In 1932 when I was in kindergarten, I was walking home with a friend after school one day, and he told me that he would teach me how to steal a cookie. He was to stop at the corner store on the way home to buy a pound of hamburger. When he ordered the hamburger, the owner of the store would go to the back room to grind and wrap it. While the owner was doing that, my friend would go to the cookie display and open a small glass door over a bin of cookies. He would remove two chocolate marshmallow cookies, give one to me, and put the other in his own pocket. He would pay the merchant for the hamburger, and we would leave the store. Sure enough, it went just as planned.
The corner store was two blocks from my home. In the first block, each of us ate our cookie. In the second block, I could feel the chocolate and marshmallow around my mouth. I licked my lips and rubbed my face. I knew my mother would see my mouth and ask where I got the chocolate. Well, she did not ask.
Fifteen years later during my second year at the U.S. Naval Academy, I received Christ. My sins were forgiven. I had new life in Christ. Sometime later while on leave, I stopped by the corner store at 24th and Oak Street in South Omaha to make restitution for that stolen cookie. The store was no longer there. I gave the money to the Lord.
All sins require repentance. Some of those sins also require restitution. The most common kind of sin that requires restitution is theft. Leviticus 6:1-7 lists the forms of stealing:
“The LORD said to Moses: “If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do—when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found, or whatever it was he swore falsely about. He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day he presents his guilt offering. And as a penalty he must bring to the priest, that is, to the LORD, his guilt offering, a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for him before the LORD, and he will be forgiven for any of these things he did that made him guilty.”
After giving the different kinds of stealing, the passage tells the solution, the means of forgiveness for the one who stole:
1) Return what he stole.
2) Add 20% of the value and give that also to the person he stole from.
3) Bring a guilt offering to the Lord.
When these are done, the thief receives atonement and forgiveness for his guilt.
That is Old Testament. What about in the New Testament? First, Jesus’ death on the cross is the fulfillment of all Old Testament sacrifices:
“Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (Hebrews 7:27).
Jesus’ death paid for the sins, the guilt, the death, and the punishment. Jesus does not repay the man who got ripped off. The person who comes to the Lord in repentance is to pay the one he stole from the value of the stolen goods plus one fifth (20%).
There are other cases where the percentage is 300 or 400%.
“If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep” (Exodus 22:1).
Here God is telling Moses detailed instructions to give the people. This is one of them. The restitution for live animals is much different from the 20% instructed in Leviticus. Why is this?
An ox is a mammal which first reproduces, then gives milk, cheese, butter, meat, and leather. A castrated male pulls the plow to produce crops. The ox is its owner’s means of income. Therefore, it is to be returned plus four more (400%) to make up for the income which was lost when it was stolen.
A sheep is a ruminous mammal that produces more sheep, wool, and meat. It is also a means of income and must be returned plus three more sheep (300%).
To be continued on Friday.
Excerpted from Repentance & Restitution—the Missing Ingredient in Repentance, available at ccmbooks.org and Amazon.com.