“John could hardly believe what just happened, but there was the evidence right in front of him: where before he had just had one copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, now there were two, exactly identical. He picked up the second volume and paged through it, noticing that it contained the exact words that he had just finished reading in the first book—every line, every page number, every chapter heading was exactly the same! He had bought the first book at a store just the day before, and had finished it that afternoon. And how did he come by this second copy, you ask? Why, he simply uttered Geminio! and it appeared. He tried it again, and there lay on his desk three identical copies of his favourite book. ‘I’ll try once more,’ he whispered, and after saying that magical word, he then had four of the same book.
“You can scarcely imagine how overjoyed this boy was at his new discovery. Not only did he learn that he had magical powers, but now he could share with his friends this book that he had found so much delight in! He gave the three surplus copies to his closest friends, Harold, Jean, and Frederick, but it wasn’t long before all his schoolmates learned of his power in duplication, and had requested copies of their own. But how great was their astonishment when they took their new Harry Potter books home and found that they, too, possessed that same spell-casting ability! Before long these magically-produced books were spreading like an epidemic, and book publishers began wondering if things weren’t getting a little out of hand…”
A nice little story, eh? As far-fetched as it sounds, I believe something very much like this is happening as we speak, though without the magic and on a much larger scale. But before I tell you what it is (perhaps you’ve already guessed), consider this: Were John and his spell-casting buddies stealing? Not technically. They didn’t break into a bookstore and steal a truckload of Harry Potter books. But they still acted dishonestly because none of those children bought the book! Even though they had copies of it in hand, the only money given to the bookstore (and to the publisher and author, ultimately) was that first purchase that John made. In effect, all these magically copied books were stolen property, because they were not paid for.
Now I want you to do something. Go to your iTunes / Windows Media / whatever music library you may have (or imagine it), and see how many tracks you have that you did not pay for. Maybe there’s an album that a friend gave you a copy of on CD. Maybe another friend let you download some of his cool music off of his iPod. Or maybe you just found a really great website that lets you download all the music you want for free. Guess what? All that is stolen property.
It seemed like an innocent act. After all, you didn’t don a black mask, grab a gun, and break into the music store. But neither did you come by all this honestly. Just because you can almost magically make electronic copies of music and distribute them doesn’t make it right. Some may say it’s OK, because they’ll never get caught. Well, in this arena, you probably won’t get caught, simply due to the difficulty of tracking down such crimes. But that doesn’t justify the crime—after all, God sees everything we do. If we want to be holy and blameless in His sight, let’s stay away from any crime, even if it is socially acceptable.
Let the thief no longer steal.
Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered,
but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD,
and he ponders all his paths.
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.