I will admit it. Most of the time I wonder if anyone is paying any attention to my sermon. And I understand why. Week after week, blah blah blah blah Jesus, blah blah blah God. Amen. We have heard it all before. No one is paying any attention.
But then one morning you are reading your paper and suddenly you see your idea, your thought show up in the national news! Someone that wasn’t even in worship that morning has obviously caught wind of your idea and now wants to make it national policy!
It happened today! Well, the sermon was this summer, a sermon about Zacchaeus. (I will pause for a moment while you sing the song. Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he….)
Anyway, as a way of explaining who he was, and how he had earned his wealth, I gave this explanation.
And in this place, in this place Zacchaeus was a tax collector. No, not A tax collector, but the chief tax collector! It was a job that was the envy of all. Sure, it meant that he had to conspire with the Romans; it meant that he bore the scorn of all his fellow Jews—but when you are living in one of the nicest homes in the winter capitol you can put up with a lot of scorn!
And it wasn’t like he had done anything wrong. He had just worked the system the way it was set up! The Romans had fashioned a system to collect taxes from their far-flung empire. They appointed a chief tax collector who had the responsibility of sending Rome a certain amount of money each year. If the revenue got to Rome all was well. If it didn’t, it was the chief tax collector’s head that was on the line—or chopping block—literally! All they wanted was the money! How that was collected was not their concern!
Imagine for a moment that you had that job, and Columbia said that you needed to send $100,000 this month to the coffers. How would you do it? Tax income—you can. But what if you decided instead to tax every car that crossed a river? Imagine how much money you would bring in if there was a toll booth before every bridge in Charleston—and it cost just $1.00 to cross—every bridge! I mean, it’s only a dollar. Not that much, but after a while, it would start to add up, because remember the fee goes each way! Every car, every truck, every vehicle crossing a bridge pays $1.00. How much revenue would that bring in? This week Brian Hicks reported that there are 55,000 cars that use the Ashley River bridge every day! Can you do the math?
And remember, you only have to send Columbia $100,000! And if you can tax a car on the bridges, why not on the roads without bridges? And why not the boats that come up the rivers? Do you see the profit in this!
That is how Zacchaeus had gotten rich. He had added another tax to the people’s burden in order to pad his pocket. He hadn’t done anything wrong. He had played by the system; he had worked his way up the ladder; he had succeeded! He was rich!
Now obviously this wasn’t meant to be government policy! At least, I didn’t think it was. So imagine my surprise when I read that yesterday in her nomination hearing to become Secretary of Transportation, Elaine L. Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of KY, suggested that we might want to explore more public-private partnerships as a way of improving our nation’s sagging infrastructure.
Now on it’s face, that looks like a great idea! Why raise gas taxes when we can drive on the Vulcan Materials Motorway. (Ms Chao is on the board of Vulcan Materials) And who could be against the Halliburton Highway? It is their money that is funding it, right?
Remember that when you pay the toll on the road!
But wait! It was my idea shared at Providence Baptist! Maybe we should just but the Providence Baptist Wando Bridge on I-526! It is the way people from Mt. Pleasant get to church! We could charge $1.00 for everyone to cross it. We will give a pass to church members who have made a pledge! The funds will be used for missions, and good stuff! It will be a definite membership enhancement! You don’t have to join to use our bridge. Just pay $1.00—each way. Of course, you can always take another route. And we aren’t doing anything wrong! It is just the way the rules work.
Maybe I should listen to my sermon!