“You shall not steal.”
(Ex. 20:15; Dt. 5:19; Eph. 4:28).
Introduction: God’s commandment against stealing is something that exists in all cultures. Like the prohibitions against murder and adultery, the non-Judeo-Christian nations of the world have rules against theft because it is part of God’s “Law written in their hearts . . .” (Ro. 2:14-15, same Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10, 16; 2 Cor. 3:3.) Yet, like murder and adultery, theft is a crime that most people believe is a problem that belongs to someone else. God, however, makes clear that theft can come in many forms. Many kinds of theft, like failing to properly tithe, are also things that many believers are guilty of. To prevent theft, we must first understand why believers do it. Moreover, to motivate ourselves to change our behavior, we must understand why theft is so offensive to God and harmful to the winning of souls when a believer engages in it. To appreciate the mercy and grace we have received, we must also know the consequences of theft for the unsaved and the saved. We must also look to the many examples of theft in Old Testament times and understand how they correlate to business practices in modern times. Once we learn of our sins through the study of God’s Law, we must repent of those areas where our conduct has fallen short of God’s standards. In order to be forgiven in God’s eyes, we must also learn to forgive those who have stolen from us. Finally, God requires that we pay restitution to any person that a believer has stolen from. Although God will forgive you of your sins to allow you eternal life when you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, He still expects you to make right with those you have wronged here on Earth. Restitution includes returning anything that does not belong to you with interest.
(1) Theft is the result of a covetous or greedy heart. The primary root behind theft is a heart that is filled with coveting or greed. Coveting is the desire to have which you do not own. Greed is the desire to have more of something that you already own. The theft of money can involve both sins. God warns us that: “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6:10.) “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth and does not know that want will come upon him.” (Prov. 28:22.) “A faithful man will have many blessings, but one in a hurry to get rich will not go unpunished.” (Prov. 28:20.) If we are motivated to take that which is not ours or consume more than God intended for us, that desire will never be quenched by stealing. (Is. 56:11.) If a thief is successful, it won’t be long before the thief steals more. Where in yourself do you draw the line between loving money and simply collecting what you need? If you don’t draw a line, Satan will do it for you.
(2) Theft is the result of a selfish heart. Another root to the evil of theft is the desire to place your own wants above the person or entity that you steal from. When asked to identify the greatest commandment, Jesus said that it was to ‘“love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”’ (Matt. 22:37-8.) ‘“The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’” (Matt. 22:39-40.) Paul restated that a believer should: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘ . . . you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom. 13:8-10.) If you have ever been tempted to steal from an employer, customer, partner or client or take something that another lost, have you ever stopped and wondered how you would feel if someone stole from you?
(3) Theft is also the result of a faithless and untrusting heart. Jesus says that we are not to worry about God’s provision. (Matt. 6:34.) An example of theft caused by the failure to trust God can be seen in Rachel’s theft from her father. When Jacob decided to deceive Laban and flee with his two daughters, his family and his flocks, Rachel felt the family needed protection. Thus, “Rachel stole the household idols that were her father’s.” (Gen. 31:1.) Assuming she had told Jacob that she had adopted Yahweh as her God, she did not show much trust in Him. She made Jacob a poor witness to Laban about their faith in Yahweh. Can you find the trust to sing praise for God in your darkest hour? (Ps. 118:24.) Do you believe in your times of need that all things are working together for good because you love God and are called according to His purpose? (Rom. 8:28.)
Failing to tithe is robbery against God. The number one area where believers steal is in the area of tithing. A believer steals and breaks the Eighth Commandment any time he or she fails to fully tithe to God: ‘“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.’” (Mal. 3:8-10.) Do you faithfully give ten percent of your wages? Tithing is the only area where God invites us to test Him. (Id.) When times are tough economically, do you tithe more than you do normally? If you are only tithing when times are good, how much trust are you showing God?
