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 (Manna 42: Science and Technology)
Software Piracy - Is it Wrong?
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Enoch Chang—Houston, Texas, USA

From a technological standpoint, two of the greatest and most influential achievements of recent time have been the advent of the personal computer and the deployment of the internet.

Multifaceted, each is useful for virtually every type of application. Used in both our personal and professional lives, they have become an integral part of society.

However, since they can be used for such a wide variety of purposes, the question is, what do we use them for?


King Solomon, with his God given-wisdom, once said,

            That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which may be said
“See, this is new”?
It has already been in ancient times before us. (Eccl 1:9, 10)

Reading Solomon’s statement, you can’t help but wonder what exactly he means.

As humans our life is composed of new encounters that become our experience. But unfortunately since a person cannot be born with the knowledge and experience of others there is no advantage to being born today as opposed to being born yesterday, since his/her experience is unique.

Solomon is saying that what we face today are the same things everyone else faced yesterday and the same things everyone else will face tomorrow. Everyone has “been there” and “done that.”

And in any given circumstance, we still have to make decisions between right and wrong. There is nothing new about the choices that people face in their lives, just a change in how it appears with time.

The same thing can be said of sin. Since the beginning of time, men have sinned against God. But the enticements of Satan have evolved quite dramatically since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

So, if what Solomon said is true, that nothing really changes and sin exists, then the question for us as Christians today isn’t “have we” but “how are we” sinning against God?

For we who live in the technological age, we still need to make decisions of right and wrong, but Satan has grown more deceptive to fool us. He now knows to make use of seemingly non-religious scenarios so that we are less sensitive to our conscience.

If you ask a college or high school student what they primarily use the computer and internet for, you’ll probably get a response similar to: check email, surf the web for news and sports, blog, chat with friends, sell and buy things online, play computer games, make web pages, do homework and research, look at pictures, stay updated with their hobbies (fixing up their car, latest video games, latest tech stuff, etc), burn CD’s, and more.

For the most part, this isn’t a bad list of things to do, although whether or not it’s a good usage of time is debatable. But things get interesting when you ask them what exactly they burn to CD, what they download, where they got the game they’re playing from, and how they got the software to make their web pages.


Of all the hundreds, possibly thousands, of Mosaic laws the Israelites had to observe, we have to remember only ten of them. But these ten laws are not just lifeless words that we must remember.

            For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

God’s word is the weapon of choice to combat sin because, just as sin changes it’s form with time, God’s word is applicable all the time. But God’s word is useful to us only if we recognize our target.

For some reason or another, our ideology or philosophy of stealing doesn’t seem to have kept up with the advancements of technology. In most cases, the word stealing is usually associated only with taking something from a grocery store, robbing someone at gun point, or breaking into someone’s house and taking their belongings.

What we don’t associate stealing with is downloading illegal mp3’s and bootleg videos, cracking trial versions of software, burning copies of copyright-protected CD’s, and performing other “cost-saving” measures.

Maybe we admit it’s a form of stealing, but somehow it’s just not the same as robbing a bank.

This is the dilemma we face today. We know what the Bible says, but we don’t realize how it applies today, which ultimately says that we don’t always know when we’re wrong.


To society we’re referred to as students, children, and young adults. From that point of view, we’re no different from the next person. But, there is a difference. We’re religious education teachers, counselors, youth group leaders, and Christians.

How can we live up to these roles—roles that are supposed to glorify God—if we ourselves make excuses for the “less important” wrongdoings we practice?

Moreover, how can we expect younger youths and non-believers to know what is right if we’re teaching them to do what is wrong?

Right after teaching a lesson on the Ten Commandments, being honest, or being separate from the world, we sometimes ask our students for or give them copied software, videos, or songs.

Sometimes, we even ask if they can help with various church works, which may require certain computer programs, but we adhere to a no-questions-asked policy on how they get the software or even worse, give them the illegal program to use. This gives them the impression that this kind of activity is condoned.

