You love your music.
It excites you, mends you, and inspires you.
Each song in iTunes is there on purpose, and each playlist is like a chapter from your life.
You turn to music when you’re in a melancholic mood, an adrenaline-soaked frenzy, and a passionate smolder. There are songs for every occasion, and playlists for every party. We couldn’t escape it if we wanted to. It’s behind every movie fight scene, in every store, and rumbling through every sports arena.
For some, music isn’t just life, it’s everything they wish life could be.
But regardless of how well the song tells our story or how it makes us feel, the Christian desires to give Christ the preeminence. This means we must test our music (as well as our movies, movements, methods, and menus) against the Lord’s beautifully sufficient and perfect standard.
God loves that which gives glory to His character and hates that which steals the glory due Him.
So, does God love or hate your music?
What is Glory?
“To glorify” something in a biblical sense is to give a high opinion of it.
I Corinthians 10:31 informs us that we must give a high opinion of God in everything we do – including the mundane acts of eating and drinking.
But how does one glorify God by drinking a cup of water?
First, we must understand that God is glorified in two ways:
- Directly – When we use auditory and visual cues to communicate and our audience walks away understanding that we were pointing to God, He is glorified directly. This happens in preaching, sacred art, and Christian music because the theme is clearly understood to be about nothing other than God and His truth.
- Indirectly – Indirect glorification occurs when the audience has prior knowledge that allows them to see beyond the surface communication to the deeper truths. For example: to anyone with eyes a flower can be described as colorful or beautiful. A dozen roses can communicate love and desire. But a Christian who looks beyond these simple concepts and views the flower as a creation of God and symbol of His power has seen the glory the flower brought God indirectly. Psalm 19:1 depicts this simply with the lines,
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”
Second, we must see that God’s glory is stolen both directly and indirectly.
- A profane tongue will tear down the opinion someone may have of God. A graduate of a Christian school turned his back on God’s truth and began filling social media with atheistic philosophies and harsh criticisms about God and religion. He’s not the first, and he won’t be the last to try to steal God’s glory directly.
- Unfortunately, it’s far easier to indirectly steal His glory. When we take the credit for His working in our lives, we raise our own estimation in other’s eyes and undercut His. In fact, any time we don’t acknowledge God in our lives, we’re ignoring Him and indirectly offending Him. Please understand that this is not somehow more acceptable or “not as bad.” Sins of omission are just as sinful as sins of commission.
Today’s specific focus is whether or not our secular music glorifies God. Let me say from the outset that I believe secular music can (and often does) indirectly glorify God. This is definitely not an if-it-has-a-guitar-and-drums-it’s-sin talk.
But in order to determine if our music does glorify God we will look at 5 things God hates about secular music. When we find these ingredients in our favorites tunes, we’ll know that God is not pleased by our music, and then we will be left with a choice.
Let’s start with the most obvious:
According to Webster, a perversion is “something that improperly changes something good.” Biblically speaking, perversion is everything that God created that sin confiscates for its own devices. God created sex, but sin perverts it. God created speech, but sin perverts it. Profanity, lying, sinful sexuality, greed, dishonesty, rebellion, hatred, lust, and immorality are just a few examples of common spiritual perversions.
Turn on the radio or skim through the iTunes top 10, and you’ll likely encounter perversion before you’ve finished the first three songs. God says,
“Keep your tongue from evil.” Psalm 34:13
“He that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief.” Proverbs 17:20
“The perverted tongue will be cut out.” Proverbs 10:31
It’s a sad reality that the vast majority of pop, rap, country, R&B, alternative, and rock teem with perversion. Whether it’s rebellion against authority, criminal activity, or ever-present sexuality, today’s popular music is brimming with it.
Many songs directly offend God by speaking ill of Him, and all other perversions indirectly offend God because they put the focus on that which He hates.
If your music contains lyrics that are clearly anti-biblical . . .
God hates your music.
Suggestion is a close cousin to perversion, but its ability to say something without actually using the words makes it that much more dangerous. Of course, figurative language has its place, but (as with perversion) it must never imply acceptance for that which the Lord rejects.
Back in the 90’s I wrote a song called “Strange.” It wasn’t a Christian song per se, but it did use the proverbial concept of the strange woman. One of the lines sang,
“Walkin’ shadowed streets.
