We are not talking about buying a song on iTunes and downloading it. We are talking about downloading copyrighted music, movies, video games, software, books, etc from the internet without paying any money for it. We are talking about piracy and bootlegging. We are talking about what started with Napster and has moved on to Ares, Kazaa, Limewire, BitTorrent, and the like. So, what does the Bible have to say about that?
Point #1: Breaking the Law is Sin
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves... Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.-- Romans 13:1-2, 5
The Bible is crazy clear that as Christians we are called by God Himself to obey the laws of our land. Is it illegal to download copyrighted material without properly purchasing it? Yes. It is plain and simple. When you download Bruno Mars' latest song without paying for it, you are breaking the law. When you break the law, you are disobeying God and sinning.
Point #2: Stealing is Sin
You shall not steal. -- Exodus 20:15
The Bible is also crazy clear that stealing is a sin.
I get that downloading a torrent just doesn't feel like stealing sometimes. Walking into the Gap, looking around to make sure no one is watching, grabbing a shirt and sticking it in your backpack, pretending to look around some more, and then walking out of the store feels like stealing. You've got something tangible in your hands that was for sale that you didn't pay a dime for. You had to act shady and make sure you didn't get caught. That feels like stealing. Downloading files on the internet just doesn't feel the same. You don't have to act shady and make sure you don't get caught. You don't even have to leave your house. You certainly don't end up with something tangible in your hands. And soooo many people do it!
But just because it doesn't feel like stealing doesn't mean it isn't stealing. Did you make The Dark Knight? No. Then it doesn't belong to you. Are the people who made it giving it away for free or are they selling it? Obviously, they are selling it. When you download it for free, do you have something at the end of the process that didn't belong to you? Yes. In what way is that not stealing?
When you download copyrighted stuff from the internet without properly paying, you are stealing. When you steal, you are disobeying God and sinning.
Point #3: Ripping People Off is Sin
The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight. -- Proverbs 11:1
The LORD detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him. -- Proverbs 20:23
What's this got to do with it? Back in Bible days, when you went to the market to buy wheat, oil, or whatever, you would pay by the pound (well, not pounds, but by weight). When you buy bananas at Jewel, they weigh them on the register to figure out how much you should pay. In Bible days, they used scales. They would place the flour on one scale and add weights to the other side to determine how much flour you had. The prices would then be set accordingly.
But some people had scales that wouldn't tip fairly. Other people had weights that said "1 pound" on them but really they weighed a 3/4 of a pound or 1.5 pounds. So if you wanted to buy some flour from them, they would take out their rigged scales and false weights. They would sell you 3/4 of a pound of flour and charge you for a whole pound and you wouldn't know because the scales looked right. Or if you were trying to sell some oil to them, they would take out their fixed scales and weights and they would buy 5 ounces of oil from you for the price of 4 ounces cause the scales tipped in their favor. Essentially, some people would use rigged scales to rip you off.
God says that He abhors and detests this kind of behavior. God hates it when people rip each other off. Put yourself in the shoes of a musician. You have worked your butt off doing gigs and shows at any venue you can find for years. You've been the opening act for many bands but never the main guy. You've been working side jobs just to make ends meat. Then you finally catch a break and make it big. You get signed to a label and put out a real album. You've worked hard to get where you are and you charge a fair price of $13 for your album and you get onto iTunes and reduce the cost there to $9.99. You go for a stroll and see that everybody is listening to your music. Its on everybody's iPod and everybody is humming it or singing it. You go home and check your accounts expecting to have made a lot of money. But you find out that everybody has been ripping you off. Only a small percentage of people actually purchased your album, the vast majority just downloaded it for free.
When you download copyrighted material, you are ripping people off. When you rip people off, you are doing something that God abhors and detests and you are sinning.
What will you do now?
Now here is the bottom line. If you download copyrighted music, movies, etc, you have three options.
First, you can say I don't care what God says, I'm going to do what I want and keep stealing stuff.
Second, you can pretend that you aren't sinning and attempt to justify your theft of copyrighted material. Common excuses include... Those people are already rich, I'm not actually hurting them by getting it for free cause they already have plenty of money. Well, its stupid that this is illegal so God won't care if I break this stupid law. Well, you can't truly own a song because it is art and art should be free, so I have a right to hear it and I will get it for free. Let me just remind you that God doesn't care about your excuses when it comes to His call to obedience. God is clear about this. Will you try to be a lawyer and talk your way out of this with almighty God or will you give Him the respect He deserves and obey?
Third, you can repent of your sin and obey God. Repenting includes getting rid of all of the music, movies, and more that you gained illegally. Delete and erase them all from your computer and all of your devices. Then stop downloading stuff that doesn't belong to you!
This really is a question of what is more important to you. Would you rather obey God and only have 500 songs on your iPod or would you rather disobey God so you can have 5,000 songs? The choice is yours. And you know what? To me, the choice is simple. Let's choose God.
Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a rich man whose ways are perverse. --Proverbs 28:6
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