A believer who withholds tithes robs the Church of funds that it needs. Tithing is the means by which God uses the blessings in your life to help others in need. We need only look to the story of Ananias and Sapphira to see how seriously God takes theft within the Church: “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?’” (Acts 5:1-3.) Both Ananias and Sapphira died for lying about the price they received from selling their land. (Acts 5:4-10.) The two were likely motivated by a combination of greed and failing to trust God to provide all that they needed. Tithing allows God to support those in ministry full time, missionaries in other countries, the poor and members of the Church who are in temporary need. Just because we don’t see believers dying today when they withhold tithes, should we assume that God no longer cares? If you are between churches, is that an excuse not to tithe? Likewise. if you don’t like your church, is that an excuse not to tithe?
Share the wealth that God has given you. Every good and perfect thing is from above. (Jam. 1:17.) This includes your wages. Thus, Jesus expects you to share that which He has given you with others: “And he would answer and say to them, ‘The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.’” (Luke 3:11.) “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matt. 25:37-40.) Do you recognize that everything you have was given by God? Or, do you believe that what you have earned is the result solely of your labor? If the latter is true, are you likely to be a cheerful giver to help out those in need and to advance God’s kingdom on earth?
If you steal, you show God that He cannot trust you with big things. Jesus warns that God watches to see if we misuse the money that He has given us to determine if we are ready for bigger things from Him: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Lk. 16:10-13.) If God cannot trust you on a small matter like tithing back from the money He gives you, can He trust you with even bigger assignments?
We are to work hard to provide for others in need. Jesus tells us that we have all been given “talents” or abilities from God. If we fail to use our talents for God, we are robbing from the labor and talents that God meant for His Church: “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.”’ (Matt. 25:26-27.) If God has given you the ability to labor for His Kingdom and those in need and you don’t work, your slothfulness is also a form of theft from God: “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.” (Eph. 4:28.) “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35.) Are you laboring as hard as you to support God’s Kingdom and those in need around you? Or, are you looking to be supported by others?
A believer should not be a burden upon others if he or she can work. Although God expects believers to provide for others in need, it is a sin for a believer to look for handouts from others if he or she can work: “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you;” (2 Thess. 3:7-8.) If you are depending upon handouts from the government, your parents or others when you could be working, are you generating tithes to support others in need? Or, are you diverting help from those who truly need it? For these reasons, it is not God’s will for governments to set up welfare eligibility standards that penalize recipients when they work.
A believer who steals profanes God’s name. Paul says that you are an “ambassador” for Christ. (2 Cor. 5:20.) This means that you represent Him through both your words and your deeds. If you steal as an ambassador for Christ, you cast both God’s name and what it means to be a Christian in unholy light. Thus, when you steal, you not only break the Eighth Commandment against theft, you also take the Lord’s name in vain: “Two things I asked of You . . . give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:7-9.) If you steal, how many people will likely inquire with interest about your faith?
Religious leaders who pressure tithing for self-indulgence also defame God. Religious leaders are held to a high standard because they purport to represent God. Thus, they fall under Christ’s condemnation if they pressure their flock to give in a way that results in their own self-indulgence: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.” (Matt. 23:25.) A religious leader who engages in self-indulgence with God’s property will frequently appear on the outside to act with sound motives. For example, Judas Iscariot complained that certain perfume could have been sold and given to the poor. (Jo. 12:5.) Yet, he had hidden motives behind his outward acts of piety: “Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” (Jo. 12:6.) If a successful church leader leads a large congregation, the church put limits on the leader’s pay. The opulent life style of a successful church leader might cause others to stumble.
A teacher of false doctrine also robs God of His sheep. Jesus says that His is “the door of the sheep.” (Jo. 10:7.) All those who offer another way to salvation “are thieves and robbers.” (Jo. 10:8.) God warns that those false shepherds who scatter His flock will be punished. (Jer. 23:1-2; Eze. 34:1-10.) If you are leading others, be careful in what you say or do.
God hears the cries of those cheated financially. Christ warned that “the flesh profits nothing.” (Jo. 6:63.) God also warns that He hears the prayers of those who are cheated: “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabbath.” (Jam. 5:4.) If you steal, you cannot live in peace. Eventually, “your sin will find you out”. (Nu. 32:23.)
