God spoke to Moses: “Tell the People of Israel, When a man or woman commits any sin, the person has broken trust with God, is guilty, and must confess the sin. Full compensation plus twenty percent must be made to whoever was wronged.” Numbers 5:5-6 (MSG)
As a child, I recall living under a fairly simple rule of law in my family that was rooted in the ancient law of Moses. When I was growing up, if I wronged someone, then under this system restitution had to be made as a form of compensation. If I stole something, I was made to give it back. If I broke something, then my allowance and paper route money were required (no matter how long it took) to pay for what I broke. The key was that the offender was literally made to pay for the wrong and the victim was compensated.
I don’t always get the intricacies of the law of Moses. My 21st century American brain has difficulty wrapping my mind around ancient mesopotamian culture. I can’t fathom what every day life was like back then. More often than not I’m left scratching my head and shaking it in bewilderment. Nevertheless, the basic concepts make a lot of sense.
I think about the current system of justice in our culture and I wonder if we’ve strayed too far afield from the concept of restitution. When crimes are committed, we tend to simply lock the offender up, the victim is not compensated for the pain and loss suffered, and the community is stuck with the bill for the offender’s incarceration.