What Does the Bible Say About Finding Money on the Ground?

Finding money on the ground can seem like a blessing or a curse depending on your perspective. On one hand, who doesn’t like free money? On the other hand, should we really keep money that doesn’t belong to us? What guidance does the Bible provide on this ethical question? As Christians, we want to have integrity and make wise choices when faced with this situation.


The Bible does not directly address the scenario of finding cash on the ground. However, there are some biblical principles we can apply to discern the most righteous course of action. As believers, we are called to live by God’s standards, not the shifting norms of society. Though keeping found money may be acceptable by the world’s standards, as followers of Christ we are held to a higher ethical bar.

Key Takeaways:

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  • The Bible emphasizes honesty, integrity, and giving to the poor.
  • Passages about returning lost objects likely apply to finding money.
  • Consider whether keeping the money aligns with loving your neighbor as yourself.
  • Pray for wisdom to choose the most ethical option.
  • Finding large sums may legally require turning it in to authorities.
  • If unable to locate the owner, prayerfully consider donating the money to ministry.

As we explore what Scripture says, keep in mind that God cares much more about the state of our heart than legalistic rule-following. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom to apply these principles with grace and truth.

What Does the Bible Say About Finding Money on the Ground?

Biblical Principles About Possessions Point to Integrity

Though the Bible does not directly mention finding money on the ground, it provides some principles about possessions that can inform our perspective. Several passages emphasize honesty, integrity, and caring for the vulnerable. This provides a moral framework to guide our conduct when encountering found cash.

For example, the book of Leviticus instructed God’s people not to steal, lie, or deal falsely with others (Leviticus 19:11). They were to be honest in their business dealings, so finding lost money and keeping it for oneself could violate these standards. As Leviticus 19:18 states, part of loving your neighbor as yourself is being honest and acting with integrity.

The book of Exodus adds more context about respecting other people’s property:

“You shall not steal. You shall not deal falsely, nor lie to one another … You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:15-17 NKJV)

Though money is not specifically mentioned here, the principle applies that we should not desire things that rightfully belong to others. Keeping lost money could be a form of stealing, especially if we suspect who the owner might be.

Beyond avoiding theft, Scripture pushes us further to care for those in need. Rather than hoarding found assets for ourselves, we have a duty to generosity:

“Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” (Matthew 5:42 NKJV)

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)

The Bible’s emphasis on compassion and giving suggests we should think of others first when deciding what to do with found money.

Principles About Returning Lost Objects Apply to Money

In addition to general instructions about acting with integrity, the Bible contains specific examples about returning lost objects that likely apply to finding money too.

For instance, Exodus 23 tells the Israelites that if they find their enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, they should return it. The passage concludes:

“You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother.” (Exodus 23:4 NKJV)

This instruction about returning livestock would logically also apply to returning lost money to a neighbor in need.

Deuteronomy 22 provides more detailed instructions:

“You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother. And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until your brother seeks it; then you shall restore it to him.” (Deuteronomy 22:1-3 NKJV)

Again, though money is not directly addressed, these verses establish a precedent for making an effort to return lost possessions. If we find money, we have a duty not just to ignore it but to seek out the owner if possible.

The book of Proverbs also emphasizes returning what belongs to others:

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so.” (Proverbs 3:27 NKJV)

While keeping lost money may not seem actively “evil,” refusing to return it when possible withholds good from others. As Matthew Henry’s commentary on Proverbs 3:27 explains, “If we have the opportunity of restoring what we have found, or of doing any other good office, we must not shuffle it off, but do it while time and season serve.”

Ask Yourself: Does Keeping Found Money Fulfill “Love Your Neighbor?”

