Friday, March 23, 2007

Are You or Your Kids Thieves?

The following is my newest column for our church's newsletter...

You and your children might be thieves. And you might be guilty of this crime knowingly or unknowingly. “How?” you might ask. A couple questions for you. Are you or your children illegally downloading music using Limewire or other file-sharing software? Are you burning copies of music files or cds and selling or giving them away? If you answered ‘yes’ to one of these two questions, you are then guilty of stealing. The difference between the above offenses and walking into a store and putting a compact disc under your shirt (for you or a friend) is only in the mode of theft. “Wait,” you might say, “is that a little legalistic?” No, it is not. For what is going on in the heart that knows it is illegal according to our nation’s laws to do such a thing? The heart says, “I must do this thing, illegal or not, or I will not be satisfied! I am so desirous of this music for my happiness that I will not pay for what the artist has created! I will take it!” And the heart will deceive itself and justify its actions in the name of ministry or kindness to others or itself. “It should be free!” That may be so but it isn’t. “I can’t afford it or so-and-so can’t.” Do you or anyone else need it (entertainment) to the point of breaking the law…are you not satisfied with what you have? What do you have?

One of my students in the youth ministry realized his crime. He deleted and got rid of his (not his!) illegally obtained music. Hundreds of songs (some Christian music) he now must do without. How can he do it? He told me in so many words, “Not having those songs is not my biggest problem! Christ has dealt with my biggest problem and I am satisfied with him.”

Is this legalism? Is this fanaticism? If it is then I pray God would give us these. For if we are to believe “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21) then we must believe our counting “everything as loss” would include those things we might lose which we obtained by breaking the law or without a view to the worth of God in the Universe. I am riveted on a vision of a group of students who can “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8). I crave seeing this in their parents and in the leadership and throughout our congregation

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