer doesn’t break down. The waitress is prompt. Nobody puts you on hold. Your computer works perfectly. All the things work together and you are added time, because God just is pleased to do it for you.
What that means is that going the speed limit boils down to a simple child like act of faith. Can God give you a more productive day than you can make on your own? Can God put the pieces of your day together better than you can? Faith is the opposite of pride.
Next, let’s talk about the higher value of life and death. If I had my child in the back seat unable to breathe and turning blue with no police or ambulance to help, I would run every red light and break the speed limit to get to the emergency room. Seconds may make the difference between life and death. I think that is what Jesus was saying when he healed on the sabbath. Speed limits were made for man, not man for speed limits. They are not absolute. But they were not made for man in the sense that every man can make his own. That is called anarchy and the root is pride and self exaltation. Now if you really believe in your heart—and I am saying this to the person who asked the question—if you really believe in your heart, your well informed mind and heart, that someone’s life is at stake by your driving 55 miles an hour in the right lane while everyone passes you, well, do what you have to do to save lives. I don’t believe it, frankly. I think it is a joke. But I think that is a rationalization just to do what we feel like do-ing. Say: I have got to go 60, everybody is going 60. I am going to look like a jerk. People are going to toot at me. I am going to cause an accident here. I don’t believe that. I just think that is just pure rationalization. That is what right lanes are for.
Finally, let’s flush out the boogie man of legalism. I get so tired of this. When you preach the promises of God to yourself like: My God will meet all my needs today and he is sovereign over the minutes of my life. When you preach the promises of God to yourself and you bask in the sovereign care of God over your life, you are more valuable than many sparrows. And you preach to yourself that God is per-fectly able and willing to add two or 10 or 30 minutes to your day and you rest in his love, then your choice to set the cruise control at 55 and enjoy Jesus all the way to work IS NOT LEGALISM.
It is called joy.
It is called the joy of faith. It is what our hearts long for. I think those who throw up the boogie man of Legalism are like little children who only hear daddy say no and have not grown up to know what a life of faith really feels like.
Excellent, yes Pastor John, thank you. So what IS legalism? That was the theme of episode #157 — be sure to check that episode out. Thank you for listening to this podcast. You and thousands of other listeners tune into this podcast every day — and we are honored by that — so thank you for listening. It’s truly a joy to produce and distribute this podcast free of charge for you. If you’ve found this to be a helpful resource for your Christian growth, we encourage you to consider telling others about the podcast, and of course we are grateful for any financial gift to Desiring God that will help continue to make this free outreach ministry to others possible, as we seek to bring God’s word to bear on the most common concerns of our lives, like food and driving the speed limit. Financial gifts can be given online at desiringGod.org — look for the button that says “donate” on the top of the homepage. It’s the gifts of listeners like you that financially support the ministry — so thank you for making this podcast possible. And speaking of significant life concerns, tomorrow we talk about eternal security, specifically: is eternal security like a vaccination shot or is it more like therapy? Well ask Pastor John next time. Until then, I’m your host Tony Reinke, thank you for listening — and thank you for partnering with us.
© 2015 Desiring God Foundation. Distribution Guidelines
Used by Permission.
Share the Joy! You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in physical form, in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For posting online, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. For videos, please embed from the original source. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2015 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org