For the unsaved, theft also bars the person from heaven. God’s grace only has meaning if you know what you are saved from. Without a savior, a thief is barred from heaven: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither . . . thieves, nor the covetous . . . will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10.) For the unsaved thief, his or her actions also profane God’s name. (Prov. 30:7-9.) This separately brings a death sentence upon the thief: “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him.” (Lev. 24:16.) Before we casually dismiss this as an Old Testament penalty that only applied to the Jews, God makes clear that it applied to non-believers as well. “The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (Lev. 24:16; Deut. 5:11.) Have you given thanks to Christ that you are spared from your penalty?
A thief can bring both prison time and shame upon him or herself. A thief who is caught will face the full penalties of the law. This may include jail time. Government officials who prosecute theft do so as God’s avengers of evil. (Rom. 13:4.) God also warns that the thief will be convicted by shame: “the thief is shamed when he is discovered. . . ” (Jer. 2:26.) If the Holy Spirit convicts you of theft, repent of your sins. (Matt. 3:2, 4:17; Mk. 1:15.)
A believer who steals also brings shame upon his or her family. Some thieves may claim that they don’t care about the consequences to themselves for their actions. Yet, King Solomon warns that a thief also brings shame upon his or her family: “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house . . .” (Prov. 15:27.) An example of this can be seen in Rachel’s theft of her father Laban’s idols. When Laban discovered his missing idols, he pursued after Jacob believing that Jacob took them. Not knowing that Rachael took them, Laban accused Jacob of theft: “Now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father's house; but why did you steal my gods?” (Gen. 31:30.) Jacob did not know that Rachel took the idols. He said that whoever took them would die, a sentence that would fall upon her upon Benjamin’s birth. (Gen. 31:32; 35:19.) Rachael then hid the idols by sitting on them and falsely claiming that she was having her period. (Gen. 31:3-35.) After Laban could not find the idols, Jacob protested that he had been falsely accused of theft after 20 years of faithful service. (Gen. 31:38.) Rachael’s one act of theft ruined Jacob’s 20 years’ worth of hard earned integrity. Likewise, when a believer steals, he or she stigmatizes his or her family. If a thief spends time in jail, the children and the spouse will never really escape the stigma of the thief’s actions.
Failing to pay taxes is a sin. Some believers believe that they can refuse to obey tax laws that they believe to be unfair. God’s Eighth Commandment does allow for the protection of private property. Although God’s laws called for social welfare, they did not call for socialism. Yet, Jesus said that you are to obey your tax laws: “‘Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.’” (Matt. 22:21.) The authorities who impose taxes have the authority vested by God: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Rom. 13:1-2.) The proper remedy for Christians in a democracy when faced with unjust tax laws is to pray and vote. Rebellion and theft are all tools of the devil.
An aggrieved employee cannot try to make things right by stealing from an employer. Some aggrieved employees feel justified pilfering if everyone does it or if the employer pays unfairly. Paul, however, warns us that its never proper to steal from an employer: “Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.” (Titus 2:9-10.) If you work for an ungodly employer, what kind of witness are you if you respond to evil with evil?
An employer’s failure to pay wages in a timely manner is also theft. Employers are conversely warned not to withhold employee wages: “You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning.” (Lev. 19:13.) “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the Lord and it become sin in you.” (Dt. 24:14-15.) “He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” (Prov. 22:16.) If an employer is having cash flow problems, the employer can never delay paying an employee’s wages. “The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning.” (Lev. 19:13(b).)
The use of deceptive business practices is theft. In Old Testament times, the primary means of calculating a fair price in commerce was with a scale. God’s people were warned that severe punishment awaited them if they manipulated the scale to increase their profits: “‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt. You shall thus observe all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them; I am the Lord.’” (Lev. 19:35-37.) “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.” (Prov. 11:1.) “Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord, and a false scale is not good.” (Prov. 20:23.) Today, few people use scales in commerce. Yet, there are many modern equivalents. A doctor, a chiropractor or a hospital should not inflate their services or their bills merely because the government or an insurer is paying the bill. Are you inflating your hours or prices on a bill to a client or customer thinking that you will never be caught?
