Do the Right Thing

10 Minute Talks  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We need to do what’s right, not what’s personally beneficial.

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Psalm 15:1–4 ESV
O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

The Story

It seemed like any other day for Charles Moore, a 59-year-old Detroit homeless man. He started making his rounds of the streets early that day, digging through the garbage, looking for returnable bottles.
It’s amazing what people throw away. Moore was barely able to scratch a living on what he collected from the garbage. Returnable bottles were the best commodity. A homeless person could collect enough returnable bottles in one day to earn food for three days.
On this particular day, Moore found a white envelope in the trash. Opening the envelope, he found $21,000 in U.S. savings bonds. Moore knew immediately what they were, because at one time he had owned bonds himself.
It was decision time. Keep the money…or do the right thing?
What would you do if you found that kind of money? What if you were homeless, out of work, and digging in garbage cans for recyclables as your main source of income? Would you keep the $21,000?
Think about it for a second: What would you do?
Moore was homeless, but he also had a moral compass that told him, “Somebody is missing these and would love to get them back.” He said later that it did not even enter his mind to keep the money for himself. “They were not mine, and I knew that whoever they belonged to would miss them,” he said.
But the owner did not miss them. She did not even know they were gone.
Fortunately for her, the right person found them—someone willing to do the right thing.
Moore immediately took the bonds to a local homeless shelter and turned them in. A staff member was able to find the owner of the bonds—a man who had died. His widow did even know the bonds existed. She would never have known if Charles Moore had not returned them.
The bonds were returned to the widow. When she was told how they had been returned, she tipped Moore $100.
One hundred dollars.
Thanks, lady!
Do you still think Moore did the right thing?
Moore was raised in the church in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Growing up, he was taught the difference between right and wrong. He had found himself homeless for the first time in his life after losing his job as a roofer.
Moore said, “My mother taught me to do the right thing. I was brought up in the church and I was just taught to do the right thing. The fact that the owners would not have missed the bonds did not make a difference to me. I know a lot of people say, ‘I would not have gave them bonds back, she did not offer you but $100.’ But I was not looking for $100. My purpose was to give them back to the rightful owner. That was the bottom line.”
The reward did not matter to Moore. He just wanted to do what was right.
The story does not end there.
When the story ran in Michigan papers, donations and support flooded in for Moore from people moved by his integrity. People gave him gifts of money, clothes, food, and even returnable bottles.
Dick Wolski, a Detroit man, helped pull together $1,200 for Moore: “What a lesson. Is not that what we are all supposed to be doing?” he said.
Joseph Howse, a spokesperson for the Neighborhood Service Organization—the operators of the shelter Moore frequented—said, “Moore’s actions should recast our ideas about the homeless. The next time you are walking down the street, that person you are brushing aside as this homeless person could someday be the person who gives you a helping hand. You just do not know who an angel is. That is why you help the least of these.”
Where is Moore today? He now has an apartment and a car and was enrolled in a job-retraining program, learning computers. He hopes to own his own business one day.
But he did not start his business with someone else’s $21,000. Charles Moore was down and out, but he kept a strong sense of personal ethics and honesty that he did not compromise even in a time of great personal need.
What would you have done?
Moore did the right thing with no expectation of reward. As it turned out, he got a fresh start because of his honesty.
But what if there had been no reward at all?
Is reward—or praise—the only reason to do right?
Let’s face it—we face tough choices regularly. We might pray over these decisions and ask God’s advice, because many decisions do not seem cut and dried: What college should I attend? What car should I buy? What job should I take? Sometimes we fret over decisions because both choices seem okay.
Let’s face it—we face tough choices regularly. We might pray over these decisions and ask God’s advice, because many decisions do not seem cut and dried: What college should I attend? What car should I buy? What job should I take? Sometimes we fret over decisions because both choices seem okay.
But there are decisions we do not have to pray about. We know what we should do because it is a choice between right and wrong.
But what good is it to just know what to do? Does morality stop at just knowing? It is one thing to know what to do; it is another thing to do it.
A young teacher wanted one particular job badly, but she did not get the contract, so she signed a contract with another school district. A week later she was offered a job from the first district where she really wanted to work. She did not know what to do, so she called her dad for advice. After listening to her ethical dilemma, he said to her, “Let me get this straight. You have signed a contract with one school district. Is that right?”
She said, “Yes, I have.”
He replied, “I do not understand why we are having this conversation.”
The Bible talks about this in .
In this Psalm, David speaks to us who may live in God’s sanctuary, listing the traits of true followers of God:
Those whose walk is blameless, who do what is righteous, who speak the truth from their hearts…
Pay special attention to what David says in verse 4:
…who keep their oaths even when it hurts…
David describes followers of God as people who are not honest only when it is convenient—they keep their word even when it hurts. They show integrity even when it hurts to be honest.
When was the last time it hurt you to be honest? When was the last time it hurt to keep a commitment or do the right thing?
In our Christian walk, the Bible tells us a great deal about right and wrong. Just as a good airline pilot must have a healthy fear of gravity and trust in the cockpit gauges, the Christian must have a healthy fear and respect for the Word of God. Making ethical decisions without the guidance of Scripture is foolish, even when it seems to cost us to follow what the Bible says.
Let us pray.
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