Do You Steal?

by David Padfield

I suppose every preacher, at one time or another, has presented a lesson on honesty. We usually talk about a man doing an honest days work for an honest days pay. I have often heard men illustrate dishonesty by talking about a lazy employee or one who steals office supplies from his employer. Such sermons often start with an explanation of "Thou shalt not steal" (Exodus 20:15) and end with an admonition to "Provide things honest in the sight of all men" (Romans 12:17). The sermon might even include what many call the Golden Rule: "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:12).

Brother R. L. Whiteside once wrote, "He is a poor preacher that cannot preach better than he can practice, but he is a poorer preacher if he does not try hard to live up to his preaching." It appears to me that a growing number of men can preach fine lessons on the topic of honesty, but have a serious problem in applying it to themselves.

In recent years I have talked with several preachers who admitted to me that they were using "bootleg" software on their computers. Some had purchased a used computer that came loaded with unlicensed software; others bought new computers and then "borrowed" the software from friends and fellow preachers. These same men would never dream of walking into a computer store and shoplifting the software -- but they didn't think twice about stealing a copy of the same software by breaking the copyright laws.

Some brethren have tried to make excuses for their dishonesty by saying the software was "too expensive" for them to purchase. Others have claimed that they were using the stolen software "for a good cause." Personally, I would find it very difficult to print a bulletin, prepare tracts and organize class books without a computer and appropriate software. However, I would rather go back to using an old Smith Corona typewriter and rub-off lettering than to steal from others. Computers and software are not a necessity for preaching! The end does not justify the means. Stealing is wrong -- even if you do it "for a good cause."

Churches in general have a poor record when it comes to the use of copyrighted material. I've noticed tract racks filled with photocopies of tracts, songbooks with copyrighted songs pasted into the book and bulletins with art work I know the editor did not purchase.

Having been somewhat involved in the publishing business for over a decade, I have had several of my books, tracts and charts copyrighted. I have never reprimanded anyone for using my material -- but I do object when they try to market it for a profit without my permission. A few years ago I had to have an attorney write a letter explaining the Federal copyright law to one of the bishop-editors among us (the brother was planning on marketing some of my charts). The lawyer expressly stated that I had "no intention to file this matter as a civil action," but as my attorney he had "an obligation to inform" the brother about violating the property rights of another (the brother now goes about the country telling folks that I "threatened to sue" him for using my charts).

Christians are to be obedient to civil law. "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. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves." (Romans 13:1,2).

Let there be no misunderstanding. Readers of this bulletin are free to reproduce any of the articles or charts printed in Reflections On Truth, so long as you do not try to market them without my permission. Some of the clip-art appearing in this publication has been purchased from various graphic studios and I cannot grant license for those to be reprinted. If you are in doubt about whether any graphic is in the public domain or not, just drop me a note and I will be more than happy to assist you (or tell you where you can legally purchase the artwork).

Remember the admonition of the apostle Peter: "Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men -- as free, yet not using your liberty as a cloak for vice, but as servants of God." (1 Peter 2:13-16).