What Would You Have Done?

Date: November 20, 2014

Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living | You shall not steal…. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not cover your neighbor’s wife…or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Exodus 20:15,17

What would you do if you were unemployed, homeless and found a large sum of money? That was exactly the situation which confronted Tom and Pauline Nichter. In the previous year both of them lost their jobs. Then they lost their house, and most of their possessions. They were living mostly on bread and milk when they visited a shopping center and notice a wallet lying on the floor in a toy store. It was stuffed with hundred-dollar bills.

They picked it up and that’s when the battle with their conscience began. “I have to admit, I did think about how I could use the money to keep from losing my car,” said Pauline, “but it wasn’t our money and we didn’t want to set a bad example for our son.” Police admitted that they were surprised when the Nichters walked into the police station with the wallet and the money.

It was all there–every bit of it. It belonged to Theas Yann, a tourist from the South Pacific island of New Caledonia, who had been shopping in the mall. Yann was plenty glad to get the money back. He thanked them, too–verbally. But that was it. No reward. Nothing. And did that embitter the Nichters? Not at all.   Let me quote the mother: “All we did was what we felt we had to do. That’s how I was brought up, and I had to set a good example for my son. There was no question that was what I had to do with the money. It just wasn’t ours.”

There is a sequel to the story, though. Newspapers picked up on the plight of the homeless family who had been sleeping in their car, without food or shelter. That’s when things changed. A man who owned a restaurant invited them to come in for “free meals.” At another restaurant, a waitress passed the newspaper article around and took an offering for the family. Calls came from all over the world with offers of help.

The family has been able to get off the street into an apartment, and life has begun to normalize.   Tom and Pauline Nichter had no idea that this would happen, nor did they return the money with that motive in mind. It was a fundamental issue of right and wrong. The money didn’t belong to them.

If you really want to know what you believe about right and wrong, attach money to the question and you learn very quickly. A few years ago, I was selling my house and two different parties offered to buy the house at the full price. When the second party learned that I had already accepted the first offer, they took me aside and whispered, “If you take our offer, we’ll give you more money–at least $1,000 more.” “No,” I responded, “My integrity can’t be bought for $1,000.”

Recently, I was rather shocked at a survey which asked, “Is it wrong to commit adultery?” Most people responded in the affirmative, yet when the question was reworded something like, “Would you have sex with someone if you were offered (and a large sum of money was mentioned)?” and the majority of people who had first said it was wrong, admitted that they would do it.

Frankly, we need more men and women such as Tom and Pauline Nichter, who are committed to doing right regardless of the consequences, believing that the example of parents to a child is more important than what you eat or where you sleep. God help us when we forget that we have no right to what doesn’t belong to us, whether it is another man’s wallet or another man’s wife. Think about it

Resource reading: Psalm 119:1-16.