There was an article the other day about a young woman who found a £20 note on the floor of the local shop and pocketed it. The person who had accidentally dropped the money went to the store looking for it, and the staff looked through the security video and saw the woman finding and keeping it. The result, the £20 pounds cost the finder nearly £200 and a criminal record.
I reflect on that as I found a £10 note at a supermarket, and turned it into the customer services desk. It was recorded in a book, and months later I was called by the store to say no one had claimed it so, I could come collect it.
Many of us take the view that “finders keepers” is morally acceptable. But an examination of the circumstances should be a guide for us. Most people do not randomly drop money as part of their daily routine. Allowing for this and the fact that money “doesn’t grow on trees,” we should assume it belongs to someone.
Without the whole “Thou shalt not steal” thing, there is a more Christian (rather than Old Testament) principle at work here. “Love your neighbour as yourself.” If we are reacting to others and their losses as we would want to be treated, we would earnestly seek to make their frustration or even anxiety less. It is a matter of integrity, but even more so of love.