If the wicked restore the pledge, give back what they have taken by robbery, and walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity—they shall surely live, they shall not die.
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, ‘When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practise deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.’
Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.
James 5: 4-5
Reflection on Scripture
These are only potential questions for group or individual study; they are suggested and not exhaustive. Let them invite more reflection.
1. In each text, what exactly was taken or stolen? What does the text set forth as restitution?
2. Which, if any, of the texts teach us to go beyond simple restitution (returning what was taken)?
3. Which passages address institutional theft? What specific practices are denounced?
3. In the Matthew 19 passage, what are the commandments that Jesus lists? Why do you think Jesus specifies certain commandments for the young man to obey? Which commandments do you think Jesus would name for us?
3. Do you think Christians are responsible for righting the wrongs of previous generations? Why? If not, why not?
4. What faithful actions do you think love of neighbor includes? Specifically, who is included as recipients of neighbor love in the above Scriptures?
5. Name one person you will now consider including in your neighbor love. Why?
- See the discussion of the lawyer and Jesus in Luke 10 (The Good Samaritan) in Kwon and Thompson, Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair, Brazos Press, 2021, pp. 170-171. Restitution is a well substantiated ethic and a defined practice throughout Scripture and Church history. Restorative love includes restitution, but goes beyond it. The Samaritan pays what will be due for the victim's recovery.
- Michael Eric Dyson, Tears We Cannot Stop, St. Martin's Press, 2017. See especially Dyson's recommendations for White Church ministry, pp. 196-212. Sunday School questions are found on pp. 230-231.