Question:

I am writing to you asking for your guidance. I am a believer of Christ, but am in a dark spiritual place. I do not understand the biblical concept or requirements of restitution fully. Clearly Zacchaeus made restitution for the sins he committed and was saved. But is restitution required for salvation or repentance?

I am the sole breadwinner for my family with a wife and children. I've talked to my family about the idea of restitution and they seem to think that because of verses like John 3:16 and 1 John 1:9 that we are forgiven by admitting to God our wrong and changing our behavior but not necessarily in terms of correcting past sins. I fear for their salvation as well as my own salvation, that I may be unsaved or unrepentant if I refuse to make restitution. As you may know already Charles Spurgeon said, "And hence, if you have wronged another man in what you have done, you must Vigorously Endeavour all possible restitution, restitution, a Thing too little understood, too little exhorted, too little practised; restitution without which there can be no right repentance. This is the Repentance which is found in every true believer; It must be found in every one that would be saved."

There are some issues that I could use your thoughts on: In high school I illegally burned some CDs and sold them for 10.00 a piece, probably around six of them, but I don't know how many precisely anymore. I know the CD. Do I purchase copies of those CDs legitimately so that the defrauded money leaves and the artists would get compensated? Would it be proper to purchase new CDs only or used CDs?

At one time I used my work discount card to get a friend an added discount but no longer know what the discounted value, do I have to send them a check?

I also was involved in two hit and runs while in high school. The first one was with a neighbor's daughter. No one was hurt and no significant damage done to the cars. No charges were pressed and my mother talked to the neighbor's mother about it. Should i seek out forgiveness and offer restitution in this case? In the second instance I got out of my car and didn't see significant damage and thought it was OK, not leaving any contact or insurance information. I then was able to put two and two together and figure out the owner in high school, but don't know that I could re-identify them through a yearbook. Is restitution required in the first situation? In the second situation would it suffice to simply pay the money to God or do I have to try to figure out who it was so that I can be reconciled with the brother?

In my job I was supposed to advertise activities. I didn't advertise all of my activities but wrote them down as activities. Do I have to return some of the stipend that I received for that? Should I contact the institution and ask for forgiveness, or is this such a petty thing that they would be annoyed by such a confession?

On a similar wavelength I was a paid intern and I feel that they did not get all of the hours out of me that I was paid for. I no longer know how much time I worked each week vs didn't work. How much should I pay back?

Thank you for your time. I appreciate your godly counsel on these matters.


Answer:

What the Bible also says is that when you sin, you are to repent of that sin. Repentance from sin means making a complete turn around in your attitude and behavior toward sin. Paul said he "declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20).

A part of the change is a desire to fix problems that you may have caused when sinning. "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:10-11). Zacchaeus demonstrated this when he turned to Jesus. "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold" (Luke 19:8). Zacchaeus declared that if he wrongfully took money from someone, he would return to that person four times what he stole. The Jewish Law only required that a thief return 20% more, but we can see Zacchaeus' zeal in wanting to change because he was willing to do more than the law required. Of course, there would be many whom Zacchaeus would not remember or not able to restore. For these, Zacchaeus declared he would take half of what he had and give it to the poor. Perhaps those he stole from would benefit, but in this manner he removed the ill-gotten profits from his own household.

Notice, though, that Zacchaeus did not say he was going to track down every person and deliver a personal apology. Many would not be available. Many would not be known. Rather Zacchaeus is letting it be known what he is willing to do and he hopes any who harbor ill against him will contact him.

The CDs can easily be remedy by purchasing replacements. Used CDs would not get the funds back to the original band. There is no need for purchasing extras, unless you just happen to like the band.

The first car incident was settled by your mother. The second is past being settled. I doubt the person has the car anymore, let alone either of you being able to assess what the damage might have been.

The companies were willing to pay you for the work you did. Yes, you could have done better, but the past is over and done with here.

Instead of trying to "buy" your way into salvation by setting an impossible task of remembering and correcting every possible fault you ever did in your life, focus on the future and become a man whom everyone knows is an ideal Christian. That change in your behavior is "works befitting repentance."