“If you don’t do what you know is right, you have sinned." ~ James 4:17
It's not easy when your family is barely scraping by, treading paycheck-to-paycheck, earning just enough to keep from going under. That’s especially true when you're a teenager.
Her Dad worked two low paying part-time jobs and had no real prospects for better employment. Mom worked odd jobs under the table when she could. They were the in-betweeners – never earning enough to live comfortably but not ‘poor’ enough to get public assistance either.
Once the school bus pulled away, Emma broke into a run, dashing into the alley behind the stores and restaurants. The food in those trash bins was double wrapped; much of it still cold from the refrigerators. Free food meant she could pocket the lunch money Mom gave her before school this morning. Maybe she’d splurge and see a movie.
At first she almost ripped over it – a thick black wallet bulging with cash lying just off the curb.
She picked it up and looked around to see if anyone nearby might have dropped it. There wasn’t. She didn't bother to open it immediately, but turns out it contained 27 Benjamins.
She pondered what to do next.
Being hungry in a working-poor family, $2,700 might’ve gone a long way. She could’ve indulged herself: an iPhone, designer purse, or perhaps the down payment on a car, with plenty left over to help out her Mom and Dad.
But those thoughts never occurred to Emma. Twenty-seven hundred dollars was an awful lot to be carrying around. Her parents didn’t own a credit card; too easy to get behind in payments. It must’ve been intended for something essential. She needed to get it back to whoever lost it.
The young woman forgot about her grumbling stomach. Emma felt a little funny rifling through someone’s personal items, but she imagined the rightful owner wouldn’t mind if he got his wallet back. She was right!
The wallet and cash belonged to a veteran who sobbed with relief when Emma reached him with the help of a local storeowner’s phone. He’d been behind in his rent; a friend had loaned him the cash to settle debts with his landlord.
They met. Emma even refused a $50 reward. She’d done the right thing even though taking the unethical short cut might have benefited not only herself, but her family as well. But feeling good about doing the right thing was something that she’d enjoy for the rest of her life!
Doing the right thing is often counter-cultural in today’s “what’s in it for me” society. However, that’s exactly what God wants us to do. Doing the right thing in every circumstance will not only bless our friends, neighbors and even our enemies, but it will be a special gift to ourselves as well.
Lord, make me truthful and honorable in all things. Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving, and patient with all people. Help me to understand their motives and shortcomings, even as you forgive mine! Amen