The Word of God records in Luke 19 the interaction between Jesus and Zacchaeus. One day, as Jesus was passing through the city of Jericho, Zacchaeus, chief among the publicans, sought to see Him. However, Zacchaeus was of little stature and was unable to see Jesus because of the people; he ran ahead of the throng of people and climbed up into a tree. When Jesus came his way, He stopped and, looking up into the tree, commanded Zacchaeus to come down. Jesus informed him that He must abide at his house that day. Zacchaeus, a tax collector for the Roman government, voluntarily promised to restore fourfold anything he had taken wrongfully. Jesus assured him that “…This day is salvation come to this house…” (Luke 19:9). In effect, Jesus was placing His approval on the principle of restitution.
Restitution is the act of restoring, to the owner, anything which has been wrongfully taken, or giving satisfaction to a person who has been injured. This is exactly what Zacchaeus said he would do in the nineteenth chapter of Luke.
Today, people who make restitution gain the favor of God and sometimes the confidence of both friends and enemies. It would be just as wrong to keep something that was stolen before one’s conversion as it would be to steal after one’s conversion. The only remedy is to restore it, then go and “…steal no more…” (Ephesians 4:28). Of course, God does not require anything of us that would be impossible; however, where it is possible, the Word of God instructs us to make wrongs right.
John the Baptist refused to baptize certain ones who came to him. He told them to “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:”(Matthew 3:8). No doubt some of John’s hearers had something they needed to repay, or make right, with their fellowman.
Believing is great and needful, but believing alone is not sufficient for salvation. The Word of God says that people must “clean up their act” and live a separated life in order to please God. Believing and practicing the “…all things whosoever I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20) is required by all who would follow Christ.
Romans 13:8 states, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another….” To willfully keep something that belongs to another would put one into the position of always owing that person. This would be contrary to the Word of God and displeasing to God. If a person owes no man anything but Christian love, then he can “…please his neighbor for his good to edification” (Romans 15:2).
Restitution may mean the difference between victory and defeat. Jesus said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). Living the separated Christian life is more serious than many suppose. To live a victorious life, we need to consider the personal application of this Bible teaching in our lives. It is necessary in order to please God and will result in a clear conscience between us, our fellowman, and God.
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