Our kids love their music, but is God pleased by what they’re listening to? Today we discuss five things we should never allow our families to consume through their headphones and speakers.
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Your children love their music. It excites them, mends them, and inspires them. Each song in iTunes is there on purpose, and each playlist is like a chapter from their life.
They turn to music when they’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 stories or how it makes us feel, the Christian should desire to give Christ the preeminence in all things. This means we must test our music and our children’s music 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, the question for today is this -- does God love or hate your kid’s music?
But more on that in a minute.
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Now, back to the topic at hand. And don’t forget that we have robust episode notes in PDF form on our website. I’ll link it for you in the description.
All the boys who live at Victory Academy have many things in common. One of those commonalities is the fact that they all listen to music of which their parents wouldn’t approve. Even the ones whose parents allow them listen to questionable songs have a steady diet on the side of tunes their parents don’t know about.
It was true of me as well. During my teens years I slid far from God and my parents. And though I can’t blame my music, I can say with all certainty that it strongly encouraged my rebellion.
But in order to know if God is pleased with ours and our children’s music, we need to understand the biblical concept of “glory.”
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:
Second, we must realize that in the same way we glorify God directly and indirectly, His glory can be stolen directly and indirectly.
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 most 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’ll be left with a choice whether or not to change.
Also, allow me to say that many of you listening today have young children who potentially haven’t been introduced to what we commonly think about when we say “secular music.” But if the song wasn’t written directly to or about God, then it’s secular. “Mary had a Little Lamb,” the songs in “My Little Pony,” and the music careening through each Disney movie is either going to indirectly glorify God or steal what belongs to Him.
So, let’s start with the most obvious thing God hates about secular music:
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 falls 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 that our kids are filling their minds with 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 child’s music contains lyrics that are clearly anti-biblical . . .
God hates their 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 from the King James rendering.
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 a song with which to rock out. I could 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 sacrificial lamb. 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 children’s music veils its attacks on God’s character, then . . .
God hates their music.
Now, before I continue to the third item, I want to say that likely your elementary schooler’s musical diet probably doesn’t include the same level of perversion and suggestion that most “grown up” music does. But it’s still there. A perfect example is Disney’s “Little Mermaid.” One of Ariel’s songs flirts with perverted thinking because it kindles thoughts of rebellion and disrespect. This becomes very dangerous because 1. we too often don’t view it as destructive, and 2. it’s catchy. So, because we listen to it a lot and because we’re not on our guard to protect our minds from perverted thinking, it slides on by, infests our philosophies of life, and begins to change us.
In review, God’s not too pleased with your children’s music if it has perversion and suggestions. But, number three, He also can’t abide
3. Wrong Association
If I told you you that I seriously love rainbows, flowers, and purple hearts, you may come to various conclusions. Some of you may scratch a few points off my Man Card.
Others of you are now wondering if my iMac desktop is a flowery mass of hearts and rainbows.
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 allows me to reap the harvest. I love purple hearts because I respect the men and women who earned them defending my freedom.
You see, association is a subjective thing our minds automatically do in response to our own unique collections of life-experiences and a priori assumptions.
Here’s a Real Life Example for you nineties kids: If I tell you that I love Green Day’s song “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 the band 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 one song; you’re likely going to assume I still listen to their music.
SIDE NOTE: Though “Good Riddance” doesn’t have perversion, suggestion, or wrong association, it does have other issues that we’ll talk about in a minute.
That’s is what association is. Association is like a chain. It links my way of life 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 children’s music choices clearly associate them with a group, lifestyle, or ideology that contradicts God’s revealed word then . . .
God hates their music.
4. Errant Philosophy
Now we’re getting into dangerous territory. Why? Lyrics that espouse Failure Philosophies 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.
One of her first break-out hits, “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 her boyfriend’s 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?
When I initially did this study, a solo artist named P!nk was still pretty popular. Her song “Perfect,” made everyone feel all warm and squishy inside because we should never think we’re “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 more modern 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 terribly 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 teaches bad ideas. Rooster and Lily were bad people, and we don’t want to live like them.
The same is true with Disney’s “Let it Go.” Within the context of the movie, the song makes sense because it’s being sung by a very selfish woman who just hurt everyone in her life by making a very foolish choice. 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. Actually, you don't have to wonder. They're not.
If your child’s music teaches them to deny God’s worldview . . . .
God hates their music.
I hope this last thing God hates about secular music isn’t true of you or your children. 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. Have you ever heard it said that “Music is life.” People feel that way because 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. And we have to understand that music does this because God created it to. But Satan has highjacked this divine expression and set it up as a substitute for God.
Consider your children and their music:
I would say music has become their 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 yours or your children’s music has taken God’s place . . .
God hates it.
So, how does your family’s music stack up? Does it directly and indirectly glorify God by giving people a higher opinion of Him and His truth? Or does your children’s 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. 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 family’s life important to you? Does changing into the image of His Son rank higher than downloading that new album?
Here’s a Challenge: I want to encourage you to do three things:
Remember, no one can glorify God with his life if large chunks of it steal His glory. We need to purify our families of the perversion, suggestion, sinful association, errant philosophy, and idolatry in our playlists and embrace that which pleases Him!
If this conversation has sparked questions or concerns, I would encourage you to join us Friday for “How the World Trains Your Kids to Fail.” We’ll be looking at just one song written by a girl who once claimed to be a Christian to see how it’s been used to drag our kids away from God.
We also have a link to extensive notes for this episode in the description.
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