I'm helping to bring back an ex-member of the church. He is eager to be with God again and he has an awesome heart. We had been talking about sin in his life, and he confesses that when he left the church he comitted fraud in the company where he works. He and other guy took a lot of money by manipulating documents. Some time ago he decided to return to God and he made a lot of decisions; one of those was to stop stealing. Is there any command, teaching or principle from the word of God that says he needs to confess to the company what he has done, and to compensate them for the damage done? Something like the example of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10? Can he be welcomed back as a member of the church if he doesn't follow this principle? If he turns himself in, he will be at least fired, and possibly even sent to prision. -- C.A. (Chile) 

In the O.T. there was a specific law about restitution (e.g. Exodus 22:1,3; 22:12; Numbers 5:7-8), but that was part of the old covenant, and does not directly apply to Christians. As for Zacchaeus, while I think his example is a good one to imitate, we are not exactly commanded to do so. This means you are right to ask about principles, since the Word of God is not clear what must be done in such cases.

The principles that apply:

  • Conscience. What does this brother feel he should do?
  • Turning himself in may lead to incarceration. (For others, too, not just him – right?) So he may not be acting in isolation.
  • Obviously he must stop stealing. Ephesians 4:28 says even Christians must stop stealing (!)
  • John the Baptist told the tax collectors and soldiers to stop doing certain things. While Jews would have had to make restitution, I do not think the same was true of Gentile soldiers. The Lord is looking at the future (it seems to me) even more than at the past.
  • If he does get fired, that is not necessarily bad, if he is an environment of corruption and temptation.

Anyway, those are my scattered thoughts! Hope some of them are helpful.