student ministry, youth worker, youth ministry

When Stealing Is Not A Sin

By Doug Franklin February 12, 2013

Authenticity is very important to students, except when it comes to them telling the truth to an adult. Their friendships with each other must be wrapped in honesty but if need be, they will copy someone else’s homework or lie to a teacher. It’s a paradox; students say honesty is important but when it comes down to it they will easily lie.

Is it any different for youth workers? They say integrity is essential for a disciple of Christ but they will photocopy someone else’s copyrighted property, leaving integrity in the dust. Do we really think we can say one thing and do another?

Commandment number 8 is very clear: we are not to steal. We are not to take something that doesn’t belong to us. So what does this include, just money and property? Does it include stealing intellectual property, copyrighted material or others’ ideas? Does it include copying a program and not giving credit to where credit is due? Is it OK to steal when we are all in the church? Let me be very clear: stealing is a sin. Just take a look at Exodus 20:15.

I have been in youth ministry for many years and I have heard leaders say in the past, “It’s OK to steal because it’s we are all aiming for the same results.” Funny how God left that out of scripture. Excuses are the foundation for all sin. I think many of us don’t even want to talk about this subject because if we stay in the dark we can claim stupidity. Stupidity won’t cut it with God. Every time I confront a youth worker who is stealing intellectual property the first thing they say is, “It’s not a big deal.” When I explain it is a big deal and how it hurts other people, the second thing they say is they didn’t know it was wrong. How childish. Didn’t we all take an English class where copyrights were explained in high school? You weren’t allowed to plagiarize then, so why is it okay now?

Is it so hard to give other people credit for their ideas? Are we so prideful that we can’t acknowledge others? Do we really think God is honored by this?

Here are a few misconceptions about stealing intellectual property.

1. When I can’t afford resources it’s OK to steal
If you can’t afford resources and you call and ask the provider for help, I am guessing they will help you. If you call me, you bet I will help. But if your church has a good budget for youth and you just don’t want to pay that is another matter.

My experience has been most youth workers don’t steal because of money, they steal to make themselves look good. They want to be seen as the person with the ideas. If they buy the material their team will see who really made the resources.

2. I’m not sure who to ask permission for photocopying someone’s material
It’s on the inside front cover. Google the company, look up the website and call them. It’s not that hard.

3. If you’re bigger it’s OK to steal
This has been my experience; the bigger the church or organization the more they tend to steal. If you think just because you’re bigger you can intimidate someone, your heart is very dark and the light of Christ is far from you. Bigger doesn’t change scripture or the law.

4. We are only making a few copies
Come on …. we all know that the number of copies doesn’t change the fact that you are not to copy.

If you get the feeling I am worked up about this you are right. This is not a money issue for me, it’s a sin issue. When people steal it shows pride, arrogance and selfishness that needs to stop – it’s hurting our youth ministries. We need to hold each other accountable for our actions and if we are doing anything wrong we need to try and help each other deal with the issues. We have all made mistakes, so let’s ask forgiveness and move forward, committed to not taking what is not ours.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More