The Kingdom law of restitution and generosity

A heart of covetousness can lead to a theft of the generosity he desires us to extend to others on his behalf.

Today we will be looking at the topic of the Kingdom of God. Within God’s Kingdom, the law of God provides the guide for all behaviors that God expects of his people. One of the primary boundaries of God’s law concerns security of individual belongings where stealing is prohibited. Interestingly, God’s solution for discouraging theft is its exact opposite: a type of forced generosity. Those who violate the law must give abundantly or they must give themselves.

The commandment as it was stated by God from Sinai in Exodus 20:15 is simple and direct: “You shall not steal.” As we look at this topic today, I feel I need to restate the perspective I have of the Ten Commandments. Far from being done away, the Ten Commandments form what I consider to be the founding charter of the Kingdom of God. These are the basic yet comprehensive rules that God has established for those participating in his Kingdom for all time.

This Kingdom pattern was exemplified by the ancient Israelites being removed abruptly from the nation of their residence into the wilderness of a harsh desert environment. In this new environment, they required rules to function as a society. Certainly, since this was an act of God drawing a people to himself, these rules would need to set them apart from all other nations with higher standards than their counterparts. This new nation was designed to be a godly society founded on godly principles.

Within this new society, theft was expressly declared as forbidden. When theft is tolerated, then societal security begins to degrade and personal property can be violated at any time. Looked at from this perspective, the right to private and personal ownership is sort of “baked in” to the Kingdom of God. By definition, theft is the taking of something that belongs to someone else. Therefore, if stealing is wrong then there is an underlying premise that God respects his people owning things, whether animals for farming, houses for living in, or fields for growing food. Private ownership is necessary for the stability and growth of the community because people who own things produce a need for those things to be produced and maintained. This feedback loop then generates an economic engine of production and service capable of growing active, vital communities. Theft interrupts that cycle and creates a deficit of trust and security within a community requiring some sort of accountability for those who don’t respect the rights of others.

Within the entire Biblical narrative, theft is never looked upon as a positive characteristic. To be a thief is to knowingly take something from someone else, usually associated with violent acts or even murder.

Proverbs 1:10-11, 13-16 – My son, if sinners entice you, don’t be persuaded.  If they say ​– ​”Come with us! Let’s set an ambush and kill someone. Let’s attack some innocent person just for fun!  … “We’ll find all kinds of valuable property and fill our houses with plunder.  “Throw in your lot with us, and we’ll all share the loot” —  my son, don’t travel that road with them or set foot on their path,  because their feet run toward evil and they hurry to shed blood.

Proverbs 28:24 – Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.

The thief upsets the system of civilized conduct because they feel that the same rules that govern others do not apply to them. Whatever their justification is for taking something that belongs to someone else is to consider their reason more important than obeying the command to not steal and the rights of others to enjoy their own possessions. Theft is dangerous because it mocks the integrity of civil order in any society, and must be punished in order to maintain the economic integrity and security of the community.

However, interestingly, the torah or instruction of God reveals that theft is not punishable by death. Instead, a thief must face a fate that very well could be worse than death for them: they must pay restitution.

  • Exodus 22:1 – “When a man steals an ox or a sheep and butchers it or sells it, he must repay five cattle for the ox or four sheep for the sheep.
  • Exodus 22:7 – “When a man gives his neighbor valuables or goods to keep, but they are stolen from that person’s house, the thief, if caught, must repay double.
  • Exodus 22:3 – “… A thief must make full restitution. If he is unable, he is to be sold because of his theft.

At a minimum, they were to pay double what they stole (if the goods are recovered). But if what had been stolen had been sold or, in the case of a stolen animal, killed, then they were to pay up to four or five times the amount. If they were unable to pay, then they were to be sold into forced servitude to pay off the debt.

So it turns out that God’s solution for discouraging theft is its exact opposite: a type of forced generosity. They were to give abundantly out of their own possessions, or they were to be forced to give of themselves through servitude.

With the principles regarding theft clearly outlined in God’s law, it makes sense that those principles would also carry over into God’s spiritual Kingdom. However, not stealing and respecting the rights of others is only half of the equation that God wants us to practice. While the letter of the law required forced giving for those making restitution, the spirit of the law encourages us to be voluntarily giving from the heart at all times.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 – The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart ​– ​not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.

So, with this foundational understanding of property rights and appropriate behavior of his people, God, through Yeshua, has the ability to take this principle to the next level, and he does so through teachings regarding giving.

