Day 18 Devotional & Discussion – March 25, 2014

Exodus 22:1-13, Luke 19:1-10

Restitution is required in each of the crime scenarios described in the Law (Exodus).  How is restitution different from retribution?  Besides restoring the animal or object, what else is restored in this process?

How does Zacchaeus’ action reflect “salvation”?  What do you think were the results of his action in relationship to his community?

There is a movement toward what is called “restorative justice”, a framework that includes restitution and community involvement in dealing with offenses.  The goal is to make restitution for the crime while also repairing the relationships that have been damaged.  In Chicago, Logan Square Neighborhood Association has been working with Kelyvn Park High School and other CPS schools to use a restorative justice model to reduce suspensions and expulsions.   Visit LSNA to learn more this important work.

For a comprehensive understanding of restorative justice, please visit, a project of Prison International Fellowship.



  1. When I was home from college one summer, my father and I were playing catch and I threw a wild pitch–right into our neighbor’s window. The neighbor was not happy. He was more than not happy; he was angry. I had never met the neighbor before, but I apologized and immediately offered to pay to replace the window. The apology and offer immediately changed the dynamics of the situation and his anger subsided. We ended up having a good “neighborly” relationship after the window was repaired. Restitution helped to heal the relationship.

    The laws of Exodus recognize the impact of “crime” on relationships within the community and the need to restore those relationships. Without the restitution, victim and criminal remain disconnected and ultimately community cohesion breaks down. Healing can never begin. In a system that placed punishment above restitution (primarily through incarceration), victims remain tied to their victimization and criminals never have to see or live with the suffering their action has caused. I believe God’s “salvation” has a social dynamic–a healing of relationships not only between ourselves and God but also between ourselves and those who have been harmed by our actions. Zacchaeus’ action of making restitution for his crimes opened an opportunity for forgiveness and healing with his neighbors in a way that retribution and punishment never could have.

    Our courts often sentence people to hours of community service. It seems to be our attempt at building restitution into the system. However, in my experience of community service, the service is rarely related to the crime or the victim of the crime. The criminal remains disconnected from the affect of his/her crime and the victim is disconnected from the service and therefore no healing is experienced. I think community service is a good tool, but it needs to be sharpened if it is going to have any real long term impact on relationships between criminals and victims.

  2. I really like the idea of restorative justice, and I think Zacchaeus is a wonderful example. I think this is what may be at the heart of Jesus’ teaching that forgiveness is 70×7. Sometimes forgiveness is a once and done event. More often than not, however, forgiveness needs to be applied over and over and over. Not necessarily because the offending person reoffends over and over, though that can certainly be the case. Instead this limitless forgiveness Jesus teaches seems to be about a relentless pursuit of working toward restoration. This works great when both parties, the offender and the offended, are reciprocal. I know that is often not the case. Many of the offended want to have nothing to do with the offender. I wonder how the people Zacchaeus went to responded to him. My guess is that most took his money, but some wanted no relationship with him. Maybe some threw the money back in his face. I think there is an appropriate sense of caution to be administered when an offender comes to ask forgiveness and make restitution. But that caution should be balanced with hope and at least a small measure of trust that the offender is genuinely repentant. I get the sense that it is most often complicated and messy. And yet I see the incredible value of a justice system that intentionally works toward restoration.

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