King Ahab’s theft through fraud of Naboth’s vineyard. King Ahab wanted the vineyard belonging to Naboth because he liked it. Yet, Naboth refused to give it up because the land was an inheritance for his family. (1 Kgs. 21:1-3.) King Ahab and his wife Jezebel then wrote a letter to the elders in Naboth’s town and told them to proclaim a fast. They then used that fast as an opportunity to declare Naboth as someone who had blasphemed against God. Thus, they had Naboth killed. (1 Kgs. 21:8-14.) They then took possession of Naboth’s land. (1 Kgs. 21:15-16.) God then proclaimed judgment upon King Ahab through Elijah for his fraudulent theft and murder of Naboth. (1 Kgs. 21:17-24.) If you defraud others and fail to repent, can you expect that God will not punish you?
Charging usury interest is also theft. God’s law allowed for lending. He just prohibited “usurious interest.” (Lev. 25:36.) The devil, however, will try to enslave you with high interest debt. God will provide for our needs, not wants. (Matt. 6:25-34.) If you are running tight on money, the high interest credit card or mortgage debt is not the means that God provides to supply your needs. He wants you to be patient, pray, hard for your provision and seek help if needed. Likewise, if you have money, it is never acceptable to charge multiple times the normal interest rate to someone who is a high credit risk under the pretext that banks will not lend to the person. An economist might say that such a “hard money” lender helps to create a market where none would otherwise exist. Yet, this is not God’s will.
Charging more than the proper rate for your services can also be a form of theft. Jesus gave advice to a group of tax collectors seeking to be baptized that applies to anyone in a business with the authority to set his or her own rates for their services: “And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.’” (Lk. 3:12-13.) If a natural disaster strikes, a Christian business owner or provider should not raise his or her prices beyond the cost of his or her supplies. To price gouge against those afflicted by disaster reflects poorly upon the light of Christ within you.
Being in partnership with a dishonest business person can also impute theft to a believer. Solomon also warns that “He who is a partner with a thief hates his own life . . .” (Prov. 29:24.) Thus, we are warned not to associate or even dine with those who swindle money from others: “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, . . . or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor. 5:11.) If your partner is a thief, what kind of witness are you to others?
Failing to return a loan is also theft. David also warns that: “The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives.” (Ps. 37:21.) If you borrow money and fall upon hard times, it is not right to stiff a lender if you can repay a loan.
The exception of debt forgiveness during the Jubilee Year. There was one exception to the rule requiring the repayment of debt. Every 50th year, each person was to receive back any property that he or she might have lost through debts. (Lev. 25:8-22.) Having a year when debts are cancelled and the land is redeemed would open some lenders to fraud. Yet, God also protected lenders from fraud. (Lev. 25:14-17.) The modern rules for bankruptcy have their origin in these laws. God does want you to be bound by your mistakes or misfortune forever. If God has forgiven your debts, you should also forgive those who owe you debts.
God gives mercy and grace to the starving thief. God tells us to show compassion upon the thief that steals out of true hunger: “People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.” (Prov. 6:30.) Yet, if the thief is caught, he or she is still responsible for repaying the victim. (Prov. 6:31.) If a person is hungry today, that person typically has remedies that do not involve stealing. These include the Church and welfare.
Give to charities to help those who are hungry. Solomon says that: “The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.” (Prov. 11:24.) A believer cannot assume that the government will always take care of the needs of the hungry. Nor should believers aspire to create a state where all welfare responsibilities are assumed by the government. If people create the perfect social welfare state where every need of the poor is met by the government, believers would have no need to show love or care for the poor. If you and your children live in comfort and never give to those in need, how much compassion will you and your children have for the poor? Love and compassion are like muscles. If you never exercise them by helping others, they will wither.
Repent and God will forgive your thefts. Through the study of the Law our sins are revealed to us. (Ro. 3:20.) John the Baptist and Jesus both taught that people needed to first “repent” before their sins could be forgiven. (Matt. 3:2, 4:17; Mk. 1:15.) Have you repented of the times you have failed to properly tithe, from failing to use your talents or from stealing from others?
