Is it biblical for "ministries" to sell tapes/CDs of messages that they could probably give freely over the Internet? I understand that for a long time, messages could only be mass-produced through hard copies. Now, however, we have a way to upload things so that they can get to more people with little to no cost. Of course, there is always a need for hard copies for people who do not have Internet access frequently, but is it unreasonable to ask that the gospel and other messages that are helpful for Christian living be given freely?
I think of how Jesus told the disciples, "freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). Is this just for the gospel or is it also for message of the whole counsel of God? I know that some people will have the argument that there are costs to reproduce messages and there are costs for packaging, etc. But are we not to live by faith? If we cannot get something to someone because of cost, then should we not ask the Lord for the means to do so? Do we believe that the Lord is able to tell His people to give where there is need and when there is need? Can we (or should we) get into the mindset that if it cannot be given freely (if God has not provided the means to give freely) then it should not be given?
I think the issue is a bigger one than you have brought up. I think the issue centers on the ministry instead of the message. Let's face it; ministries do not pay the power bill with our purchasing of their messages. The bills are paid with donations and support from other sources. I think most of the time the messages that are for sale only cover the cost if we purchased hard copies. I do think that a small charge to cover server costs would suffice if we were to download the material.
People want to have a small kingdom here so they work, work, and work to have a miniature heaven here. We work to have a larger ministry instead of our ministries reaching more people. I am not opposed to ministries prospering and growing but a lot of this is business and not ministry.
Also, if these are messages from God should they be copyrighted?
I am not opposed to ministries charging for things. But ministries that charge for sermons or tell you its free when in reality they have a "suggested donation" is not right.