Monday, September 9, 2013
In Search Of Truth, Exodus 20:15-16
In the original Hebrew, the command against stealing is applied much more broadly than we might think. This word also includes the idea of kidnapping and cheating. It is stealing in the broadest sense, including not just tangibles, but intangibles such as dignity, freedom and other personal rights.
Once again, this command is reaffirmed in the new covenant by Romans 13:9-10,
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
God has given each person a set of gifts and resources in order to serve him and others. When a person robs another of their resources or inhibits their freedom, they take away resources and abilities that are meant for the service of Yahweh. In this way, stealing is not simply an act against another person, but also (in fact first and foremost) an act against God.
As believers, we should give everyone, including non-believers, every opportunity to use their resources for God. As geek believers, I think this has particular relevance to the realm of piracy.
Behind every mega-corporation there are numerous employees that our money eventually reaches through our purchases. Through our purchases we enable them to serve Yahweh, resulting either in blessing for them if they choose to serve him, or eventual accountability if they choose not to. When we take advantage of entertainment piracy, we are playing an unseen but significant role that stands in opposition to Yahweh's plans for his kingdom. By contrast, even when we make a $1 purchase on i-tunes we are enabling others to play a more decisive role in the story that Yahweh is creating. We may say to ourselves, "They don't NEED my money. They've got plenty." But do we want to cheat Yahweh out of even one penny he has intended for someone else?
This sort of thing used to not concern me very much. Naturally my thinking on it changed when I started producing and selling my own digital content. But I think it was changed even more as I spent time thinking about Jesus' command to "be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect".
I realized that I was content to be imperfect in the area of piracy, because making the decision to never make illegal copies again seemed so overwhelming. I was bound to fail, so why bother trying?
But along with Christ's command to be perfect, he provided forgiveness and tirelessly repetitious grace and mercy for all the times that I fall flat on my face. With that in mind I told myself one day, "I am probably going to be inconsistent and fail miserably at avoiding all forms of piracy in my life. But these copies of CDs are right here in front of me and I know that my life will go on if I don't have them. I know that I don't need this music at all and if I really want this music I can eventually purchase it if it means that much to me."
Have I failed to be obedient in this regard since that day? Have I told myself of piracy and other "little sins" that "it doesn't really matter" since that day? Absolutely. But thankfully, because of God's grace, I'm chipping away at my old, harmful way of looking at piracy and falling into it less and less, cleaning house more and more as Yahweh improves my perspective. It's a clumsy, stop-and-start journey, but one I'd encourage you to consider as you look at your entertainment library.
The command not to "bear false witness against your neighbor" was primarily, though not exclusively, concerned with legal proceedings. This command was foundational to the entire justice system. Again, we see that the Ten Commandments are not all-encompassing, but rather the introductory foundation upon which further instruction could be built.
It wasn't long after this that Yahweh expanded his commands regarding honesty.
(Leviticus 19:11, ESV) “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.
The command to live a consistently honest life is repeated in the New Testament.
(Colossians 3:9,ESV) Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
(Ephesians 4:25, ESV) Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
We geeks can be a pretty insecure group of people. I've struggled with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy for about as long as I can remember. And my interest in fringe-entertainment hasn't helped the situation. Or more accurately, the reactions I've gotten from others regarding my interests haven't helped my sense of security.
Those feelings of insecurity have led me to try and create a false front or even be deceptive to others. I have over confidently exaggerated my knowledge of a certain subject to appear more intelligent. I have implied that I don't struggle in certain areas of life or morality in order to appear more "spiritually mature". But choosing to be deceptive in these ways has only harmed my own spiritual growth and connection to other believers. I've forgotten that deception prevents me from experiencing what it means to be "members of one body".
Granted, sometimes being honest can bring about pain or judgment from others. And I don't think we need to volunteer information about every aspect of our lives. But we also shouldn't shy away from the truth, even if it means an awkward or otherwise difficult confrontation with another believer. We ought to consider that the painful confrontation that may result from expressing the truth could very well lead to a better understanding and application of the overwhelming grace and mercy of God. The more we hide who we are (both the good and the bad) in order to protect our image, the more we feed the self-destructive mentality that "doing good equals being valuable".
Instead, we should choose to be as transparent as possible, knowing and teaching others that God's grace (undeserved favor) and his mercy are more than enough for every mess we can possibly make with our lives.
(Ephesians 1:7,ESV) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,