Yeshua taught that he did not come to abolish the law; in fact he upheld it at all times and fulfilled it in all he said and did. He was known for repeating the commands, including the law against stealing.

  • Matthew 19: 18 – Yeshua said, “Never murder. Never commit adultery. Never steal. Never give false testimony. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 
  • Mark 10:19 “You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother.”
  • Luke 18:20 “You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and mother.”

Yeshua also taught that not only should believers not steal, they should be generous.

  • Matthew 5:42 – “Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
  • Matthew 10:8 – Freely you received, freely give.
  • Luke 6:38 – Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

On the one hand, Yeshua upholds the law, yet on the other, he elevates it. For example, he takes the command against adultery and elevates it to the avoidance of even thinking promiscuously. He takes the command against murder and elevates it to the avoidance of even being angry. In a similar sense, to address the issue of covetousness in the life of a wealthy young inquirer, Yeshua also mentions a similar “restitution of generosity” for covetousness, which makes sense, since extreme coveting can also lead to theft.

Matthew 19: 18-22 – Yeshua said, “Never murder. Never commit adultery. Never steal. Never give false testimony. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” The young man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments. What else do I need to do?” Yeshua said to him, “If you want to be perfect, sell what you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then follow me!” When the young man heard this, he went away sad because he owned a lot of property.

In this sad instance of the man who was not willing to pay the price of following Yeshua, we see a bit of ourselves. How have we coveted the things of this world and the luxuries we have attained to where they keep us from exhibiting the generosity we should be providing to others? A heart of covetousness actually leads to a kind of stealing from God, a theft of the generosity he desires us to extend to others on his behalf.  According to Yeshua, this is the perfection that God seeks: not just not stealing, but giving and following his Messiah.

The spiritual Kingdom of God cannot be guided merely by restrictions against natural bad behaviors through the letter of the law only. If that were the case, the Kingdom would be made up of those who are really good at not doing anything wrong, but who also never do anything good for others. No, for the Kingdom to be eternal and growing to fill the earth as prophesied, it has to also produce the positive influence of God’s spirit and desire in the hearts of those who belong to him. This is how it can be a lasting influence in the world for all time.

In a similar way to the teaching of Yeshua, the apostle Paul taught that the solution for breaking any of the commandments, including stealing, was to demonstrate love to others.

Romans 13:9 – The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Paul also taught that those who practiced stealing should earn an honest living, not just for their own benefit, but so that they would have an opportunity to bless others with what they earn.

Ephesians 4:28 – Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.

Finally, let’s review one of the most dramatic examples of these principles in the life of Zacchaeus. He had become enthralled with the notoriety of the Messiah, and when Yeshua singled him out to be a host for him and his group, Zacchaeus was ecstatic with the recognition. While we don’t have the details of the entire process of his acceptance of Messiah, Yeshua made it clear that his renewed heart was genuine and he was no longer lost.

Luke 19:8-10 – But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much.” “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

In recognizing the immeasurable grace and mercy of God’s salvation, Zacchaeus, in both the letter and spirit of the law, offers not only to pay back those whom he had extorted four times over as required in the law, but also to go above and beyond by giving away half of everything he had on behalf of the poor. By his actions, he demonstrated his heart of covetousness had been fully changed, and he was a new creation through faith in the Messiah.

Therefore, in keeping with the torah or instruction of God within his Kingdom, and as a follower of Yeshua, we should never secretly take anything that does not belong to us. Instead, we should always be willing to give generously of all resources that have been entrusted to us. And because the life he has given us is a debt we can never repay, the remainder of our existence should become an offering of voluntary servitude to the one who has provided us this immeasurable gift of life.


If you enjoy these articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Evaluating the wisdom of Solomon to grow in righteousness

The wise believer demonstrates integrity of speech.

The wise believer demonstrates integrity of speech.

The proverbs of Solomon are a mine of information on living with integrity. The life of the righteous is contrasted with the wicked throughout its pages, as each proverb typically highlights a specific contrast between the two types of individuals.

Because the information contained within the proverbs is so valuable to believers, many have attempted to organize the proverbs into different groupings to try to bring out the common characteristics more clearly. One of the ways I have found to illustrate this is to line up the positive characteristics of the godly in a group, and then contrast the corresponding negative characteristics or consequences of the actions of the wicked.

For example I have chosen just one of the chapters (chapter 10) and selected some verses that speak to the similar characteristic of the righteous as having knowledgeable and truthful speech.

