"What would have happened if Zacchaeus had come down from the tree, received the Lord Jesus, led him home but not announced his programme of putting things right and walking properly with God?"
The Lord said,
"Did I not choose you, the Twelve, and one of you is a devil?" He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was to betray him" (John 6:70-71).
Judas was called "a devil". Why? He was called a devil because he was a thief who did not repent and who betrayed Jesus in order to have money.
There is a sense in which every thief is a devil. How does this bear on the matter of restitution? The bearing is this: If a man defrauded anyone, he stole. He remains a thief until he has repented and restored what he stole. If such a person comes to the Lord and receives Him, he must go back and restore all that he stole. He might have stolen it by asking for a bribe, by asking for a favour that he should not have asked for and by using every means possible to acquire that which he should not have acquired. He has stolen and must restitute. If he does not restitute, he is a thief even if he claims to be saved. He is a devil, regardless of what he claims to be his experience in Christ. The law of God and the demands of God are immutable. The Bible demands that the thief who cannot restitute what he has stolen, should be sold for his theft.
"If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. He shall make restitution; if he has nothing then he shall be sold for his theft" (Exodus 22:1).
Are you a thief who claims to be saved? Go and carry out restitution! As long as you have not carried out restitution you are still in the old life, regardless of what you may claim.
Have you thought about the person you defrauded? Do you have compassion on him? If you do, go and carry out restitution. Remember also that what you have done to him has been done to God. You have stolen from God.
The Lord Jesus stood by and watched while Zacchaeus carried out restitution that ruined his finances! Why did Jesus not spare Zacchaeus? Why did He not say, "Zacchaeus, I did not mean that you should go that far. I only wanted to test you. Give a tithe to the poor and do not bother about those you defrauded. It belongs to the old life and I have forgiven and cancelled that. Be at peace"?
If the Lord had done that, He would have been a proclaimer of false peace. He would have given someone aspirin when he needed surgery. He would have prepared him for spiritual death.
You have read the way that God wants restitution carried out. You have seen that the purpose for which God gives money to people is that it should be used to meet needs and not stored up. God evaluates riches in terms of what has passed through a man's hands, that is, the fruit of his labours that have been put into meeting the needs of those without the gospel and those with other needs. He considers that those who stock wealth for themselves are not only poor - they are wicked! We counsel you not to allow anyone to stand in the way of your carrying out restitution. He can deceive you now and help ease your conscience now but on that day you will stand alone to face your Judge. It is best for you to be reconciled to the Judge now by carrying out all the restitution that He demands so that on that day you shall be acquitted. Therefore, be wise. Act! Do not be disturbed by what it will cost you. What can you give in exchange for your soul? What can you give in exchange for a clear conscience? These are priceless - your soul and your conscience!
Be the lone man who dares to carry out full restitution. There are many who may claim to be walking with the Lord who have not bothered to carry out restitution! Do not imitate them. Do not be moved by what may appear to be their apparent spirituality or the apparent success of their ministries! God knows those who are His and He has counselled all who are His to depart from all iniquity. Be one such. Amen.