It's number eight of "the big ten" right between adultery and bearing false witness. We don't do it do we? We don't steal. I personally have never held up a convenience store, robbed a bank or even pinched a candy bar. As a church we surely wouldn't do it, the media would be all over us in no time. Just imagine this "we need to put an addition on the church but we really can't afford it right now. No problem, we'll ask all the guys in the church to bring their trucks and their muscle and we'll go meet at the lumberyard after dark and and load up everything we need for the addition. It's for the Lord's work so it's fine, who can stop us from doing His good work?" Wouldn't fly would it?
How about, it's time to rebuild our church website and everything on the web is free so what does it matter if we just download and copy someone else's site? How about if we just take some of their pictures because they're really nice. What about music, have we kept up on our CCLI fees? Do we know what they cover? Do they cover every piece of music we use in ever setting we use it? When we have a family movie night, do we have the right to show the film publicly? Are we allowed to rip off this year's blockbuster for our VBS so we can latch on to the mulit-million dollar marketing blitz that has put the franchise in the mind, clothing, bedroom and toychest of every child in our community?
But it's for ministry!
The librarian at the school I went to seminary at told me once that theological libraries have the highest rate of theft among academic libraries. Think about that, the places we are training pastors and church leaders have the highest rate of theft. We speculated at the reasons for this, often theological students are broke. Bible colleges and seminaries are almost exclusively private schools and are quite costly. Often times students are already engaged in vocational ministry and thus already living on very little. Also, the books found in a theological library tend to be on the pricey side. Then of course there is that essential ingredient to sin, the justification. That little internal dialogue where tell ourselves "I really need this to do the ministry God has called me to do. Besides, I'll return it when I'm done with it." The intent to return it never goes away, it simply serves as the justification for what we have done.
Doing it right
Leading lives and ministries of integrity and character means respecting the law and the rights of others. Even a national hero like Chris Hatfield has to respect copywrite (
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/chris-hadfield-space-oddity-copyright-license-expires-article-1.1797332 ) so why shouldn't we as the church? We'll use excuses like "it costs too much"or "it's too hard" or "we'll never get caught" ask yourself when are any of those excuses really valid.
We should be better.