From time to time we’re approached by (or we approach) a publisher with a Bible or reference title they’d like to distribute through Laridian at no charge. That’s fine with us, of course, especially if they do all the work to create the title with BookBuilder. But some of these folks have second thoughts when they find out that we charge for our reader software. They feel uncomfortable having their work supporting a for-profit company. (Of course if they knew how little profit was in it, perhaps they’d change their minds.)
I used to use a biblical argument to support the idea that the “laborer is worthy of his wages”. Paul asks “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?” (1 Cor 9) However, I found that people couldn’t follow this argument. It wasn’t that they thought it didn’t apply in our situation, but rather they just didn’t understand what the passage was even talking about.
So now I take a different tact: It’s OK for people to go to Best Buy and pay $1000 for a computer or $300 for a mobile phone on which to run Bible software. And it’s OK that $50-$100 of that purchase goes to Microsoft or Apple or some other company to pay for the operating system on that computer or phone. When they get the computer home, it’s OK to pay Qwest for high-speed internet access for the computer on which you’re going to do Bible study. Computers require electricity, so it’s OK to pay the local utility company for power to keep the computer running while you do your Bible study. Assuming we’re talking about a home user, and realizing that most people have a mortgage, it’s OK to pay interest to J.P. Morgan Chase or some other big bank for the privilege of having a roof over your computer.
Everyone agrees there’s nothing unbiblical about paying for your computer, operating system, internet access, electricity, and mortgage interest. However, next you want to install Bible software. But God forbid that we should pay the fellow believers who dedicate their lives to creating software to help people study the Bible! Sure, we’ll pay Best Buy, Microsoft, Apple, Qwest, the power company, and the bank — we all know how selflessly dedicated these companies are to advancing the goals of the Kingdom of God — but we’re certainly not going to pay fellow believers to create our Bible study software! That would violate our deeply held Christian principles!
I know that 99% of you reading this blog agree with my argument. It’s great that there are brothers and sisters who donate their time to advancing the Kingdom. But there are some of us who have no other means of support other than what we do to help others understand and apply the scriptures. If we “donate” our time, our kids go hungry. We all think this is obvious, but not everyone does. I thought you might find it interesting that there really are Christians out there who have no trouble supporting secular programmers but balk at supporting their brothers and sisters.
And if you’re in the “Bible software should be free” camp I hope you’ll take a minute to think about who you willingly give your money to (your grocer, mortgage holder, utility company, doctor, plumber, paper boy, internet service provider, mechanic, movie theater, dentist, garbage man, and others) and who you think should go without (your brothers and sisters in Christ) so that you can have cool stuff.