A Lesson from a Toll Booth

A few weeks ago we were traveling to one of those family reunions that are put together in less than 24 hours.  This was a wonder in light of our inability with any amount of planning to get enough family members committed for an annual reunion.  We were going to my aunt’s funeral. 

We were at the end of the third day’s drive when we approached a toll booth.  It appeared to be no different than any of the other toll booths we had approached and ‘E-ZPass’ed our way through on the trip.  I double checked the signs to make sure we were in the correct lane.  I pulled into a lane with two cars in line.  The booths had traffic control arms that dropped for each car and rose once the E-ZPass signal registered.

As we came to a stop, the arm rose, and the first car left the booth.  The second car pulled up into position and stopped.  We pulled up and stopped.  And waited . . . and waited . . . and waited.  Finally an attendant came out to the car in front of us.  The driver rolled her window down.  The two conversed for a bit.  Then the driver looked into her purse, shuffled some things around, picked up her E-ZPass transponder, and handed it to the attendant.

As I watched the attendant take the transponder into the toll booth, I laughed to myself and at myself.  I fully thought the driver was going to hand the attendant money for the toll, not an E-ZPass transponder.  It was a welcomed laugh at the end of a long day on the highway.

It wasn’t until the next day that the lesson of that stop at the toll booth struck me.  As we went through our first toll booth of the day and I began to reflect on the events of the previous day, I realized that what we witnessed as very much like what Christ spoke of in Matthew 5.  It could easily be a contemporary equivalent of what Christ told his disciples.

In Matthew 5:14-16, He begins his instruction with a statement—v. 14a “You are the light of the world.”  Christ is simply saying here is the situation or condition that you must recognize.  This is not potential or prophetic.  This is positive, individual, and factual.  He follows that with a second statement—vv. 14b-15 “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.”  This is also individual and factual.  Light has a purpose—to illuminate.  Consequently, lights belong on hill tops and lampstands, not under baskets.  A covered light cannot fulfill its purpose.  Both truths are undeniable.

An E-ZPass transponder in a purse cannot fulfill its purpose.  It may be fully functioning, but if it is concealed it isn’t going to serve its purpose and the control arm will never rise.  Traffic will come to a halt.  An attendant will have to leave their booth.  The driver will be embarrassed (I assume).  And other drivers will be upset.

Christ ends this lesson with an admonition—v. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  Don’t hide our light.  Don’t limit your light.  Be a reflection of the heavenly Father in all you do and say.

As believers, we each have an E-ZPass transponder that will open heaven’s gates.  It is the salvation that we received through faith in Christ’s redemptive work on Calvary.  If we keep it in our purse or in our pocket, it cannot illuminate the world around us.  It cannot open the gates of heaven for all who need to enter.  So . . . “Let your light shine.”  And let it shine today.

About Charles McLain
I am Chair and Professor of Old Testament at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA.

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