The Biblical Rules on Restitution Compared to the Modern Destroyer-State

From the Campaign for Liberty:

A widow owed her county $6.30 in property taxes and unpaid interest. When she didn’t pay- she claims she wasn’t aware of the outstanding bill- the county decided to seize her home and sell it at auction to pay the bill. From My Fox NY:

A widow was given ample notice before her $280,000 house was sold at a tax auction three years ago over $6.30 in unpaid interest, a Pennsylvania judge has ruled.

The decision last week turned down Eileen Battisti’s request to reverse the September 2011 sale of her home outside Aliquippa in western Pennsylvania.

“I paid everything, and didn’t know about the $6.30,” Battisti said. “For the house to be sold just because of $6.30 is crazy.”

Let’s assume that this woman knew what she owed and refused to pay. So the local jurisdiction was robbed a whopping $6.30. What would happen if we respected the Bible? Here is a relevant principle:

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. (Exodus 22:1 ESV)

This case law has caused some head-scratching because it is difficult to figure out why an ox gets five-fold restitution and a sheep only gets four times repayment. But even if we take the highest figure, the local rulers of the county could not take more than $31.50. But notice that this is the penalty for stealing a specific animal and being unable to give it back. The animal has been killed or sold somewhere in a transaction that can’t be reversed. If money is what was stolen then it is questionable how one can destroy the money. Money is fungible—all units of currency are identical. So maybe another passage is more directly relevant:

If the stolen beast is found alive in his possession, whether it is an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double. (Exodus 22:4 ESV)

So, if you steal your neighbors sheep, and they can get it back from you, then you only owe them another sheep. (Basically, you repay the stolen item and suffer the loss of such an item yourself.) So by this metric, the most the county could claim from this woman is $12.60. Instead they took away her $280,000 home.

We claim we live in a secular society but we don’t. The governments do not treat crimes against them the same as the crimes we commit against one another. They don’t simply take their money with a specific, understood, just penalty. Instead, they treat all infractions against the government as if they were blasphemies. The problem is theological. Your local government believes it is a god and it demands sacrifices to uphold its deity.

PostScript: If anyone is disappointed I pulled my argument out of the so-called “Old Testament,” I think if you search you will find the Gospels have some material about what happens to those who “devour widows’ houses.”