What is the New Testament Biblical basis for making restitution? I've read the story of Zacchaeus, and it's not completely set in stone as to what the structure is. The biggest question I have is if you've tried making restitution and the involved party won't accept your offer, should you do it anyway or is that "dishonoring" in any way?
The basis for making restitution is an Old Testament idea that is explicitly reiterated in the New Testament by Jesus. When asked to summarize the law (the same law that he said he came to fulfill, not to abolish), Jesus uses an interesting formulation. He said,
(This is in both Matthew and Luke)
In using this formulation, he was clearly drawing from Leviticus, a book we know he was thoroughly intimate with. (Not only here, but when he was tempted, etc...) In using this formulation, he is explicitly pointing out that sin is sin against God and your neighbor, and as sin, it must be paid for. There are offerings, mentioned in Leviticus which come into play.
The OT basis for restitution
The biblical basis for restitution stems primarily from levitical law, and specifically, Leviticus 5 - 7. Leviticus 6, in particular looks to both the reasoning and the implementation of returning that which was taken, plus extra, to both the one offended and to the Lord against whom also the offender has sinned:
Restitution is a fairly simply property idea in law - a thief (however he took it) - should not be allowed to keep what he took, otherwise it makes a mockery of property rights. Furthermore, the purpose of the law to is keep people from sinning against their neighbors as well as the Lord, so on the one hand, you don't want an incentive to sin, and on the other, you want clear consequences.
The Levitical approach, you will note, deals with both halves of the crime.
First, the victim gets his property back, plus profit (20% to be precise). Not only does the thief not profit, he loses. I find it interesting that the 20% "penalty" is equal to "two tithes," namely one for the Lord, plus one for the neighbor.
Restitution for God is required
In addition to the victim's payment, however, restitution demands a sacrifice. The linkage between the restitution offering and the sin offering is explicitly the same. As it says in Leviticus 7:
The idea in making the parallel explicit is that it highlights that sin is sin against both your neighbor and the Lord. After David got Uriah killed so as to cover up his affair with Bathsheba, David makes an interesting statement:
Now, I'll admit, I tend to think that David also sinned against Uriah, but the point is that David realizes the Lord is equally a party that need be satisfied for this sin.
Human forgiveness is optional. God's forgiveness is what counts
So, why do I keep hammering home the idea that one must "Love the Lord ... and Love your neighbor?" Because, quite simply, forgiveness comes from the Lord. If he has been satisfied with your attempt at restitution, you are forgiven. When you sinned, you sinned against two. If the greater one forgives, the lesser one's forgiveness isn't really that relevant. Sure, its nice if you can make up - but the sin was against the Lord, not your neighbor.
I doubt, for example, that Zaccheus was able to return an exact accounting for the extra taxes he swindled in a precise 120% return to each individual that he had wronged. Logistically, accountingwise, pridewise (on the part of the victims) - it would have been daunting. But as Zaccheus proclaimed that he would give restitution, surely the Lord the was pleased. That's the point.
Restitution is an outward manifestation of an inward desire for repentance. It is a sign before God and man that the heart has changed. God forgives, man benefits. Both are offended, and the bigger one is clearly reconciled.
Briefly, we know from Scripture that:
Seeking to make restitution is evidence of a truly repentant heart; the true value is in the motivation leading to the action more than the action itself. A person sincerely seeking to make restitution is a person who is:
If you repent and seek to make restitution, and the other person refuses you and chooses to hold your sin against you, that is on them. You can't force love and peace on others... to try would be foolish. If your heart is sincere, God sees it, and that's ultimately what He cares most about. In love, the most you could do at that point would be to pray for them.
Christ himself says that we should try to come to an agreement with anybody who has anything against us (Matthew 5:23-24)
Paul says, in Romans 12:18:
The big part here is the "if possible" and "so far as it depends on you."
If you've tried to make restitution, and somebody has not accepted your offer of restitution, they've not accepted for one of two reasons:
In the former situation, there's really nothing you can do. You're up against a hard heart, and the best thing for you to do may simply be avoiding that person. There's no grace there.
In the latter situation, accepting the grace is the right thing to do. There's no way that we can possibly repay God himself, so he offers us grace. Some people choose to extend that grace to others, because of the grace they themselves have been given.
As for giving restitution when someone is refusing, I think that comes down to the individual situation. Some people may take it as dishonoring, some may not. If in doubt, I'd say it's a good move to love the person the way they've asked to be loved. If they refuse any restitution, honor their wishes and don't give the restitution.
In this situation, loving a person the best has more to do with how they want to be loved than with how you want to love them.
Restitution is made not just to another person, but also to God.
I wish I could explain in my own words, but it's explained so well in the Catechism that I simply feel like quoting-
(comments in italics are mine)
Restitution is Jesus Christ puchasing back to us all that the devil has stolen from us . I used the word purchase because he paid a huge price to achieve this; his blood. There are alot of sins that man commits against God and man which he can not restitute for.ex:A young girl aborted a 5month old pregnancy, a man that murder an only child of a widow, a tanant tha carelessly burnt down a building of a landlord etc. Come on lets face it! No man can restitute fully for his sinful actions. Be it taken life , possesions or taken someones self estime. All these are why Jesus came to do the full pay back time. But most importantly the law has been fullfilled and done away with.(Rom.3:19&20); (Rom.7:6) ( Gal.2:21) We live in and by trusting Jesus to make us what he talks about .He is the one that took all that had been stolen from us back from the devil. Not you nor me . We will live in Peace with our fellow brothers and God by the gift of rightouseness which was given to us freely by Jesus. This spirit of rightousness super naturally causes us to live right.(Rom.2:4),(Rom.5:1,7-21).
Restitution is mending a broken spirit caused by sin against a fellow being, which results in anger, pain, hate, which love has been far gone in this action. Jesus Christ redeeming the sins of our first parents and he died in this cause, which is why his doctrine was based on love. Which is in the scripture: love your neighbor as yourself; a precaution against the sins that we will continually commit as we were born unto sin. Christ simply advised that we must flee from sin as forgiveness comes from God so that our sins may be forgiven. Restitution is a tool for which repentance is foremost, then acknowledgment, acceptance for the broken spirit. Then we hope that God has granted us mercy.
Restitution conveys the idea of justice, of man making right the wrong done to a fellow man. Atonement though similar to restitution is the innocent party accepting the judgement due to the guilty one.When Adam sinned God drove him away from the garden (separation from God)Jesus reconciled man back to God by His atoning sacrifice, this doesn't cancel restitution, it conveys the message that if God could forgive us our trespasses, we ought to do the same. God initiated restitution, we ought to do the same.