Since directly applicable verses are scarce, we can synthesize the Bible’s principles into an overarching framework: What does love require? As Matthew 22:39 instructs:

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (NKJV)

Use this concept as a guideline when asking yourself questions about found money:

  • If I lost this money, would I want the finder to keep it or attempt to return it?
  • What option shows I value my neighbor’s interests as much as my own?
  • Does keeping the money benefit myself while costing someone else, violating love?
  • Even if no one sees my actions, is keeping the money the most ethical choice?
  • Does my decision honor God and reflect His character of righteousness?

Asking these questions steers our focus to care for others and honor God, not just selfish gain. This fulfills the biblical principle of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Of course, rare situations may arise where keeping money serves justice despite seeming selfish. But in general, love points us to return found assets for the good of others.

Pray for Wisdom in Applying Biblical Principles

Given the lack of explicit verses about finding money, prayer is crucial when deciding what to do. Ask God for wisdom in how to live out difficult biblical principles like “love your neighbor.” Pray for clarity on how to honor Him with your actions. Scripture reminds us:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5 NKJV)

Bring your questions and dilemmas to God in prayer:

  • Should I keep this money or try to find its owner?
  • Is there a way I can get it back to them?
  • If not, what should I do with the funds? Keep it or donate it?
  • How can I make choices that please You and reflect Your righteousness?

Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your conduct and reveal any selfish motives that may cloud your judgment. Pray for the wisdom and discernment needed to handle this situation properly according to biblical values. God promises to generously supply wisdom when we seek Him.

Returning Large Sums May Be Legally Required

So far this article has focused on biblical wisdom for small amounts of found money where the owner is unknown. However, if you find a large sum of cash, additional factors come into play. You may have a legal obligation to turn the money over to authorities, especially if indications point to who likely lost it.

For substantial amounts, seek wisdom on how to balance the biblical call to integrity with adhering to governing laws. Scripture tells us:

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Romans 13:1 NKJV)

In the book of Acts, Paul also relied on his rights as a Roman citizen to avoid injustice (Acts 22:25-29). This shows we can utilize legal protections without contradicting biblical values.

Therefore, for sizable discovery of money or valuables, consider contacting the police or a lawyer for guidance. They can help ensure you avoid theft charges if someone comes forward claiming the cash. Follow protocol and turn it over to the proper authorities. Make efforts to locate the owner if possible, but ultimately defer to governing laws, especially as sums get larger.

If No Owner Found, Donate Unclaimed Money to Kingdom Purposes

In cases where a smaller amount of money is found and returning it proves impossible, you may feel comfortable keeping it for yourself. However, an even better use that honors God could be donating the funds to ministry and outreach. Consider giving the money toward spreading the gospel, aiding the poor, supporting missionaries, or your church.

Of course, you are not strictly required to give found money away. In the book of Deuteronomy, God provided instructions on what to do if they encountered a dead animal on the road that didn’t belong to them:

“And you may eat it; the unclean and the clean alike may eat it, as if it were a gazelle or a deer.” (Deuteronomy 14:21 NKJV)

This example showed taking unclaimed goods ultimately belonged to the finder, similar to wild game. However, we are also called to a higher standard as believers. So, prayerfully consider stewarding surprise money you discover toward eternal purposes and the kingdom of God.

Proverbs 19:17 provides motivation for this approach:

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (ESV)

Though you could keep the money yourself, generously giving it away demonstrates the compassion of Christ. It stores up treasure in heaven, not on earth (Matthew 6:19-21). And it’s an opportunity to tangibly live out biblical values like loving others, honesty, and generosity.


Finding money on the ground may seem like a stroke of good fortune. However, as Christians, we want to handle these situations with biblical wisdom and integrity. Though Scripture does not directly address this scenario, it provides principles about loving others, returning lost objects, honesty, sharing with the needy, and caring for your neighbor’s interests. As you evaluate what to do, bring it before God in prayer rather than acting on impulse. Carefully considering biblical values like generosity and compassion can help guide your conduct. If returning the money proves impossible, prayerfully donating it to ministry and the spread of the gospel is a worthy option that honors the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and seek to glorify God with how you steward surprising resources that come your way.

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