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  • Rick LoPresti

Restitution


The writers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution based these documents on the Bible. 29 of the 56 signers of the Declaration held what we would call today seminary degrees. The historical evidence overwhelmingly shows the influence of the Bible on them and the founding of America. Biblical principles abound even today in the laws of the land. Only a rabid denier of God would attempt to assert otherwise. One example is the concept of restitution. It is not enough to pay society in general for crimes committed. In some cases restitution must be payed directly to the victim. The law of Moses commanded restitution. If a man stole another's animal and it was killed, the thief was to restore fourfold (Exodus 22:1). David quoted this law in response to Nathan's story of the lamb (2Samuel 12:6). If the animal was still alive, he was to restore double (Exodus 22:4). The same was true of money or stuff (Exodus 22:7). Proverbs 6:31 speaks of sevenfold restitution. When someone was freely confessing their theft rather than being caught, they were to add one fifth (Leviticus 6:5; Numbers 5:7). Judges today can order jail time and fines, but also restitution.

We have all sinned against God, and thus owe Him a debt that we can only pay ourselves by eternal damnation in hell (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23). Yet God loves us so much, that He came in the flesh and paid the price Himself (Isaiah 59:1-17, Matthew 20:28, John 1:1-3 & 14, John 3:16, 2Corinthians 5:19, 1Timothy 3:16). The word ransom in Matthew 20:28 means the price paid to free someone from slavery, captivity or death. Sin causes all 3 of these (John 8, Romans 6, 2Timothy 2:26). The history of man is woven with his futile efforts to free himself without God. Only He can save us (Isaiah 43:11, Acts 4:12). Only the blood of Jesus can pay this terrible price (Matthew 26:28). It is applied to us in water baptism in His name (Acts 2:38, Acts 10:43-48, Acts 22:16). The water has no special power. It is His name and His blood applied to us in faith and obedience to His command (Colossians 2:8-13, 1Peter 3:20-21).

However, we should be careful not to think that just asking God to forgive us is always enough to eliminate all accountability and consequences. King David committed adultery, and tried to cover it up with murder (2Samuel 11). God sent the prophet Nathan with a story about a lamb as mentioned above to confront him (2Samuel 12). One of the things that made David great was not his perfection, but his repentance. He later wrote Psalm 51 as a record of his repentant prayer to God. It is still a great example to us today. One of the things David said to God was, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest (Psalm 51:4)." While it is true that all sin is ultimately against God, especially as it pertains to judgment of sin; it is not true that there is no aspect of sin against man. David sinned against Bathsheba, her husband, his own family, and the whole nation of Israel over which he was the leader and influence. He also sinned against his own legacy. The punishment for both adultery and murder in the law of Moses was death (Leviticus 20:10, Leviticus 24:21). Bathsheba was also guilty of adultery. When David confessed, he was immediately told by the prophet that the death sentence would not be carried out (2Samuel 12:13). However, Nathan also told him of consequences for his sins which he would have to deal with the rest of his life (2Samuel 12:7-12). This would particularly affect his family. Bathsheba was pregnant, and the baby died. David literally lived out the words of James 1:14-15. Later his sons Absalom and Adonijah fulfilled other parts of Nathan's words (2Samuel 13-19, 1Kings 1).

This shows we can be forgiven but still have consequences. We need to understand this, or we can become confused about what God is doing, and what is going on in our lives. The devil would love nothing more than for us to get discouraged and think God does not love us, or that He has not forgiven us; and then give up our faith in God. God does not hold us accountable because He hates us. He does it to save us from making further errors, and to teach us responsibility and accountability. He does it because He loves us and wants what is eternally best for us (Proverbs 3:11-18, Hebrews 12:5-13).

Sometimes we not only need to make things right with God, but also with others. This includes asking for their forgiveness whether or not they give it (Matthew 5:23-26). It may also include making restitution if possible. Zacchaeus was the chief of the tax collectors (Luke 19:1-10). The tax collectors were Jews who worked for the Romans to collect their taxes. Needless to say, they were hated by their fellow Jews and looked at as traitors. To make things worse, they sometimes took more than they were supposed to. When Jesus passed through Jericho where Zacchaeus lived, he repented. He promised the Lord he would give half of his possessions to the poor, and would restore anything he got dishonestly fourfold. Jesus declared that salvation had come this house, and declared Zacchaeus a true son of Abraham. Sometimes it is impossible to undo our sins, and God will give us peace when we are truly repentant. He has already paid the eternal debt for our sins. However, if we have the opportunity, we should make reasonable efforts to also make restitution to our fellow man. This can be more than just money. God wants to restore damaged relationships (Matthew 18). Trust lost can be hard to win back, but is certainly worth the effort. Even if the other person does not respond, we can be made better by it.


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