By Elizabeth Prata
When Jesus charged Peter to feed his sheep, Jesus did not have in mind to regurgitate recycled food.
You’ve seen these animal documentaries when the mama bird regurgitates already digested food into her chick’s beak. We all go “ewwww!” but we know that pre-digestion is a must for the chicks to be able to handle the food.
When a pastor plagiarizes his material, in whole or in part, he is doing the same thing. He is offering regurgitated, recycled, cold, pre-digested food to the flock. This is not nourishing. The flock will starve.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” … He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15, 17, ESV).
What does it mean to feed the sheep? Strong’s defines the word feed here–
1006 bóskō – properly, feed (graze); (figuratively) spiritually nourish by feeding people the Word of God (Jn 21:15,17). While 4166 (poimḗn) focuses on "shepherding" the flock of God (caring for them), 1006 (bóskō) stresses feeding them His Word.
A pastor who plagiarizes material, whether in small part or in whole, fails to nourish God’s sheep. This is a sacred charge that Jesus gave to Peter, and by definition ALL pastors. It is a preacher’s job to nourish the sheep by feeding them with explanations, proclamations, exhortations, and interpretations of God’s word. This is done by the pastor alone in his study, praying and seeking the Lord for the Spirit to guide him into all meaning.
Barnes’ Notes says of the verse 15 above,
Feed my lambs - The word here rendered "feed" means the care afforded by furnishing nutriment for the flock. In the next verse there is a change in the Greek, and the word rendered feed denotes rather the care, guidance, and protection which a shepherd extends to his flock. By the use of both these words, it is supposed that our Saviour intended that a shepherd was both to offer the proper food for his flock and to govern it; or, as we express it, to exercise the office of a pastor. The expression is taken from the office of a shepherd, with which the office of a minister of the gospel is frequently compared. It means, as a good shepherd provides for the wants of his flock, so the pastor in the church is to furnish food for the soul, or so to exhibit truth that the faith of believers may be strengthened and their hope confirmed.
Note the cause and effect portion of the statement: “Peter do you love me?… Then feed my sheep”. Feeding nutritious food to the flock for their spiritual benefit is an outflow of the pastor’s love for Jesus.
Matthew Henry said, “No one can be qualified to feed the sheep and lambs of Christ, who does not love the good Shepherd more than any earthly advantage or object.”
Does the plagiarizing pastor fear man, and wishes to test run regurgitated sermons that have been proven acclaimed? Does the plagiarizing pastor have a sin of sloth and regurgitates sermons because his attention is elsewhere on more fleshly pursuits? Is the plagiarizing pastor afraid to mishandle the word of God, he so loves it, and in plagiarizing, fails at the very thing he is afraid of? Whatever the reason, plagiarizing is a sin. It fails the office of preacher.
Where one sin exists, others are present. Richard Adams wrote in his book Watership Down, a proverb by the rabbits. “One cloud feels lonely.” We can extrapolate that fictional proverb to, “One sin feels lonely.” The Bible warns in Genesis 4:7–
If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
But if you do not do this, you will certainly sin against the LORD–and be assured that your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23).
IT. WILL. FIND. YOU. OUT!
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires. (Romans 6:12).
Do not let it reign. Sin will happen, but we must slay all sins one by one, endlessly, so that it does not grab a toehold and spread its evil tentacles all over our heart, eventually reigning as king rather than the Holy Spirit. Eventually sin becomes easier and the conscience is seared. Do not let it happen. Be warned, plagiarism is a sin. Plagiarism is evidence that one is abandoning the love one had for Jesus at the first, as we saw in John 21:15-17.
Do you love Him? Feed His sheep fresh, nourishing, tender food from the revitalizing word of God, not some other guy’s recycled regurgitated old food that does nothing for the soul, except to weary its hearers and besmirch the name of Jesus.