Covid-19 Devotionals

On Tolls

We travelled through to Benoni today for the Wednesday Morning Bible Study at 9.30am. Jenny and I reflected afterwards and agreed we had a most enjoyable time with those present. The idea was to get to know each other, study a passage from the Scriptures and enjoy a round of speaking to our Lord.

After this, we needed to go to the Bible Society in Kempton Park as one friend required a North Sotho Bible, another friend needed a quote on a large print NIV Bible and the treasurer of the Church in Benoni asked me to obtain a quote on a certain larger print NIV Bible. I was quite amazed at the strictness of the COVID protocol at the Bible Society. Once inside the Bible Centre I found that they no longer produce North Sotho Bibles. These have been replaced with the Sepedi Bible. The leather-bound large print NIV Bible and the larger print NIV Bible the treasurer of the Church required a quote on are also no longer in production. Although the products I wanted were discontinued, they have alternatives … praise the Lord.

Once we left the Bible Society and headed for the R21 highway towards Pretoria, we found the road to have many potholes. Some were only noticeable once you were about to hit them. Once on the highway, it was plain sailing all the way home. This made me think about the value of toll roads.

I was first introduced to toll roads in the United Arab Emirates many years ago. Vehicles needed a “toll tag” similar to the “etag” we now have in South Africa. Each time you pass through a toll gantry, the relevant amount is deducted. Should you not have sufficient money on your “tag” or should you not have a tag, before you could renew your vehicles’ license, which included the payment of the vehicle’s insurance, you would be required to pay the arrear toll fees. (The vehicle number plate recognition cameras recorded each vehicle passing through, so an accurate account was levied.) No pay – no license – no insurance – no use of vehicle. Unlike many, I am a believer in the user pay system. You use the toll roads (which are of the best quality in the world), and you pay for your use thereof. There are many references to tax collection in the Bible. One is found in Luke 5:

Lk 5:27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

Levi was a tax collector and sat in a tax booth gathering taxes. He collected taxes from people passing through his booth. Like in all ages, tax collectors were hated. Even though tax collectors in Israel were not Roman citizens, they were seen as Roman tax-gatherers. The reason for the hatred of these gatherers was that the Roman Senate “farmed” tax collection out to rich “capitalists”, who would pay an agreed sum into the government’s treasury and then reimburse themselves, mostly through excessive taxation. This is why they were despised and hated.

These “capitalists” formed themselves into a Joint-Stock Company and chose a general manager who lived in Rome. They would appoint sub-managers for the various provinces who had officials under them doing the actual gathering of taxes. It seems as though Levi (Jesus changed his name to Matthew) was employed as a tax gatherer. The ‘directors’ or ‘capitalists’ were ruthless businessmen / politicians. They used all the machinery at their disposal to collect exorbitant taxes beyond what the law required. Some were Jews and accrued extreme dislike from their Jewish ‘brotherhood’ and were therefore considered worse than the heathen. They were seen as traitors to the people of God and completely excluded from fellowship. Even their gifts brought to the temple were rejected. They were seen as equivalent to sinners!

Mt 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

Either a house or a booth was built at the foot of bridges, at the sea side and sea ports, at the gates to cities and at a river mouths. Anywhere the Romans could exact taxes became a type of “toll gate” for the capitalists’ Joint Stock Company. What most people don’t realize is that the tax percentage against income was far higher in the first century than what we have today, and we moan and mostly detest the taxman … though in our case, taxation is regulated by law without having a cartel as an intermediary.

Even though most people do not pay for the use of our eToll highways, the road network of good main arterial routes are increasing, cutting down traveling time, petrol usage, tyre wear and tear and maintenance. We who are intentional Christians cannot say we are Bible believing and practicing when we refuse to obey what the Bible says. What does it say?

Ro 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.

Ro 13:6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

It’s amazing how we (including me) want to find ways to dodge taxation when our Lord expressly says we need to pay it! This is the reason I chose to obtain a pay as you go etag years ago. Now I am able to enjoy the highways with a guilt-free conscience. I even enjoy it when vehicles speed past me to queue at the toll gate and I drive through the etag boom and get ahead of them again.

Dear Lord God Almighty, You have given us Your precious Word as Your instruction to us for living all of life. Help us, Your people, to take all of Scripture seriously, knowing that when we purposely avoid paying taxes we are in defiance and rebellion against Your Biblical requirements. Instead of us piling up disobedience, help us to pile up obedience, for we know that when we honour You, You honour us and provide for all our needs. Amen.

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