I have often heard girls ask if it is ok for them as Christians to listen to music by a certain artist because they want to hear from others whether or not there is a fine line somewhere that they are not to cross and, if so, where that line is exactly. The heart motive behind this question is often a good one – many girls truly just want to honor God with their lives and do the right thing. But be that as it may, it’s still not the right question to ask.
The truth is that if we are busy asking if this artist or that artist is ok to listen to, we are a step away from falling head-long into the trap of legalism and man-made rules. What we ought to be doing instead is intentionally walking not by the wisdom of man, but by the Spirit and His direction in our lives, believing that if we are listening to something that is not best for us, the Spirit will nudge us and let us know.
It is true that music is incredibly powerful and can have a life-changing impact on us, either for good or for evil. Therefore, it is important to, while being careful to avoid legalism and man-made rules, nevertheless be careful to steward our ears well in order to steward well our relationship with God.
4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Deciding What to Listen To
Instead of always asking others if one kind of music or another is ok, consider these four questions, asking the Holy Spirit to guide you as you go:
1. Is this music beneficial?
Does this music build up or tear down? Does it offer a respectful and honorable view of both men and women or is it degrading? Does it encourage me and bring me joy or does it depress me? Do I feel better after I listen to it or worse? Am I inspired to go out and serve others or do the lyrics encourage me to mistreat others? Is it uplifting or does it tear people down?
2. Is this music aiding me in my Christian walk and drawing me closer to the Lord and His ways?
Does this music encourage me in my Christian walk? Even if it isn’t strictly Christian music, does it at least not discourage me from living out my faith? Do the lyrics contain truth about myself and the world at large, or is it full of lies? Is it inspiring me to life a righteous life that complements the righteousness of Christ that I have been given, or does it inspire me to hide that light and venture into areas of darkness?
3. Does this music pass the Philippians 4:8 litmus test?
We are encouraged in Philippians 4:8 to “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.” Can you take the lyrics of the songs in question, compare them to this admonition, and see that they line up? If not, it may be best to reconsider your listening to that particular music.
4. Can I honor God through this music?
Our desire as Christ-followers ought to be to honor God with every area of our lives, including the music we listen to. Ask yourself if the music you are considering brings honor to God. And, yes, God can be honored even through secular music! There are beautiful songs out there which speak to the beauty of nature, the glories of love and marriage, and the joys of serving others, that aren’t necessarily distinctly Christian in nature.
Legalism comes when we begin to say that we can’t listen to music at all that has a certain beat or that is of a certain genre or that is not distinctly Christian in nature. It is not legalistic, however, for us to want to grow in our relationships with the Lord, guarding them against anything that would hinder our intimacy with Christ, and to purpose to steward our hearts, minds, and ears well. Walk by the Spirit, seek His wisdom and direction, and you’ll know the difference between legalism and appropriate stewardship of your ears.