A Measuring Stick for Music
Music is one of the most difficult subjects in which to clearly establish scriptural boundaries for the believer. Many will argue that a person’s conviction on music is nothing more than personal preference or “their opinion.” However, throughout Scripture, we see that God is One of absolutes and that He clearly defines the boundaries of right and wrong in our lives. Why would music be any different?
Often we try to justify the satisfaction of our flesh through music based on the assumption that music is a “gray area” of our lives. I believe that many people would do their best to please God through music if they just knew where the boundaries lie.
So, we must ask ourselves the question:
Can we plainly quantify God’s specific will concerning music?
Let me start by saying that the desired will of a person can be understood without a specific command. A parent, boss, or counselor can make the following statements: “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” or, “That’s what I would do.” In both of these scenarios, the will of the person is obvious, but a specific command or threat of punishment is never given. There are many instances in the book of Proverbs in which advice on prospering and staying out of trouble are given without a specific command. Should we say that these things are just “God’s opinion” and that we can just ignore them? Well, in your free choice, you can ignore God’s opinion on a matter, but shouldn’t God’s opinion be one that you are seriously interested in?
If the music itself, or the by-product of the music, is not inherently sinful or in violation of God’s commands, then we must dive slightly deeper to provide us with common ground by which to judge the subject of music.
The term “music” comes from the root word muse or “to think.” Does God have an opinion on what we are to be thinking about? Yes, He does, and a rather strong opinion. It is laid out clearly in Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brethren, 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
God uses the term “whatsoever” and “think on these things,” so whatever method causes us to think, including music, should fall under these premises.
Something to “Think” About Concerning Music
The music we listen to should be grounded in truth. There should be no deception or falsehood in the message. Our music should not be about fantasy scenarios or creating unrealistic desires that could never be fulfilled. This would eliminate most love songs that are used in an environment outside of marriage.
The biblical definition of honest differs from just being true. The biblical definition here is “honorable, pertaining to what is worthy of respect, noble.” This is the opposite of trivial or mundane things. Our music should be worthy of being sung to God and involving subjects that have relevant value.
The Bible word just is synonymous with “right.” Our thoughts should be on the right things, things God has commanded us to do. Is your music promoting activity that is contrary to the commandments of God?
Our thoughts are to be on holy things. Is your music causing you to think on things that would please the Lord? If the lyrics or rhythm provokes sinful tendencies or memories, it should be avoided.
The term lovely represents a sense of beauty and joyfulness. This is an argument for seeking out music that is uplifting and encouraging to the listener. This would eliminate music with an angry or rebellious spirit or music that promotes violence.
6. Good Report
Having a good report means “good reputation or a good association.” It is undeniable that many genres of music have certain associations with them. There are vastly different viewpoints of rock and roll versus classical music.
Music styles associated with rebellion, anger, resentment, perverseness, nudity, blasphemy, and fornication have no place in our thought process and interaction with God personally or in church.
- There are multiple examples in the New Testament of how we are to consider what people think of what we do.
- We are to be careful not to let what we are trying to do in the name of God be associated with the world’s anti-God philosophy.
7. Virtue and Praise
The Christian life is one of joy, victory, and love. We certainly have much to get excited about for which to be thankful:
- Our Salvation
- Our Family
- Our Church
- Our Freedom in America
While the music of the world proclaims hurt and sadness, our music should describe the positivity and joy that comes with being a Christian.
In the day that we live, many things are battling for our thoughts and attention. Peter admonishes us to bring our thoughts under control that we may focus on the things that truly matter.
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13
Let us not allow our music to be a window to thoughts and mindsets that pull us away from our relationship to God, but rather, let it bring praise to our Lord and draw us closer to Him.
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Matt Waterhouse, GSBC Chairman of the Music Department
Bro. Waterhouse serves as the Chairman of the Music Department at Golden State Baptist College. He also serves as a pianist and singer at NVBC.
Pastor Eric & Sharon Kessel
Thank you so much for this Help! I (Sharon) hadn’t tied Phil. 4:8 to music before, but it makes perfect sense! Thank you for this thoughtful, insightful and VERY Scriptural musical help!
Great point to note! Thanks brother.