What does the Bible say about recompense?Recompense is a long-established concept in the Bible and is strongly related to justice. In the law given to the Israelites, it is the required response after a theft or injury. Exodus 22:1 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." Leviticus 24:17-21 says that whatever damage or injury someone causes, the recompense will be proportionate — injury for injury or replacement of property. In addition, the victim must receive recompense, expenses for healing and support if the victim is a free man (Exodus 21:18-19) or expenses and possibly freedom if the victim is a slave (Exodus 21:26-27). The recompense for kidnapping someone and selling him into slavery was death (Exodus 21:16).
On a larger scale, God promises suitable recompense for those who rebel against Him and fight against Israel (Deuteronomy 32:35; Psalm 91:8; Isaiah 34:8). But God also promises recompense for His faithful servants. While Jeremiah mourned that his warnings did not result in Judah turning back to God and they would undergo punishment, he took comfort knowing that recompense was with God, not the immediate situation (Jeremiah 22:29:10-14). Revelation extends this to all people as God says, "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done" (Revelation 22:12).
Recompense is merely getting what you deserve, whether bad for wrong actions or good for righteousness. In the negative, punishment aspect, it is reserved only for God and authorities of the law. Proverbs 20:22, Romans 12:17, and Hebrews 10:30 all tell us to not repay evil for evil, but leave vengeance to God. We are, however, called to give recompense to those we have wronged or those who have given us favor. Zacchaeus' instant response to Jesus' attention was to repay fourfold what he had defrauded from others (Luke 19:1-10). And we are to give recompense in the form of salary to those who dedicate their lives to teaching us spiritual truths (1 Corinthians 9:13-14).
But it is impossible for us to give God recompense for how we have rebelled against Him and disobeyed Him. There is nothing we can do to pay back the debt of our offenses against Him. Knowing this, He sent the only One Who could. John 3:16 is the synopsis of Jesus' recompense for our sins. His death in our place fulfilled our debt. Because of this, we are free of our debt to God and we are free to release others of their debt to us (Matthew 18:21-35). "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is only by understanding how we cannot give God proper recompense that we can appreciate Jesus' sacrifice for us.
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