There are 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 a customer bond with their product or service. 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.
But what does God say about music? Self-examination is very important for Christians. Where does music stand in your relationship with God? As a Christian, what’s your or my responsibility with regard to music?
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” (Psalms 139:1-4 Psalms 139:1-4 1 O lord, you have searched me, and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up, you understand my thought afar off.
3 You compass my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, see, O LORD, you know it altogether.
American King James Version×).
Have your parents ever gone through your iPod or phone? How did you feel at the time? Was it a pleasant experience?
What if God went through your iPod? What would He find? Would He be pleased with the songs and content you downloaded? Would He be disappointed with your choices? Or would it be a mixture of both?
Here’s a news flash: God already went through your iPod—in fact, He’s knows what’s on everyone’s music list! Because He knows our thoughts and actions, He already knows the songs we listen to. Now we need to think about what we listen to!
What Should I Do?
The apostle Paul wrote about examining what we hear—“test [or prove] all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
American King James Version×). As young people, we especially need to discern and weigh the message of the songs we to which we typically listen. We are then told to “hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” 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 said that God’s followers are “holy,” meaning that we are sanctified—set apart for a special purpose by God. You are important to Him! Therefore, we are not be “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:1-2 Romans 12:1-2 1 I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×), that is, to not blindly accept worldly standards for music. These societal norms really come from Satan the devil’s influence. “But”, we are commanded, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (ibid). Christians should allow themselves to garner a new perspective as we grow closer to God and 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 and fulfill all of God’s standards, or are your choices bending to sinful values? Think about researching a song: what are its lyrics (in full)? What message or story did the songwriter and performers tell? Where did inspiration for this song come from? And lastly, search for and listen to godly music.
A Higher Standard
To find and hang onto music God would approve of, we need to use His standards to judge our music. His standard is His Word. The Ten Commandments detail ten spiritual principles we are to keep, both in the letter of the law (exactly as worded) and in the spirit of the law (in the mind and intent). The Two Great Commandments state that we are to love God above all else and love our neighbor as our selves. If a particular song glorifies or condones the violation of one of these laws, it is not a good choice for your play list. Since the foundation of these principles is love, it is easy to see why a song endorsing malice, hate, immoral sexual behavior (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 Philippians 4:8Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
American King James Version×, emphasis added).
Our music should be able to fit those descriptors. It is up to each of us alone as an individual to apply those standards to our music; no one else can do it for you—or me. This is a personal duty and responsibility!
But Why Bother?
What’s the point of examining and filtering our musical consumption? Because God tells us to do so, and as God’s people, we obey Him, live by His Word, and submit to His authority. However, anything God commands us to do He does for our own benefit.
Music, as sound, enters our brain, and becomes a 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 persons. 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 is 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; there’s not another person who will do it for us.
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 commanded it for our benefit.
The next time you hear music while jamming to the radio or shuffling through your iPod, stop and think: What am I listening to?