The WELS produced video below teaches us that it is wrong to plagiarize. The description says: “Sinning results in breaking the trust of God and of others, and has consequences, but grace always forgives. (Psalm 51, Proverbs 16:13).”
The young lady in the video repented of her sin, and received forgiveness. She also was put on report, and received the consequence of getting an F on her paper. Even though there are consequences for sin in this world, heaven rejoices when we repent of our sins, and avoid the eternal consequence.
However, what would have happened had Ginger (the young lady) not repented? What if she had said, “I’m offended that you would even ask me about plagiarism”? What if she had refused to answer the charge of plagiarism, and then defended her plagiarism by saying that she had the permission of the original author to surreptitiously copy? What if she had stood by that phony defense even after it was explained to her that that was wrong? What if after repeated private rebukes she continued to plagiarize paper after paper, week after week, year after year, and refused to stop plagiarizing? What if she expected and demanded passing grades for her plagiarized work? What if she started teaching others that plagiarism was not a sin, but rather was an acceptable practice in school and the workplace?
What should the Church do with someone like that? Should the Church continue to sweep such behavior under the carpet? Should the Church do nothing? Should the Church defend and promote unrepentant sinners who teach others to sin?
Martin Luther wrote in his Commentary on Galatians:
But if they obey the flesh in fulfilling the lusts thereof, then do they lose faith and the Holy Ghost. And if they do not abhor their sin and return unto Christ (who hath given the keys to his Church, to receive and raise up those that be fallen, that so they may recover faith and the Holy Ghost), they die in their sins. Wherefore we speak not of them which dream that they have faith, and yet continue still in their sins. These men have their judgment already: They that live after the flesh shall die [Rom. 8:13], … they which do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
[Martin Luther, Selections from his Writings by John Dillenberger; Anchor Books, 1961, pages 152-153].
Plagiarism is a sin. This law applies to laymen, students, teachers, and pastors. Plagiarism is a sin. Anyone who repeatedly rejects rebuke over this sin is on the road to hell, and should not be a leader in the Christian Church. There must be consequences for those who openly engage in sin, and teach others to sin.
“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6). “Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.” (1 Timothy 5:20).
Recently, a WELS pastor in Fond du Lac resigned over allegations of theft. (Fond du Lac Reporter). Plagiarism is a form of theft, it steals wages that are payed for original work and the trust of those who listen. Plagiarism is also deceit. Plagiarism is a sin, and the Church needs to deal with sin by exercising the office of the keys, and also by removing from the ministry those who persist in unrepentant sin.
The Church needs to rebuke and discipline for the sake of the eternal souls of those involved in sin and also those who may be led astray by their bad example, and for the sake of proclaiming the truth. The Church is called, not to condemn just the sins we personally find abhorrent, but also those sins we personally cherish. All sin leads to death, and plagiarism is a sin.
Repent. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).