Plagiarism is more than an “ism.” Communism is an “ism.” Socialism is an “ism.” Marxism is an “ism.” Plagiarism is more than an “ism.” It is a sin. It needs to be said, and it needs to be said plainly, publicly, and pointedly. So, let me say it again: plagiarism is a sin. It is taking material from someone else and using it in speaking and/or writing as if it is the material of the speaker or writer. It is using material from someone else without giving that person credit for the material. It is sinful. It is sinful whether it happens in the pulpit or with the pen when someone is writing an article or a book, or any other kind of communication intended for consumption beyond the pen and paper of the writer.
I am sure that if you follow at any level what is going on in the Southern Baptist Convention that you know that our president, Ed Litton, was accused and has since acknowledged using sermon material in large chunks from J. D. Greear without giving him credit. He took it from J.D. and presented it as his own. That is plagiarism. He has owned it. He has not run from the issue. He has apologized and it seems wants to move forward from this
particularly perceived peccadillo. But is it a peccadillo? Is this just a small misstep in the midst of much more massively important issues? I am very prone to think that this issue is huge. I do not think it is huge because of who did it, but because it has been done and continues to be done by far too many men in the
pulpit. I tend to think that it is much more common that the people in our pews care to know and our preachers care to confess. If we can get any credible and reliable information from
anecdotal history, then this practice has been going on a long, long time. The big question to ask is, “why?” Could it be that our churches are giving public recognition through ordination for
men to serve as pastors who have so little knowledge of the Word of God or such a shallow and superficial intelligence that we cannot read, study, and interpret the Bible so as to carve out our own sermons? Is it that we are so busy doing so many other things that though we have the brain, the heart, and the resources to dig deeply into the Word of God, we simply do not have the time to get it done? Is it that we are under such pressure to produce new and fresh material each and every week that we will take whatever we can find even if it is not our own in order to achieve the results that are needed to keep the church growing? Whatever the reason or reasons, the fact remains that plagiarism is a sin. It is a sin against our holy and just God and a sin against the church for which Jesus died and a sin against the sheep for whom we are called to care. It was Phillips Brooks I believe who defined preaching as “Truth through Personality.” Preaching is not Truth from some other person
through my personality; it is God’s Truth which is God’s Word through the preacher’s personality. I have heard men say for years things like, “I will preach a better sermon when “fill
in the blank of your favorite preacher here,” writes one.” I sat on the front row one night when a well-known preacher preached without any credit to the writer a chapter from a book I had
just finished reading. I was shocked. Yes, this problem has been around a long time. Maybe somewhere in the midst of this mess of sin, God is calling men in the pulpit everywhere to look at our hearts and to examine our souls. The issue with the SBC President is an issue that his elders must address and resolve to the glory of God and the satisfaction of that local body of believers. It is what they decide to do that should direct what he does in relationship to the office of the presidency of the SBC. We should pray for him and the leaders of his church. And we should all pray for ourselves that we would know what plagiarism is and stay far away from it. It is a plague. It is a sin. We should pray, study, dig deep in the Word of God every week and preach what the Holy Spirit of God gives us from the Word of God to call
people to Jesus and to bring glory to God. It was Spurgeon I think who said that many men could preach the Gospel better than he could, but no man could preach a better Gospel.
Preach brothers. Preach what God gives you to preach. Learn from others even how to preach, but you preach what God gives to you.