Holdin’ hands with lips that lie; it’s sad to see
Your secrets shared so openly.”
The implication is clear, but I hinted because I didn’t want the lyrics of my song to implant the wrong type of thoughts in my listener’s brains. I used figurative language to talk about sex, but in my song, the sexual activity of this “strange woman” was not a good thing.
Just because the music doesn’t use the word “sex” doesn’t mean it’s okay to rock out to. I could probably list off a hundred songs that promote inappropriate physical relationships without ever using the word “sex,” but they’re no less offensive to God.
“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
Isaiah 1 is an amazing passage full of surprising comments from God. Verse 13 starts a section where God tells the children of Israel to stop doing all of the sacrificial things He had previously commanded them to do. He tells them to stop because they’re “doing” all of the right external things, but inside they are unrighteous and impure.
What’s the implication to suggestive content?
The sacrificial system was a picture of what Christ was going to accomplish for us as the perfect sacrifice. It was a beautiful and tragic image. So, if God hates the figurative picture a something beautiful and right when it’s offered with a sinful heart, how much more does He hate the picture of sin sung with a sinful heart?
If your music veils its attacks on God’s character, then . . .
God hates your music.
3. Wrong Association
I seriously love rainbows, flowers, and purple hearts!
That very transparent admonition on my part undoubtedly left many of you with various conclusions. Some of you have scratched a few points off my Man Card. Others of you are now wondering if my iMac desktop looks something like this . . .
Why do people automatically jump to conclusions like this when someone says they like rainbows, flowers, and purple hearts?
Let me tell you what I was really thinking about.
I love rainbows because of all God’s promises to man, the rainbow is the only one visible to our physical eyes.
I love flowers because the first job ordained by God was gardener. I love getting my hands dirty, planting seeds, watching as God does all the hard work, and then reaping the harvest.
Association is something our minds automatically do in response to our own unique collections of life-experiences and a priori assumptions.
Real Life Example: If I tell you that I love Green Day’s “Good Riddance,” there’s absolutely nothing inappropriate with you assuming that I like Green Day in general or that I enjoy listening to their other songs. But I know that Green Day is a godless band whose songs are filled with pretty much all of the things we’re talking about here. I don’t want you assuming that I love Green Day and their music because I don’t.
I use Green Day as an example because I spent the majority of my teen years listening to them and I genuinely do like their song “Good Riddance.” But unless I tell you that “Good Riddance” is the only song I like from Green Day, and that I never listen to their other stuff . . . just that song; you’re likely going to assume I still listen to their music.
IMPORTANT NOTE: “Good Riddance” has other issues listed below that keeps me from listening it to it.
This is what association is. Association is like a chain. It links my way of life or likes to another’s.
Now, I’m fine admitting that association is a subjective thing, but we must not be cavalier simply because, “Well, I can’t control what other people are going to think!”
Paul has an extended discussion about whether or not the Christians in Corinth should eat meat lest they wrongly associate themselves with something that could cause a weaker brother to stumble. Making sure that our liberty doesn’t trip someone else up is called love.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” Romans 12:10
If your music choices clearly associate you with a group, lifestyle, or ideology that contradicts God’s revealed word then . . .
God hates your music.
4. Errant Philosophy
Now we’re getting into dangerous territory. Why? These lyrics are masters of stealth. They sneak in like a ninja and no one realizes their moral compass is missing.
The early 2000’s hailed Taylor Swift as an upstanding role model for young girls. I knew many Christian teens whose parents had no problem with them listening to her music. Yet even as a casual bystander I had to wonder if the parents ever once listened to the lyrics.
“Love Story” is about a girl who wants to be with a guy dad doesn’t like. So she spends the entire song upset at dad and eventually sneaks out of the house to meet “Romeo.” Of course, in the end, dad finally comes around and allows the boy to propose to her. Granted, the song never said or implied they were having sex, smoking weed, or vandalizing cars. But throughout the entire song Miss Swift portrayed a philosophy of life that runs contrary to the Bible: If your dad doesn’t like your boy, who cares? Sneak out anyway, dad will eventually come around.
