Plagiarism sermon ideas

Plagiarism is the act, intentional or unintentional, of presenting another's words or ideas as one's own. Plagiarism is a form of both theft (taking without permission) and dishonesty (bearing false witness about oneself). Even when unintended, plagiarism is a serious matter.

What does the Bible say about plagiarism?

Sermon ideas about plagiarism

Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming Biblical witness condemns lying and stealing — forbidden in the Ten Commandments (Exodus20:15 - 16), affirmed in the Law (Leviticus19:11), advised against in wisdom literature (Proverbs12:22), included by Jesus as pivotal commandments (Matthew19:17 - 19) and included among the actions of the "old self" before regeneration in Christ (Colossians 3:9-10). The witness of Scripture also affirms the need for integrity (Proverbs 10:9), suggesting that there is an eschatological reality to such a life (Zephaniah 3:12 - 13) and that our Christian witness is hindered when we do not live with integrity (1 Peter3:15 - 16). The Bible also suggests that using the words of another is equivalent to stealing (Jerermiah 23:30).

Some believe that plagiarism in a spoken sermon should be treated differently than something written. Numerous sermon clearinghouses exist online where sermons can be downloaded for free or for a price. Practice varies with these: Some are offered with ownership rights; others have strict usage guidelines. In light of this, some suggest that copying (in large or small sections) such sermons is not plagiarism. This is simply untrue. Whether spoken or written, attribution should always be given.

Occasionally, someone may offer their work or a portion of it and indicate that they are unconcerned with getting proper attribution. A pastor may borrow a section of a sermon from a friend, or a newsletter article may copy from a colleague who offered the article. While this may no longer be theft, it is still false representation of the words or ideas of another as one's own.

Pastors should feel free to be creative in the ways in which they give attribution. They might put a note in the bulletin indicating where the inspiration for that week's sermon came from, or they might project their sermon outline on a screen and include brief bibliographic information. The key is that when one uses the ideas or words of another, attribution must be given.

In some instances, discovery of plagiarism may cause an irreparable breach of trust. In academic circles, plagiarism is a cardinal sin: automatic failure for students, grounds for dismissal for faculty in serious cases. Any instance of plagiarism should be treated seriously within the church, but the frequency, the level and the intention of plagiarism will factor into whether or not a pastor found plagiarizing should remain in his or her pulpit. Pastors found to be plagiarizing should have a clear process of reconciliation, whether that means remaining in his or her current church or preparing the pastor to begin with a new congregation in a healthy way.

In cases of willful plagiarism, one may find emotional roots to the cause. Feelings of inadequacy may lead one to idolize the words and ideas of another. Feelings of being overwhelmed or overworked may lead one to seek shortcuts. Plagiarism may be accompanied by other destructive behaviors. Churches addressing the plagiarism of a church leader will want to handle the situation with grace and forgiveness, but also with pastoral sensitivity to other matters that may be lurking beneath the surface.

"When you have wit of your own, it's a pleasure to credit other people for theirs."(Criss Jami, Killosophy [United States: Self-published, 2015], 112)

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