Is It Sinful For Drivers To Exceed The Speed Limit?

by Douglas Hoff

 

Many people travel around July 4th.  While some may take an airplane, a lot drive long distances to be with family.  As a result, the trip can be long indeed. For some, it seems only reasonable to drive as quickly as they can to arrive at their destination as soon as possible.  Such drivers practically fly down the highways.

Usually, they attempt to rationalize their action in a variety of ways.  It may be done consciously or unconsciously.  Some get tired of sitting for long periods especially if children are fussing.  Others see nothing wrong with exceeding the speed limit since they are going with the flow of traffic.  After all, the police are not stopping and ticketing the rest who are speeding so it must be OK, right? Wrong.  Even if one or a hundred police officers say they will not stop a person, it does not make it right to break the law.

Some Christians even argue this point saying drivers who will not exceed the speed limit create a dangerous situation by going too slowly.  Thus, they conclude the one who obeys the law is being irresponsible by not going along with the multitude!  Long ago the apostle Paul had something to say about those who advocate, “Let us do evil that good may come” (Romans 3:8).  What did he say?  “Their condemnation is just.”  Long before Paul’s time Moses wrote, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” (Exodus 23:2).  Traffic laws are enacted for the safety of all drivers.  If everyone obeyed the speed limit and only one driver was going 20 miles per hour faster than the rest, who would be the irresponsible one?  Under those conditions the speeder is obviously the reckless one liable to cause an accident.  Although most motorists disregard the law, this does not make the law-abiding driver the dangerous one.  Those who break the law show contempt for the law and reveal themselves as the truly dangerous ones.

Every driver, and especially the Christian, needs to remember God’s word commands us to obey the laws of the land.  Consider the following scriptures in this regard: “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1; NKJV).  “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1; NKJV).

On one occasion a tax collector asked Peter if Jesus were going to pay the tax (Matthew 17:24-27).  Though the Lord showed the kings’ sons are free, he ordered Peter to pay the tax for them both to avoid giving offense.  This incident is a perfect example for Christians (1 John 2:6).  Even the sons of God must pay taxes to human governments (Romans 13:6-8).  Thus, every person, Christian and non-Christian alike, must obey the laws of the land.

There are exceptions to this rule.  God expects us to obey man-made laws unless: 1.) they forbid us from doing what God had commanded or, 2.) they command us to do what God has forbidden.  The Bible contains examples of both situations and shows the proper response.

Recall the Jewish council commanded the apostles not to teach or preach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:15, 18; cf, 5:28).  However, Jesus had commanded them with greater authority (Matthew 28:18) to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).  So how did the apostles respond to the council’s decree?  First, “Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19, 20; NKJV).  Later, “Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29; NKJV).

Also, recall that Nebuchadnezzar issued a royal decree that everyone in his kingdom was to tall down and worship the golden image when they heard the sound of the various musical instruments (Daniel 3:1-7).  However, remember that three courageous young Jews refused to engage in such idolatry although the penalty was to be thrown in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:8-18; Exodus 20:45).

Does the speed limit law forbid a driver from doing anything God has commanded?  No.  Does it command a driver to do something that God had forbidden?  Again, no.  So, man must obey the law as it is written.  To do otherwise is to resist the ordinance of God (Romans 13:2).  Here is what the rule book says:

 

MINIMUM AND MAXIMUM SPEEDS:  A driver should use common sense when driving.  Driving too fast or too slowly may create a dangerous situation.  Regardless of the posted speed limit, weather and traffic conditions may make it necessary to drive more slowly [added, DBH. Note: It does NOT say drive faster!]  However, driving too slowly can also be dangerous.  Your speed should be adjusted for the conditions and match the flow of traffic as long as it does not surpass the maximum posted speed [added, DBH].1

 

Are there ever occasions where exceeding the speed limit may be justifiable?  In other words, does the law allow for any exceptions?  Common sense must be employed in answering this question.  The above quotation shows this to be the case.  For example, even though a driver is normally not permitted to go through an intersection on a red light, I saw a situation recently where it became necessary.  All three westbound lanes of Empire Street had cars stopped at the intersection facing Prospect Road.  An ambulance came up behind them with its lights flashing and sirens blaring.  A car had to move to let the ambulance through.  This meant a driver had to go through a red light.  Was this action illegal or warranted (cf. Matthew 12:1-8)?  Likewise situations may arise where it becomes necessary for safety’s sake to temporarily exceed the speed limit.  Yes, exceptions exist, but they are not the rule.  Exceptions should never be used in an attempt to justify regular speeding.

Some want to declare their independence from man’s laws — especially speed limits, the mandated use of seat belts, child safety seats and insurance. However, God’s word teaches we must obey these laws.  We are not at liberty to pick the laws we will obey.  Those who obey only the laws they like or agree with are resisting the ordinances of God.  We must obey the whole law (James 2:10, 11).  Are you obedient in ALL things (2 Corinthians 2:9)?

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1 “Vehicle Speed,” in Illinois Rules of the Road, Jesse White, Secretary of State (n.p.: State of Illinois, 2000), 76,7