And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the LORD, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. But if the man has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the LORD for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for him. And every contribution, all the holy donations of the people of Israel, which they bring to the priest, shall be his. Each one shall keep his holy donations: whatever anyone gives to the priest shall be his.” (Numbers 5:5-10 ESV)
Still dealing with holiness in the camp where Yahweh dwells, Yahweh instructs the people that if someone takes someone’s property and lies about it in Yahweh’s name or realizes he was guilty he shall make restitution of the property plus 20 percent, in addition to the guilt offering he presents to Yahweh at the tabernacle.
But, in the case where there is no one to make restitution to, a contribution of the 20 percent must be made to Yahweh by giving it to His priest. This shows that making things right is just as important for the one making restitution as it is for the neighbor who was wronged. Our consciences need to be cleared when we have offended both God and man.
It also shows the strong commitment to justice that God has and that He has put in our makeup as humans made in His image. We know it is not enough to say, “I’m sorry,” but that real change in the way we act toward one another must also accompany our apology. Repentance should lead to action.
And it is not enough for us to cease sinning a sin. We must also develop the corresponding righteousness. Paul uses this example:
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (Ephesians 4:28, ESV)
The thief stops being a thief, not when he stops stealing, but when he realizes his belief, that what others own belongs to him, is wrong and works to give to the needs of others. This is the true shift from wickedness to righteousness. This is truly dealing justly and a sign of a cleansed conscience.