Why Do We Sell (Some of) Our Materials?

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It is not a frequent question, but sometimes people ask, Why do you charge for some of your CDs? The answer is simple enough. We charge for them so we can make them available. But before I elaborate on that, I really should address two scriptures that are sometimes advanced to suggest that one should not sell biblical materials.

The first comes from the book of Proverbs:

Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.

Proverbs 23:23 KJ2000

This passage is telling us to get hold of the truth and keep it. It means that we shouldn’t sell it in the sense of disposing of it. Taken too literally, this passage would even prohibit the selling of a book that discusses the truth or conveys truth. It would even prohibit the selling of a Bible. You would not even be able to buy a Bible because no one would be selling them! There is nothing in this passage to say that it is wrong to sell a CD with a sermon on it. In fact, it plainly tells you to buy it if it is the truth.

The other scripture is from the words of Jesus:

Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

Matthew 10:8 KJV

The first thing to know about this passage is that it is specific to the occasion. On this first missionary journey, Jesus is sending out the twelve with a restrictive set of instructions so they can learn some important lessons. To take an all-inclusive and literal view of this passage and to apply to all the saints, everywhere, at all times would mean we could not take the gospel to the Gentiles. Here is what Jesus said:

[…] Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not[.]
Matthew 10:5 KJV

What is of special interest in this passage, though, is that Jesus sent these fellows out broke—without a penny. The people to whom they were preaching the gospel were expected to support them:

Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.

Matthew:10:9–10 KJV

When Jesus sent out the 70 at a different time, his instructions were slightly different—though he sent them out broke again. This time he told them to find a house where they were welcome and stay there:

And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.

Luke 10:7 KJ2000

What Jesus establishes here is that the teacher of the truth deserves to be supported by the people he is serving. And if they don’t support him he is free to go somewhere else (verse 10). But Jesus’ instructions varied depending on the circumstances. Later, sending out the same group he had sent before, he told them this:

[…] When I sent you without purse, and bag, and sandals, lacked you anything? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that has a purse, let him take it, and likewise his bag: and he that has no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

Luke 22:35–26 KJ2000

So how should we apply the verse, Freely ye have received, freely give? The answer is that we give as freely as we can. People can receive more than 25 free CDs a month from this ministry, sometimes more. We have a weekly CD/DVD program so the scattered brethren will have messages for the Sabbath and there is no charge for the service. And every new sermon or Bible study we do is first offered free of charge to our mailing list in our newsletters and emails. Our children’s lessons are given free of charge to children who cannot afford them. In addition, we have a radio program that goes out daily in many areas, and that program is free to all who want to listen. On every program as it is aired, the listener has the opportunity to order a CD of that program and one other special offer, all free.

Now here is our problem. We have on our shelves well over a thousand sermons and radio programs. All of them have been offered free in the past but to make them all available free of charge all the time would break the bank. Bear in mind that nearly 80% of the people on our mailing list have never given a dime to CEM.

We decided to take a page from a familiar Blue Bell Ice Cream commercial which said, We eat all we can and sell the rest. Our policy is to give away all we can and sell the rest. So we publish catalogs and flyers making our archive CDs available for a fee. We also have a policy of providing limited numbers of these messages free to those who can’t afford them. Many other ministries also have backlogs of messages available and they don’t sell them. But neither do they tell you about them. Keeping your materials out of sight because you can’t afford to give them away does not seem to be a good example of Freely you have received, freely give.

So this is why we sell our archival CDs. We want to make them as freely available as our resources allow. We hope you understand.


Ronald L. Dart

Ronald L. Dart (1934–2016) — People around the world have come to appreciate his easy style, non-combative approach to explaining the Bible, and the personal, almost one-on-one method of explaining what’s going on in the world in the light of the Bible. After retiring from teaching and church administration in 1995 he started Christian Educational Ministries and the Born to Win radio program.

Click here for more posts by Ronald L. Dart

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Image Credits: Joel Montes de Oca