In another of her more popular songs she talks about having a drawer of her stuff at his place. Why exactly did this guy have a drawer of her stuff at his place? Um, because the implication is that she stayed over. Is this something we want our girls thinking is okay?
At the time of this writing P!nk is still pretty popular. Her song “Perfect,” makes everyone feel a warm and squishy inside because we should never think we’re “less than, less than perfect.” Unfortunately, no one will never see their need for God and run to Him for salvation until they realize that they’re anything and everything less than perfect.
I could go on with newer and newer songs that all do the same thing, but the point is clear. Sure, your favorite artist may not swear and promote binge drinking and hooking up, but when they tell you that
“For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!“
your Holy Spirit-tuned conscience needs to say, “Whoa, that’s not true.”
Just because it looks good doesn’t mean it’s from God.
“Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” II Timothy 3:5-7
Personal Example: My wife and I once played Rooster Hannigan and Lily St. Regis in the musical Annie. Our song, “Easy Street” is billed as one of the musical’s most famous songs. But the lyrics are clearly encouraging a sinful lifestyle of dishonestly, laziness, and greed. Still, we played the characters because the story ends with the bad guys losing (a sound biblical principle). But we knew we had to talk with our kids when we heard our littlest one warbling “Easy Street” from her bedroom. We explained that we weren’t going to sing that song around the house because it’s teaching bad ideas. Rooster and Lily were bad people and we don’t want to live like them
The same is true with Disney’s newest controversial song, “Let it Go.” Within the context of the movie, the song makes sense. But when cute little five-year old girls sings
“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!“
you have to wonder if they’re being taught Christ-honoring philosophies.
If your music teaches you to deny God’s worldview . . . .
God hates your music.
“Music is life.”
I hope this last thing God hates about secular music isn’t true of you. But I fear it may be.
As a counselor who deals with teens, I can say with heaping spoonfuls of certainty that most young people love their music too much. Music is so powerful, and (as I mentioned in the introduction) it has the ability to connect with my joys and struggles better than almost any other created expression.
But before you push this aside because you “don’t have this problem,” I want you to ask yourself these questions:
- When you’re having a bad day, do you run to your iPod before you run to the Scripture?
- Do you talk to your friends more about your favorite bands/groups/singers or God?
Are you sure music hasn’t become an idol?
When we turn to our tunes before turning to God, our music has taken His place.
When my music comforts me and excites me more than His truth, my music is my God.
When you prove with your money and your time and your conversation that music is worth more to you than God, you’re worshipping an idol.
“Do not go after other gods to serve them and to worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the work of your hands, and I will do you no harm.’” Jeremiah 25:6
If your music has taken God’s place . . .
God hates your music.
So, how’d your music stack up?
Does your music directly and indirectly glorify God by giving people a higher opinion of Him and His truth?
Or does your music glorify man and sinful pleasures?
Listen, I was in a band for over a decade. I met, hung out with, and played with some very talented and very lost musicians (many of which you would recognize if I gave you their names). As a teen I idolized my music. I really understand how much those songs mean to you. I get it.
But what does God mean to you?
Is His plan for your life important to you? Does changing into the image of His Son rank higher than downloading that new album?
I want to encourage you to do two things:
- Test your music using these “5 Things.“Be honest. Compare your favorite songs to God’s revealed truth.
- Ask for help*. Sometimes it’s hard to see the suggestiveness, bad associations, and errant philosophies. Even the perversion doesn’t look so bad to a someone who doesn’t know God’s Word. I and other God-loving adults would genuinely love the opportunity to help you become the man or woman God wants you to be. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to e-mail me or speak with a Bible-believing adult. We’d love to show you what God’s Word says about your music. But more importantly, we’d love to show you what God’s Word says about you and how you can have the most amazing relationship with Him.
You cannot glorify God with your life if large chunks of it steal His glory. Get rid of the perversion, suggestion, sinful association, errant philosophy, and idolatry in your playlists and embrace that which pleases Him!
*If you’d like to talk to Aaron about music (or anything else for that matter), please feel free to contact him directly at AMBrewster@EvermindMinistries.com. You can also email us at Counselor@EvermindMinistries.com to speak with someone else.
Do you agree? Disagree? Have an opinion you’d like to share?
Please feel free to comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and engage in iron sharpening!
The Evermind Staff