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.

Loving the unlovable

Believers already hold the key to overcoming worldly strife.

Believers already hold the key to overcoming worldly strife.

As believers, we know that the commandment we have been charged with is simply to love. It sounds so simple, and yet when we consider the state of the world and the social environment in which we live, we see what appear to be unlovable people everywhere. There is rumor and inuendo prevalent through personal social media, criticism and outright vitriol promoted in the legacy media, all of which spills over into division and strife among our friends and family groups.

Many believers feel this is an indication of how things are getting worse and worse, and we just need to hold on until Messiah returns. However, this is nothing new. Even in Yeshua’s day, the wicked state of the population even in that time could be characterized in a similar fashion. Paul elucidates the characteristics evident even within that generation.

Romans 1:29-31 – …They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

How can we love people such as this? Aren’t these the people that God will destroy in vengeance? Perhaps we need to step back and broaden our understanding a bit and recognize how that type of mentality plays out.

Consider how Paul believed that the Torah command to love one’s neighbor was effective even amidst that wicked generation.

  • Galatians 5:13-14 – For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • Romans 13:8-10 – Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

These encouragements, of course, were equally based on and supported by the teaching of Messiah.

Matthew 22:37-40 – And he said to him, “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

But besides this clear teaching of Yeshua, Paul’s admonition to love others struck at a deeper place in the hearts of his hearers. He simply confronted them with their own histories of past disobedience.

Titus 3:2-3 – to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Paul includes himself in this characterization of “malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” If we can likewise arrive at this place of naked recognition in our own lives, we can begin to find the compassion for others who seem at first glance to be unlovable. We ourselves have been in that dark place, and yet God somehow saw past that rebellious and disobedient exterior to demonstrate his own love for us.

And this leads to the corresponding method of our own love for others: to love the unlovable, we need to view them, not with the eyes of our flesh, but through the eyes of God’s compassion. It is the most difficult thing any of us can hope to accomplish, at least in our own strength. However, relying on his Spirit for our strength, we can take steps toward compassionate actions that would be beyond our own strength or willingness to do so.

Galatians 5:16, 22-25 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.


If you enjoy these daily 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 directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com

Actively loving our neighbors

A compassionate heart cannot remain inactive when becoming aware of real needs.

A compassionate heart cannot remain inactive when becoming aware of real needs.

Romans 13:8-10 – “Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 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. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.”

Paul writes this passage in the context of being faithful with the State authorities, paying taxes, and culminating in verse 14 by “putting on the Lord Yeshua.” It’s as if all of Paul’s logic in the daily life of the believer is wrapped up in “throwing off the deeds of darkness, and putting on the armor of light,” ( v. 12).

The key aspect of this armor of light is love; not the syrupy, undefined, wishy-washy love of our current pop culture, but a love that has a definite purpose and character. Paul defines this type of love as a love that does no wrong to a neighbor. It involves throwing off the deeds of darkness, which he defines as: “carousing and drunkenness…sexual impurity and promiscuity…quarreling and jealousy,” (v. 13). When we are acting in any of these ways with others, we are not acting in love. The armor of light can only be exposed when we “throw off” these “deeds.”

If we are to do no wrong to a neighbor, it implies that we should do right to our neighbor. In Hebraic thinking, there is no static condition in which we do neither good nor bad. If we are not doing good, then we are by default doing bad, and if we are not doing bad, then we are to be doing good. The text of Torah from which this principle of loving our neighbor is derived mentions we should not even hold any grudges against our neighbor.

Leviticus 19:18 – “Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.”

This specific command is dropped in the midst of all kinds of things we should not be doing to our neighbors (Leviticus 19:11-17):

  • do not steal from them
  • do not oppress them
  • do not rob from them
  • do not be unfair with them
  • do not spread slander about them
  • do not jeopardize their life
  • don’t harbor hatred toward them

According to Paul’s logic in Romans 13, these would all be included in “deeds of darkness.”

If these are the negative qualities, then the positive qualities contained within the armor of light must be the opposite:

  • give generously to them
  • cheer them up and support them
  • act with fairness
  • speak well of them
  • help to protect them
  • show practical love toward them

This practical outworking of a love that is defined in this manner shows what type of love the Bible is talking about when it comes to our neighbors. It is a love that acts in positive ways towards others. It doesn’t just think happy thoughts towards them, but it actively works to build them up and contribute to their well-being.

In what ways can you act in this manner toward your neighbors, friends, and family? All of these individuals come under the umbrella of “neighbors” in the biblical sense. How can you manifest the armor of light most practically and effectively? By looking at these brief examples, we can see it involves taking our focus off of ourselves (the deeds of darkness that serve our own pleasures and interests), and placing our focus instead on the needs of others for their benefit. This is how we can then begin to “put on Yeshua” by living out his command:

Matthew 7:12 – “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”


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.