What Does the Bible Say about Reparations?


Are reparations biblical? Absolutely! To pay reparations means to make amends for a wrong that was done. Another word for this is restitution, and the law required the person responsible to restore more than what was lost.

For example, in Exodus 22:1 it says, “If a man steals an ox or a sheep and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” In Leviticus 6:1-7, an offender had to repay what was lost, plus extra, plus take a sacrifice to the priest to atone for sins.

In Luke 19:1-10, Jesus went to the house of a tax collector named Zacchaeus. He said to Jesus, “The half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this house.” In view of Christ, Zacchaeus made reparations.

But how about reparations for slavery? In Deuteronomy 15:12-15, it says when a master freed his slave, he was supposed to load him up. But anyone who was not a slave is not entitled to compensation, and anyone who did not own slaves is not required to make restitution.

In Ezekiel 18, the Lord said that if a man fathers a son who sees the sins of his father and does not do likewise, he shall not bear the penalty for his father’s iniquity. “The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20).

All have sinned against God and owe a debt so great we could not pay it. But by faith in Jesus, we are forgiven our debts, so we must forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12), when we understand the text.

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