THE WAY TO DEAL WITH THE TRESPASSES
If we have committed these trespasses, what shall we do? The following verses tell us what to do in our practice. Once we realize that there is sin, we should deal with it.
Verse 4 says, "When he sins and is guilty." Sinning is an act, while being guilty is something before God; it is having a case of sin before God. We can see what needs to be done when there is a case of sin from the following verses.
Verse 4 continues, and verse 5 says, "He shall return what he took by robbery, or what he got by extortion, or the deposit which was deposited with him, or the lost thing which he found, or anything about which he swore falsely; he shall make restitution for it in full and add to it one-fifth more; he shall give it to whom it belongs on the day he is found guilty." The most important command is first to restore and give the things back to others. Whatever is not yours can no longer remain in your house. If a Christian is not clean, one cannot blame society for being unclean. If a Christian covets others’ possessions, one cannot blame many government officials for coveting others’ possessions. If a Christian is loath to part with the things which he has obtained, one cannot blame others for being loath to part with the things they have obtained. Every Christian has to be clean. If at all possible, we have to repay others and confess to others.
There is one main difference between the sin offering and the trespass offering. The sin offering is to "propitiate," and the trespass offering is to "repay." We cannot repay God for our offenses against Him; neither can we propitiate our offenses against men. We have sinned and can only be propitiated to God by the Lord’s blood. When we have offended others, we cannot propitiate, but we must repay. If we are not faithful to what others have entrusted to us, or if we have gained something by base means, we have to repay others. If we are not willing to repay others, we cannot offer the trespass offering. By the blood of the Lord Jesus, we can receive forgiveness from God for our sins. This is the truth. However, if we have offended others and are not willing to deal with the offenses, we will lose our fellowship with God. Whenever we think about it, we will feel bound, uneasy in our conscience, and that we are unable to fellowship with God.
The meetings at Keswick started fifty-one years ago. Once Mr. F.B. Meyer was invited to speak. What did Mr. Meyer say in his first message? He said, "If we expect God to bless and revive us, we must first take care of things properly. If there is any bill still being kept in your house that you have not paid, you should not expect any blessing or revival." There may be a bill of ten dollars in your house that has not been paid for a long time. Bringing a lawsuit against you is too much, but ignoring it will mean that the bill will remain with you forever. After Mr. Meyer said this, the result was immediate. The next day, all the money orders at the Keswick post office were sold out. From this, we can see how many unrighteous Christians there are.
Many can say, "I have never killed anyone, and I have not set fire to anyone’s house." But to take a little advantage of others can cause us to lose our fellowship with God. The blood of Christ will only wash us of our sins and wash our conscience; it will not wash our heart. Only after we have dealt with all our earthly relationships will our heart be washed clean.
Some things are harder than others to deal with. Many people have their assets built on unrighteousness. If these are not dealt with clearly, they cannot have good fellowship with God. These things will hold them back from further advance. If there is anyone whose assets are built on unrighteousness, if at all possible, they should give all these things back to others today. If at all possible, they should settle these things properly. Of course, if it is not possible, God will still accept their heart. There was a brother who owed others tens of thousands of dollars. He had acquired the money by illegal means and later spent almost all of it. At this time he had only three or four thousand dollars left. He had a few children to feed, and he asked me what he should do. I said to him, "If you had fifty thousand dollars in the bank, what would you do? If you had fifty thousand dollars and did not want to repay what you owed, it would be a different story because then it would not be a matter of not having the money, but a matter of not being willing to repay the money. However, God will not let you go. If there is an accusation in your conscience, you will not have peace. In this case you should return to the others what little you have." We would rather be poor and peaceful in our conscience. If we do not deal with our sins clearly, all our energy will be wasted away.
ADDING THE FIFTH PART
Verse 5 says, "He shall make restitution for it in full and add to it one-fifth more." For example, if we owe someone five dollars, we have to repay him six dollars. This extra dollar is counted as the interest. The fifth part must be added when we restore to others all that we have taken advantage of them in. This includes all money and materials gained by improper means. This additional fifth part is to compensate for the loss suffered by others. When we pay others back, it is not too much to give a little extra. When we restore things to others, we should not restore just the exact amount. We should always give a little extra; otherwise, we may shortchange others. This is a most important principle. Suppose I apologize to Brother Wang after I have an argument with him, and I say, "I should not have argued with you today; I did not behave like a Christian. However, you should not have argued with me either." I confess, but that confession can only be considered a restoring of the principal; it is exact accounting. This kind of confession does not have the fifth part added. When we confess, it does no harm to confess a little more. Not only should we restore the principal, but we should add the extra fifth part. This is a principle. We should extend the limit a little. If we are still complaining about others when we confess, this means we still have hatred in our heart. We should only confess our own sins, and we should not implicate others when we confess. We should add an extra fifth part to God’s ordination. It is not enough to confess five- fifths; we have to confess six-fifths. If we are going to confess, we have to extend the boundary a little further.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 18: Notes on Scriptural Messages (2), Chapter 18, by Watchman Nee)