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.”
–Luke 19:8

What does it take to reconcile with a person who has wronged you? Reconciliation requires not only repentance but also restitution. Restitution is the payment somebody makes for his or her sin against another person. Now it is very important not to confuse revenge with restitution. Revenge is the payment that we demand from our offender, but restitution is the payment that our offender volunteers to us. See the difference?

Restitution is perhaps best illustrated in Luke 19. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. And in that day, here’s how it worked. The Roman government would allow certain people to collect taxes on behalf of the Roman government. And if you were a tax collector in a city, you could charge whatever you wanted for somebody’s tax, send some of it to Rome, and keep the rest for yourself. So if you were collecting taxes from a Jewish citizen who owed $2,000 to Rome, you could charge $10,000, send $2,000 to Rome, and keep the other $8,000 for yourself. Now you can imagine how much the Jewish people hated tax gatherers. But there was a specific kind of tax gatherer they really hated–Jewish tax gatherers. The other Jews hated them because not only were these Jewish tax gatherers supporting the Romans who were oppressing them, but they were also cheating their own people in the process.

Zacchaeus was a Jewish tax collector. He had no friends, and his fellow Jews hated him. But then one day he heard Jesus was coming to town. And even though materially he was wealthy, spiritually he was bankrupt. He had no relationship with God. He had no relationships with other people. He thought maybe Jesus would be the answer to what he needed. So when he saw Jesus coming down the street, Zacchaeus scurried up a tree to gain sight of Jesus. Jesus looked up and said, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5). Well, you could hear the murmuring in the crowd: “Why in the world would this guy who claims to be the Son of God choose to eat in the home of a sinner?” Luke doesn’t tell us any details of the conversation between Jesus and Zacchaeus, but it must have been a revolutionary conversation because when Zacchaeus came out he said, “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.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house’” (vv. 8-9). Was Jesus saying that because Zacchaeus was giving half of his possessions to the poor that he bought his salvation, his place in heaven? No. Zacchaeus couldn’t buy his way into heaven. His willingness to pay four times as much back to those he had defrauded didn’t erase the fact that he had wronged those people. But Zacchaeus’s willingness to make restitution was a sign that his repentance was genuine. Genuine reconciliation takes not only repentance but also restitution.

***

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Forgiving People You Never Want to Eat Lunch with Again” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.