I wrote a must-read blog a few years ago called “Words and Your Check Book.” Since then, I have spent some time processing, living life, finding out what I need, what I would like, and what I really want in this area.
Twenty-five years ago, I became a Christian. Immediately I felt conviction for wrongs I had committed against others. It took me over a year, and there were many, but I slowly made it around to everyone I could think of and asked for forgiveness. In each case, if there were material damages, I brought my check book and if I didn’t know a number, I asked them to give me one. These were all emotional events for me because it’s extremely humbling to own up. I like money and can be proud so both at once made me feel it deep.
Though these paybacks were tough to do, I am so glad I did them. It’s like an instant weight loss, because you feel so much lighter afterwords, more tender, and intimately connected to God. I like to feel good, and making amends felt good.
Adding the financial component to asking forgiveness gives our words weight. It literally puts our money where our mouth is. There seems to be this notion out there that if we say we are sorry, we’re off the hook and all is well. A man doesn’t get to just use some words and walk away. He needs to make it right and fix what he broke. Non-believers seem to understand restitution more than christians do. Zacchaeus understood it and he found salvation. The Old Testament is full of direction on restitution, but so few follow it. Let this not be us. Let us be men who right the wrongs in the world starting with ourselves.
Last month, I was up fishing with my boys, and a boy came and stood right next to my son and casted over his line several times. It irritated me, but I am used to combat fishing so I let it go. His uncle came down to the river bank about the time the boy got tangled up so I took his spot for a few casts while he got untangled. When I did his uncle growled at me about my fishing etiquette. I said he can have his spot back as soon as he gets untangled and by the way your boy just casted over my son’s line ten times before you got here. He then snapped back at me that I should have taught him not to cast over someones line.
I could tell this guy was so angry that he was inconsolable, so I held my tongue and moved back to my spot. Ten minutes later after pacing around he came up and said I didn’t mean to come off like a jerk. I responded that he did come off like a jerk. He got all sheepish, apologizing profusely several times. Here is the point of the story. He then began to tell me about some of his secret fishing holes in the area and gave me directions. Not just once, but he kept coming up to me multiple times throughout the day.
My point is that men in the world like Zacchaeus innately understand restitution better than Christians do. Is it because we’re not teaching it? My guess is that we have been told that sorry is enough so many times that it’s overridden our natural instinct to make things right.
If two men are in civil court, the one in the wrong pays damages determined by the judge and jury. God has this biblical direction for us as well. We do not need the courts to tell us to do it. We have the Holy Spirit that brings conviction and a God-given logical mind that can do the math.
The standard is: Fix what you break. Repay who you cheated, return what you stole, make right those you have wronged. Do not be mistaken or misled that words will suffice. They do on occasion, but on many they do not. Make it your value system to be a man that makes it right no matter how much it hurts. Read up on Psalm 15. When you make things right no matter what, you impact the people around you for the better every time.
I have made restitution many times, but only once to my memory has anyone made it to me. After a year of not speaking, a friend of mine handed me a note asking for forgiveness with cash to cover the loss. I cried, and we’ve been close ever since, much closer than before, because restitution is an act of intimacy. It says that you value relationship more than money or your pride. Restitution brings men together, and together, we’re strong.
Of all the times I have made restitution, guess how many times I got a negative response from anyone? The answer is zero. People feel nothing but love. Fear not what you need to do. Make a list, don’t check it twice, don’t waste another day, just go get it done. Choose relationship over pride and possessions. The power to reconcile is in your hands.