Or how many times have we swapped CD’s with friends we invite to church? We want them to come to know God and to know the truth, but we don’t seem to practice the truth ourselves because our life doesn’t reflect it.

Yes, we know the basic beliefs and teachings of the Bible, observe the Sabbath, and say we don’t celebrate various holidays because they’re not biblical, but, when it comes down to the small daily issues of life, we’re just like everyone else.

Luke says, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” Here Jesus gives us a good guideline on how to judge character—look at the little things.

If we’re found faithful in the little things, then that means we’re also considered faithful in the big things. We have to wonder if we’re faithful in the little things that we let pass by, thinking it’s no big deal.

Setting a bad example is just one of many problems with software piracy. It can lead to other forms of stealing, incur legal woes, encourage us to lie about using pirated software, and hinder our relationship with God.

Whenever we serve God, we’re actually offering our best to Him. But if we’re using pirated software in our service to Him, are we offering our best?

In Mark 11, Jesus grew upset and cast out those who were doing business in the temple and “would not let anyone to carry ‘wares’ through the temple.”

Jesus’ rash actions may sound a bit harsh because we may not think what we’re doing is all that condemning. But the severity of software piracy—especially when we use church as a medium to pass on these things to other members—effectively put a shameful blanket on our conduct in the house of God.

If Jesus was displeased with the sight at the time, what would Jesus do if He saw us with our stolen goods in His temple today? Jesus once said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt ).

This reminds us that we may be Christians, but we also live in this society and must be compliant to what our society requires of us, that is, to do the right thing and to observe the laws.


The first step we need to take is to reconnect with the source of truth, which is God Himself.

Just like a virus-scanning program needs to connect with a central server to stay updated on the latest virus definitions, we need to stay connected with God in order to have the wisdom to see the new variations of sin.

This entails not only reading the Bible and praying on a consistent basis to build up sensitivity towards sin but also looking carefully at our lives and keeping up with the newest issues in society.

Our task in life as Christians is to shine the light for Christ, which means we have to live in the world and not flee to some hole in the ground, fearing that we’ll be influenced by all the evils of society.

Instead we should be active participants in society and be aware of new trends and ideologies. Then, we must use the Bible to discern whether these “new” things are actually sin in disguise.

If we’re able to do this and constantly keep our database of sin updated, then we have a much higher probability of not being ignorant towards sin and all its forms.

Today’s society is all about being on the forefront of cutting-edge technology. Likewise, we need to be on the forefront to recognize the many faces of sin.


Software piracy, unfortunately, is only one of many problems that we face today. With much advancement in science and technology, many old problems have surfaced in new ways.

Knowing that software piracy is wrong and is very much a form of stealing doesn’t mean that it is easy for us to stop the practice.

For most, software piracy is a gratuitous way to watch the latest movies, have the latest software, and listen to whatever songs we want. It even keeps us educated because it provides uninhibited access to whatever programs we would like to learn how to use.

Since there are so many reasons and “benefits” of using pirated software, as well as the fact that it has become a large part of our lives, determining to stop alone may not be good enough.

However, if we hold each other accountable as a group and really have it in our hearts to stop the practice, then curbing the habit will be much easier. The Bible says, “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:12).

In practical terms, this means limiting our computer time, deleting peer-to-peer software, becoming more aware of what our church students and siblings are doing on the computer, and actually being open about the topic with our spiritual companions.

If we are able to address the issue rather than ignore it, then we’re well on our way to devising a solution. We need to get the message across that software piracy is unacceptable.

The problem presented by software piracy has ballooned to such a catastrophic extent that numerous software and music companies are beginning to search for people using illegal software and prosecuting them.

If not for any other reason, we should encourage those we care about to stop for their own good. Even if the person is older than ourselves, perhaps even our youth leader, we must courageously broach the subject with them.

We’re all in the same boat trying to get to the same place. Even if some of us don’t seem interested in reaching the final destination, we can’t just leave them behind. We have to support each other and push together.

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Publisher: True Jesus Church