We have radios in our cars and in our bedrooms. TV shows and movies have theme songs and background music to enhance the mood or introduce a scene. Businesses rely on music to cheer up customers in stores and elevators, and use cute jingles to form customer bonds with their products or services. Choir, band and orchestra are taught at countless schools around the world. Music is a key part of our entertainment, even in unrelated events—the Super Bowl has one of the biggest annual concerts every year at half time.
What does God say about music? Where does music stand in your relationship with Him? If you are a Christian, what's your responsibility with regard to music? Have you considered what your musical choices say about you?
God knows you better than anyone
"O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; you understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, you know it altogether" (Psalm 139:1-4).
Have your parents ever gone through your music player or cell phone? How did you feel at the time? Was it a pleasant experience?
What if God took a look? Here's a news flash: God has already gone through your music player and phone—in fact, He knows what's on everyone's music list! Knowing all our thoughts and actions, He is well aware of the songs we listen to. And we ourselves need to think more about them!
What should I do?
The apostle Paul wrote about examining what we hear—"test [or prove] all things" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). As young people, we especially need to discern and weigh the message of the songs we typically listen to. We are then told to "hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil" (verses 21-22). A Christian should seek out and then cling to good influences and pure music. At the same time, we should distance ourselves from lyrics promoting sinful activity.
The apostle further said in Romans 12:1-2 that God's followers are "holy," meaning that we are sanctified—set apart for a special purpose by God. You are important to Him! All of us are. Therefore, we are not to be "conformed to this world" —that is, not to blindly accept worldly standards for music.
These societal norms have been influenced by Satan the devil. We are told to avoid them and to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Christians should gain a new perspective while growing closer to God, coming to understand more deeply how to apply His principles in our lives. The passage ends with a positive admonition: "Prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Prove your music. Does it fit with all of God's standards, or are your choices bending to sinful values? Consider researching a particular song you enjoy. What are its lyrics—in full? What message or story is the songwriter and performers telling? Furthermore, search for and listen to godly music.
A higher standard
To find and hang on to music God would approve of, we need to use His standards to judge our music. His standards are laid out in His Word. The Ten Commandments give 10 spiritual principles we are to live by both in the letter of the law (exactly as worded) and in the spirit of the law (in the mind and intent). Jesus Christ summarized these in two great commandments, stating that we are to love God above all else and love our neighbor as ourselves.
If a particular song glorifies or condones the violation of any of these laws, it's not a good choice for your playlist. Since the foundation of these principles is love, it's easy to see why a song endorsing malice, hate, immoral sexual behavior (including sex outside of marriage), lust or greed would not be beneficial for Christian consumption.
Here's an example of some positive biblical standards for music: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8).
Our music should be able to fit those descriptors. It's up to each of us to apply those standards to our music. No one else can do it for you. This is a personal duty and responsibility!
But why do we need to examine and filter our musical consumption? Beyond the fact that God directs us to do so through biblical principles, we should realize that anything God tells us to do is for our own benefit.
Music, as sound, enters our brain and becomes part of our thoughts. These thoughts form the words we speak. Words evolve into actions. Over time, repeated actions create habits and patterns in our behavior. Habits come together and produce our character, which is who we are as people. Our music choices can shape or expose our character. Wise selections help build good character.
God is always with us and knows everything we do and think, including what songs we listen to. As Christians, it's our own personal duty and individual responsibility to examine and judge our music. You and I alone can interpret and employ God's benchmarks for music in our own lives. The standards you use must be based on God's Word, not on personal opinion or worldly views. We do this out of obedience to God, and He has directed it for our benefit.
The next time you hear music while jamming to the radio or shuffling through your iPod, stop and ask yourself: What am I listening to?