  • 8 – The wise are glad to be instructed
  • 11 – The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain
  • 13 – Wise words come from the lips of people with understanding
  • 14 – Wise people treasure knowledge
  • 20 – The words of the godly are like sterling silver
  • 21 – The words of the godly encourage many
  • 31 – The mouth of the godly person gives wise advice
  • 32 – The lips of the godly speak helpful words

Now, by contrast, look at the corresponding distinctions that Solomon made between the representation of the godly above with the practices of the wicked.

  • 8 – babbling fools come to ruin
  • 11 – the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions
  • 13 – those lacking sense will be beaten with a rod
  • 14 – the babbling of a fool invites disaster
  • 20 – the heart of a fool is worthless
  • 21 – fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense
  • 31 – the tongue that deceives will be cut off
  • 32 – the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse words

This type of analysis and re-grouping of the text of Proverbs can prove to be very enlightening, and is a type of simple study that can be conducted by anyone who desires to learn more about how God expects his people to behave. Even from this brief example, it can be clearly seen how believers have a responsibility to seek the wisdom of God and to guard their tongues, speaking only what is helpful or encouraging to others. This is corroborated by the writings of the disciples of Yeshua, as well.

Ephesians 4:29 – Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

James 1:26 – If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

The integrity of the believer becomes readily apparent as soon as they open their mouth. If they have not sought the wisdom of God but are only speaking their own opinion or the opinions of others that they have not verified on their own, then they are little better than a fool who invites disaster or will come to ruin, as the proverbs above state. We should be reminded that believers have the monumental responsibility to be thoughtful and mindful about how they represent the God they believe in.

Instead, let’s focus on the positive characteristics of the godly as related by Solomon, and ensure that our speech is knowledgeable, wise, encouraging and helpful.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Being clothed with the Spirit of God

Our being set apart by God is not only for our benefit, but so that others can see how God’s standards are possible to live out in this life.

In overcoming the sins of the flesh, the apostle Paul made use of an interesting term in order to describe what this process was like. To his way of thinking, the believer’s life was to be clothed with the Messiah, as if the righteous example and deeds of the Messiah were something to be put on, like you might put on a robe or suit of armor.

Romans 13:12-14 – The night is nearly over, and the day is near; so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency, as in the daytime: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Yeshua Messiah, and don’t make plans to gratify the desires of the flesh.

This thinking is likely the result of Yeshua’s teaching of the empowerment of the holy Spirit. In this respect, the empowerment of the Spirit of God was something that occurred to the individual from outside of themselves; it was bestowed upon them from God.

Luke 24:49 – “And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

This event, of course, was the day of Pentecost that first early summer after Yeshua’s crucifixion and resurrection. Yeshua describes it as being clothed with power from on high (that is, from God). We see this event being described in the book of Acts:

Acts 2:1-4 – When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.

Paul captures this same imagery and uses it to describe the believers’ unity they have because of this operation of God in their lives.

Galatians 3:26-28 – for through faith you are all sons of God in Messiah Yeshua. For those of you who were baptized into Messiah have been clothed with Messiah. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.

This operation of God has set them apart in holiness. They are now a collective of individuals who have specific purpose in growing the Kingdom of God. But they can only do this as they continue to walk in this holiness, this set-apartness.

So Paul then takes this imagery of being clothed with power from on high and carries the metaphor into the practical aspects of overcoming sin in their lives.

Ephesians 4:20-24 – But that is not how you came to know Messiah, assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Yeshua, to take off your former way of life, the old man that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new man, created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.

He encourages the believers to rely on that empowerment they have received as the tool by which their lives will be changed.

Ephesians 6:10-11 – Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil.

Colossians 3:9-10, 12-14 – Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with its practices and have put on the new, the one being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. … Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all these is the love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

These qualities and practices he is urging them to “put on” are the qualities and practices evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit.

Romans 8:5, 12-14 – For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. … So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons.

The full context of Romans 8:1-17 is all about living by the empowering of God’s Spirit to overcome the sinful practices that have separated them from God. When they do so, Paul says, they demonstrate they are truly God’s children. God’s children walk in holiness or set-apartness because they are yielding obediently to God’s leading and they are empowered by God to do so.

In a similar way, when we learn to rely on God’s Spirit to overcome the sinful works of the flesh, we demonstrate that we are God’s children to a world that needs to know him. Our being set apart by God is not only for our benefit, but so that others can see how God’s standards are possible to live out in this life. Those who are compelled by our walk of obedience can then also experience this work in their lives and are then empowered to influence others. In this way, each generation carries forward the heritage of faith in Messiah until it ultimately fills the earth.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.