John Denney, 12 SEPT. 2000


I was working in London yesterday (and came back with a cold!) and got back to London Road Station earlier than I expected, a little after five o’clock.  But I still got home about the normal time.  And the cause of the traffic delays was motorists queuing up for petrol.  It brought back the time a little under thirty years ago when we suffered the petrol crisis, and we sometimes had to queue for a couple of hours and even then we only got a measly four gallons.  The government even issued ration books to us all, though they never came into effect.


That time, it was the oil producers who caused the shortage.  This time, it’s the hauliers and farmers and taxi drivers and others who are blockading the refineries in order to impress on the government their view that it’s the government’s own fault for jacking up the price of petrol through excessive taxation.


Now (he said smugly) I filled up on Saturday before the crisis.  I felt a bit like those wise maidens in the Bible who kept their lamps filled with oil so as to be ready if their bridegroom came elope with them in the night.  But my self-congratulation turned a bit sour when I found I had to pay 50 for a tankful that’ll last me about a week.  And about forty quid of that is tax.


The Bible tells Christians they must cheerfully pay taxes - even petrol taxes - properly levied by the government, because that’s part of the government’s job.  Of course, there’s another side to that: government ministers will be accountable to God for how just they have been in their exercise of power.  That’s an awesome responsibility, and I hope that those we elect to govern us bear it in mind.


To finish, here’s a story about a couple of nuns, who ran out of petrol one day out in the countryside.  One of them trudged off to find a garage.  When she found one, they didn’t have a spare petrol can for her to use, but eventually the garage owner found the only container he had – an old potty his children had long ago grown out of.  She filled it with a couple of litres of petrol and trudged carefully back to the car.  She was just pouring from the potty into the tank when a farm hand passed by, driving a herd of cows.  “I don’t share your religion, sisters,” he said, “but I certainly admire your faith!”


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