"We did not use this right." — Paul
We agree with the Copenhagen Alliance that the global Church needs free biblical resources unencumbered by “all rights reserved” copyright. The Word of God and the languages it was written in were given to us, so let us in turn give them away to others! We believe that just as someone should not have to pay to hear or read the gospel in their own language, they should not have to pay to read the gospel in the original language. Jesus said, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt 10:8). Paul did not charge money for people to have access to or copy his letters, nor did he feel comfortable making a living as a “peddler of God’s word” (2 Corinthians 2:17) or even being perceived as someone who thought “that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Tim 6:5).
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:7, “Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?” He went on to write: “I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.”
While Paul recognized the freedom in Christ to make a living wage as a laborer for the gospel, he personally renounced that right: “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor 9:11-12).
Famine and Vulnerability
For many in the global Church, it is impossible to learn the biblical languages because the required resources for learning and study are in English, locked up by copyrights, and expensive. Ignorance of the biblical languages can lead to theological famine, and leaves the church vulnerable to false teaching, harmful trends and spiritual immaturity. Without access to the source texts, church leaders depend on others to interpret those texts for them, whether that is in commentaries, YouTube videos or from TV preachers. For those parts of the global church that are rich in resources, how can they be radically generous with what they have, to share with those in the majority world who are eager to learn and grow? What would it mean to let go of resources and share them sacrificially, even if it hurts their pride or pocket book?
A Way Forward
We are convinced that if we want to be radically generous with our God-given resources and exponentially equip the entire global Church with the biblical languages, all the content we generate must…
- be released under one of the following licenses: CC0/Public Domain, CC BY 1, CC BY-SA 1. This grants the the irrevocable freedom to access, revise, translate, repurpose, redistribute, publish, and use the resources without hindrance, remuneration, or the need for custom licenses.
- be publicly accessible.
- be stored in a format and in a place that supports conversion into other formats to facilitate maximum distribution.
For a more robust and lengthy rationale for making these resources free, please read this important article, Letting Go, by Tim Jore. You can also listen to a summary of the article on this podcast. That said, there are many other reasons we give our content away for free, and encourage others to do so. Some of those reasons are explained in the following articles by Matt Perman at desiringGod.org: Make it Free and Objections to Making it Free.