A few weeks ago we had someone send in a question. Should a Christian listen to secular music (you can submit a question here)? It is definitely something we ask ourselves or at least ponder about it. I would love to answer this in a yes or no fashion, but there is more to it.
Before we begin I would love to say this. Music that is disrespectful to God, women, others, filled with slander and sexuality is not appropriate and a Christian should uphold his testimony and avoid it. Of course, there are times (on the bus/gym) when you might be forced to listen to it, but that's different than buying a song on iTunes. We are not even discussing these songs - they are a definite no and here’s why.
Music has a Purpose
Believe it or not music has a purpose, it was not created by human hands and was practiced in heaven before we were made. So is music designed solely for worship, or did God also intend music to be soothing and/or entertaining? King David, one of the most famous and well-known character in the bible was a musician. He primarily used music for the purpose of worshipping God (Psalm 4:1; 6:1, 54, 55; 67:1). Even then, at times when King Saul was tormented by evil spirits, David would play the harp in order to soothe him (1 Samuel 16:14-23).
The Israelites also used musical instruments to warn of danger (Nehemiah 4:20) and to surprise their enemies (Judges 7:16-22). In the New Testament, the apostle Paul instructs Christians to encourage one another with music: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). So, while the primary purpose of music does seem to be worship, the Bible definitely allows for other uses of music.
Styles of Music
Even within Christianity there is a difference in culture and style, keep in mind the Bible nowhere condemns any particular style of music. The Bible nowhere declares any particular musical instrument to be ungodly. It does mention numerous kinds of instruments, even percussion (Psalm 68:25; Ezra 3:10). Nearly all of the forms of modern music are variations and/or combinations of the same types of musical instruments, played at different speeds or with heightened emphasis. There is no biblical basis to declare any particular style of music to be ungodly or outside of God’s will.
The Content of the Music
Since neither the purpose of music nor the style of music determines whether a Christian should listen to secular music, the content of the lyrics is key. While not specifically speaking of music, Philippians 4:8 is an excellent guide for musical lyrics: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” If we should be thinking about such things, surely those are the things we should invite into our minds through music and lyrics. Can the lyrics in a secular song be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy? If so, then there is nothing wrong with a Christian listening to a secular song of that nature.
However, much of secular music does not meet the standard of Philippians 4:8, or any other standard for that matter. Come on, you know which song just popped into your head! Secular music often promotes immorality, violence, infidelity, sexuality while dismissing purity, integrity, and integrity. If a song glorifies what opposes God, a Christian should not listen to it. However, there are many secular songs with no mention of God that still uphold godly values and there are many who don’t directly oppose God and completely diminish those values. If a love song promotes the sanctity of marriage and/or the purity of true love—even if it does not mention God or the Bible—it can still be listened to and enjoyed.
Whatever a person allows to occupy his mind will sooner or later determine his speech and his actions. This is the premise behind Philippians 4:8 and Colossians 3:2, 5: establishing wholesome thought patterns. Second Corinthians 10:5 says we should “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” These Scriptures give a clear picture of the kind of music we should not listen to.
My words of advice are this. We are called to holiness. Above our style of music and clothing and whatever else, we need to be holy. We are God’s priests, a chosen generation. Think of it this way, a priest is always a priest. Anywhere he goes, with everything he says, wears, hears, it’s not a part-time responsibility but a full-time joy. So we can’t do certain things on Saturday night and be a different person Sunday morning, those need to be the same person. We can’t speak one way in school or at work and another in a church. Let us be consistent in that which we were called to be. If a song shouldn’t be played in the middle of service, you probably shouldn’t be listening to it.
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