A few years ago, when I was a pastor, I had a hard time explaining to a rather cranky member why we, as a church, had to pay for a license to use Christian music in our worship services.
“They should give it away freely. Why do I have to pay for it? I thought this was ministry. Why are they out to make money?”
What made this man’s beef all the more interesting is that I had just concluded, a day earlier, a long conversation with him about what he considered unfair pay at his work.
The irony was lost on him, but not me.
But alas, this complaint about Christian content costing money is one I’ve heard in a variety of forms most of my adult life. It goes something like this:
Christian publishers should not be so eager to make money. Why not give their books away free?
Christian musicians should not charge to sing at a church. Why not sing for the Lord?
Christian conferences should offer all their content online, right away, for free, right now.
Well-known speakers shouldn’t charge so much to speak at someone’s church. They should just come to be a blessing.
So, the question is this: Should all Christian content be free? And to this I say a hearty, “No!”
I understand the desire to get resources into the hands of those who can’t afford them. The impulse to break down financial barriers so people can hear the gospel and so God’s people can grow is good. I’m thankful for all of the free content, readily available online and elsewhere. But we must understand that good content always has a cost.
For free stuff, somebody, somewhere was kind enough to fund the spread of the good news. Praise God for this kind of generosity. May He raise up more Christian philanthropists in this generation.
But I want to tackle this idea that there should never be a charge for Christian content—books, sermons, study guides, music, teaching textbooks. This is not a right argument on many levels.
First, the Bible says that hard work should be rewarded with adequate payment.
Paul said to Timothy that “the worker” is worthy of his wages.
Christians shouldn’t succumb to greed and materialism. This is a sin and can be a soul-sucking snare (1 Timothy 6:9).
But money is offered in Scripture as a reward for hard work. Work was instituted by God at Creation, before the Fall. And the rewards of hard work are woven into the mandate to subdue the earth.
To diminish reward is to cheapen, in my view, the value of hard work and to soften the God-glorifying act of creating.