Once you repent, any guilt you feel is not from God. If we confess our sins and accept Jesus as our Lord and savior, He is faithful to forgive our sins. (Eph. 1:7; 1 Jo. 1:9.) God further promises: “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Heb. 10:17; Rom. 8:1.) Like the Jews, there is nothing you have done to earn God’s grace. (Eph. 2:8-9.) Yet, it is “impossible” to please God when you lack faith. (Heb. 11:6.) If you continue to feel guilt for thefts after repenting, what are you saying about Christ’s power to forgive your thefts?
Give your life as a thank offering. Today, you are God’s anointed priest. (1 Pet. 2:5) You no longer need to buy or butcher the most expensive possessions to forgive your sins. You also don’t have to bear the “yoke” to earn your salvation. (Nu. 19:1.) Christ did that for you. (Jo. 3:16.) This should motivate you to give your life as a thank offering to Him. (Rom. 12:1-2.) Out of gratitude, are you giving Him the best of your life?
Forgive those who have stolen from you to be forgiven. In His model prayer, Jesus tells us to forgive those who owe us money or who have stolen from us: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matt. 6:12.) He further warns that you must forgive others to be forgiven: “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:15.) Do you still harbor any grudges against people who have stolen from you? Have you fully forgiven them in your heart?
Forgive those who steal from you and be blessed and receive mercy. If you forgive, Jesus also promises: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7.) If you are in need of mercy, will you show mercy to those who have hurt you?
Pray for those who have stolen from you. Sometimes, it is hard to forgive. This is especially true where the thief shows no remorse. In these circumstances, Jesus tells us “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44.) When Moses pleaded for God to spare the people after they built the golden calf, God did so. (Ex. 32:14.) Moses also prayed for Miriam and saved her. (Nu. 12:11.) Thus, intercessory prayer for your enemies works. Are you praying for those who have wronged you or stolen from you?
God requires that a sinner restore his or her victims. In the case of embezzlement, theft, extortion or the theft of lost property under false pretenses, God required the return of the stolen property: “[I]f they give back what they took in pledge for a loan, return what they have stolen, follow the decrees that give life, and do no evil—that person will surely live; they will not die.” (Ez. 33:15.) God separately required a “guilt” offering to fully restore the victim. (Lev. 6:1-4.) The Hebrew word for “guilt offering” is Asham. It means that the sinner must make the victim whole. Saying that you are sorry does not by itself fulfill God’s law. Are there victims of your sins that you need to make whole? If you have stolen from God, you can again repay Him by making your life a thank offering. (Rom. 12:1.)
Even accidental theft must be repaid. Even if you did not mean to steal, you must repay the damages caused by your actions: “If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed bare and lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man's field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.” (Ex. 22:5.) If a believer fails to pay for his or her damages, what kind of witness is the believer?
God also requires payment of at least a 20% penalty for theft. In the case of any type of theft, the sinner was to restore all stolen funds plus at least a fifth of the value of the stolen property as a penalty or 120% total. (Lev. 6:5.) Where the theft deprived someone of their livelihood (symbolized by animals), the penalty was twice the value of the stolen property: “If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.” (Ex. 22:4.) If the sinner had no remorse, the penalty was four times the value of the property: “He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.” (2 Sam. 12:6.)
Christ did not relieve us of the need to pay restitution. Although seldom preached in churches today, Christ did not relieve us of our obligation to restore our victims. After Zacchaeus accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, he promised to pay restitution four times above the amount that he had defrauded from others in the past: “Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.’” (Lk. 19:8) This suggests that Zacchaeus had defrauded others in the past without any remorse. (2 Sam. 12:6.) Jesus did not correct him or say that this was unnecessary. Christians correctly teach of the need for forgiveness. Yet, Christian churches still need to preach the need to pay restitution. If you fail to restore your victims, what kind of witness are you?
God will not accept our offerings unless we first restore our victims. God further commands that a person pay restitution “on the day he presents his guilt offering.” (Lev. 6:6.) Jesus later clarified that you must restore your victims before you seek God’s forgiveness: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matt. 5:23-24.) Although failing to do this will not affect your salvation, failing to do this will affect your fellowship with God. Are there any people that you have wronged who need to be made whole? If so, restore them without further delay.