Confession and Restitution


This oath comes at the end of a long prayer of confession. The prayer ends rather abruptly without even so much as an “Amen.” But the “Amen” was supplied by the people, who put their very lives on the line. They vowed to “observe and do all the commandments of the Lord.”

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 
Speak to the Israelites: When a man or a woman wrongs another, breaking faith with the LORD, that person incurs guilt and shall confess the sin that has been committed. The person shall make full restitution for the wrong, adding one-fifth to it, and giving it to the one who was wronged. 
If the injured party has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the LORD for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for the guilty party (Numbers 5:5-8).

With the specific instructions for making restitution for a wrong someone has confessed, we see that restitution can itself be a discipline. The Spiritual Disciplines transform those who are enslaved by their ingrained habits through new, holy habits. This is a process we see in Numbers. God wanted the Israelites to leave their habits of slavery behind and attain holy habits with which to enter their new lives. Confession and restitution were two of these holy habits.

Prayerfully consider whether restitution is required for any of the sins you have confessed. As Dallas Willard states, “Not all sin calls for restitution. But it is unthinkable that I should sincerely confess to my brother or sister that I have stolen a purse or harm a reputation and then blithely go my way without trying to make some restoration for the loss.

In general, our own innate integrity, a force within our personality, requires such restitution. This often is not a pleasant experience, but it actually strengthens us in our will to do the right thing.” (Spirit of the Disciplines, page 189)

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