By Reverend Harold Boulette
Recently, there was a news story about a couple that bought a house and discovered there were bags full of money, something like $40,000 if I remember correctly, stashed in the attic of the house. Being honest people, they got in contact with the former owners of the place and returned the money. CNN asked viewers to call or email and give their view on what they would do if they found a large amount of money like that. I didn’t hear the results of their survey.
Now most people, especially spiritual and religious people, will say that honesty is best, it should be returned to the owner, but is it really that simple? First off, do you really know who the owner is? Maybe the people who previously lived in that house never went into the attic and the money was there before they were. Maybe that family had a border staying with them for a while, and the border hid the money in the attic then, for some reason, was unable to get it back (maybe he got arrested, or seriously injured in an accident and was in the hospital recovering). In both cases, this money would have been “returned” to the wrong people. The other question you have to ask, which most reporters seemed to be ignoring, is why was the money stashed in the attic instead of in a bank? I know there are some elderly and eccentric people who have, sometimes with good reason, a fear of banks and would rather take care of their own money, but would they then move, and leave $40,000 behind? Only a millionaire, or someone who had become very senile, would forget that he stashed a bag with $40,000 in the attic and leave it behind. So maybe, the people who found this money should have done a little investigating before just giving it back to people it may have never belonged to or people who got it through illegal activities.
Being honest is great, but complete honesty is not called for in all circumstances. Telling little white lies rather than insulting a friend is one example. Protecting innocent people is another. In WW II for example, many people in Europe hid Jewish families from the Nazis and lied when questioned about it. Were they sinning by telling those lies? I don’t think so. So, while honesty is still the best policy, there are some exceptions.