Driving the Speed Limit and Other Submissions

file0001487854709As with anytime I’m on the highway, our recent Thanksgiving road trip got me thinking about the speed limits. Mostly I stick to them. Mostly, it seems to me, other people don’t. Coming to and going from my brother’s house we were passed by a steady stream of vehicles, but one in particular caught my eye – an SUV with a large bumper sticker (more of a sign really) that read in part, “Jesus can read the speed limit sign” and went on to urge obeying the limit to save lives. It was probably doing 85.

Sharon and I shared a laugh and assumed good intentions on the part of the driver. Who among us can always practice what he preaches? Not me for sure. Nevertheless, the point stuck with me. We Christians are called to be model citizens, obeying the lawful orders of our government, including the speed limits. Yes, speeding is sinful, and we should not flout the traffic laws.

It hurts to say that, doesn’t it? Oftentimes speed limits seem arbitrary and unnecessarily slow, even “stupid” perhaps. Maybe they’re even intentionally set on the low side to generate ticket revenue for the city. We scoff and tell ourselves, “I know what’s safe,” and drive however we like. Well, we’ve got some emotional and spiritual growth coming apparently.

The Bible teaches us that God ordains all human authority and that, in general, inferiors owe a duty of compliance and allegiance to superiors. (See Q&A #123-#127 from the Westminster Larger Catechism reproduced below) Children should obey the parents, employees the boss, and citizens the government. Rebelliousness for it’s own sake is simply not appropriate.

Yes there is a place for legitimate civil disobedience, non-compliance with, or defiance of orders which are in opposition to God’s moral law. I don’t want to talk about that here because I think our larger (and my larger) problem is a certain level of baseline rebelliousness. It’s practically the American way.

Now I mostly drive the speed limit, but it hasn’t been out of a great respect for authority. Rather, I just don’t think speeding is a good idea from a safety standpoint, and also I don’t seem to be in as much of a hurry as when I was a younger man. The passing SUV sign has got me rethinking the issue and recognizing my inherent rebelliousness.

Maybe the laws are stupid. No matter, it’s not about that. It’s about meekness. Honestly, I do think a lot of our governing authorities’ requirements are ill-conceived to say the least. My compliance is often more from fear of negative consequences than anything else, when what’s called for is submission for Jesus’ sake. So I repent of that and plan to work on killing my “rebel spirit.” How about you? Any advice?


Some interesting excerpts from the Westminster Larger Catechism on the subject of obeying authorities:

123. Which is the fifth commandment?

The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

124. Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?

By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.

125. Why are superiors styled father and mother?

Superiors are styled father and mother, both to teach them in all duties toward their inferiors, like natural parents, to express love and tenderness to them, according to their several relations; and to work inferiors to a greater willingness and cheerfulness in performing their duties to their superiors, as to their parents.

126. What is the general scope of the fifth commandment?

The general scope of the fifth commandment is, the performance of those duties which we mutually owe in our several relations, as inferiors, superiors, or equals.

127. What is the honour that inferiors owe to their superiors?

The honour which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart, word, and behaviour; prayer and thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections; fidelity to, defence, and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places; bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love that so they may be an honour to them and to their government.