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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE - Chapter 19 - Verse 8
Verse 8. The half of my goods I give to the poor. It is not necessary to understand this as affirming that this had been his practice, or that he said this in the way of proclaiming his own righteousness. It may be understood rather as a purpose which he then formed under the teaching of Christ. He seems to have been sensible that he was a sinner. Of this he was convinced, as we may suppose, by the presence and discourse of Jesus. At first, attracted only by curiosity, or, it may be, by partial conviction that this was the Messiah, he had sought to see the Saviour; but his presence and conversation convinced him of his guilt, and he stood and openly confessed his sins, and expressed his purpose to give half his ill-gotten property to the poor. This was not a proclamation of his own righteousness, nor the ground of his righteousness, but it was the evidence of the sincerity of his repentance, and the confession which with the mouth is made unto salvation, Ro 10:10.
And if I have taken. His office gave him the power of oppressing the people, and it seems that he did not deny that it had been done.
By false accusation. This is the same word which in Lu 3:14 is rendered "neither accuse any falsely." The accusation seems to have been so made that the person accused was obliged to pay much greater taxes, or so that his property came into the hands of the informer. There are many ways in which this might be done, but we do not know the exact manner.
I restore him. We cannot suppose that this had been always his practice, for no man would wantonly extort money from another, and then restore him at once four times as much; but it means that he was made sensible of his guilt; perhaps that his mind had been a considerable time perplexed in the matter, and that now he was resolved to make the restoration. This was the evidence of his penitence and conversion. And here it may be remarked that this is always an indisputable evidence of a man's conversion to God. A man who has hoarded ill-gotten gold, if he becomes a Christian, will be disposed to do good with it. A man who has injured others—who has cheated them or defrauded them, even by due forms of law, must, if he be a Christian, be willing, as far as possible, to make restoration. Zaceheus, for anything that appears to the contrary, may have obtained this property by the decisions of courts of justice, but he now felt that it was wrong; and though the defrauded men could not legally recover it, yet his conscience told him that, in order to his being a true penitent, he must make restitution. One of the best evidences of true conversion is when it produces this result; and one of the surest evidences that a professed penitent is not a true one, is when he is not disposed to follow the example of this son of Abraham and make proper restitution.
Four-fold. Four times as much as had been unjustly taken. This was the amount that was required in the Jewish law when a sheep had been stolen, and a man was convicted of the theft by trial at law, Ex 22:1. If he confessed it himself, without being detected and tried, he had only to restore what was stolen, and add to it a fifth part of its value, Nu 5:6,7. The sincerity of Zaccheus' repentance was manifest by his being willing to make restoration as great as if it had been proved against him, evincing his sense of the wrong, and his purpose to make full restitution. The Jews were allowed to take no interest of their brethren (Le 25:35,36), and this is the reason why that is not mentioned as the measure of the restitution. When injury of this kind is done in other places, the least that is proper is to restore the principal and interest; for the injured person has a right to all that his property would have procured him if it had not been unjustly taken away.
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