Finders Keepers

We all like to hope when faced with ethical decisions that we would make the right choice. Too much change back on a purchase, padding your deductions on your recent tax return, the white lie that you hope brings more esteem from your peers. Many call it conscience, some call it guilt. What do you call it?


The industry leader in tech security, Symantec, has come up with a pretty clever marketing approach to sell the need for its services. The company decided to plant 50 cell phones around the country in a mock attempt to stage the phones as though they were lost. What those who found the phones did not know was the phones were rigged so that Symantec could track everything the new owners did on the phones. To further bait those who found the phones, enticing programs were included on the devices. Files and programs with names like “banking information” and “private photos” created an additional temptation. You really ought to take the time to read the article here.

?The results of the challenge were not encouraging. Consider only about 50 percent of phones were returned and when all was said and done, approximately 89 percent of phone users accessed areas on the phone they probably shouldn’t have. My favorite part of the story was this email sent by one of the “finders”;

“Hi. I found your phone at the Santa Monica Pier last Thursday (Feb. 2). I used it for like a week but now I feel bad and want to return it. I’m really sorry. :/ What do you want me to do to return it to you?”

How about this picture of one of the “lost” phones? Really? Are you really going to pick that up AND put it to next to your face?

So, I think we typically have the same basic response when faced with the stark reality of human nature. We tend to recuse ourselves from the situation, adamant about how different we would behave if given the same test. We rarely consider our own capability to do evil. In contrast, what one finds in scripture is the tendency for those more mature in their faith to recognize the reality of their sin more readily. Consider Paul’s well know admonition of his own weakness in Romans 7:15. Christ appears to concede His disciples will continue to face an internal struggle between the spirit and the flesh as recorded in Matthew 26:41.

I am afraid our society has developed a laissez-faire attitude towards sin which stems from a lack of accountability from scripture as well as those around us who are struggling with the same issues. The study performed by Symantec is simply a microcosm of our own ability to justify anything when left to our own device. The way the study tracked those with the phones creates an uncomfortable awareness of the persistent power of temptation as we read about the almost pathologically repeated attempts of the “finders” to access personal information.

Character does matter, but it does not come easily. This study is a good reminder that it obviously doesn’t come by our own strength either.

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