The average American listens to hundreds of hours of music a year. The average American also has very little understanding of just how much that music affects them. To add insult to injury, the average American does not have any further reason for choosing the music they ingest beyond "I like it." I like ice cream for breakfast after sleeping in until 11 AM but over the long term that is going to do me a whole lot of damage. There must be some higher and better rationale for a choice than just "I like it."
Solomon discusses several types of people in Proverbs. The simple man is not rebellious; he is just ignorant. He does not even know what he does not know. The foolish man knows better but rebelliously refuses to heed instruction. A wise man chases knowledge and understanding passionately so that he can make the best possible decisions.
In the context of personal music choice the simple man has no more to go on than "I like it." The fool knows better. He has been taught the dangers of the wrong kind of music. He chooses to purposefully ignore those dangers because "I like it." A wise man, while certainly liking his music, makes his music pass a whole lot more tests than that before it begins its influential work on his life, mind, and emotions.
In today's post I am going to give you three tests your music should pass before you allow it into your life. Bear in mind, I am not of the belief that all of our music has to be spiritual any more than I am of the belief that all of our time has to be spent in church. I am, however, of the belief that Scripture should inform our choices in all things, and especially so in cases where those choices influence our thinking and actions.
First, what does this music make me think about? In Philippians 4.8 Paul gives us a list of the types of things we ought to think about. Why? For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23.7) Paul wants us to ask ourselves if this music is true. Is it speaking the truth into my life or telling me a lie? Is it deceiving me about some aspect of how I ought to live, or love, or learn, or be, or a thousand other things. Paul wants us to ask ourselves if this music is just. Is it fair? Is it right? Paul wants us to ask ourselves if this music is pure. Is it morally clean? Does it promote a chaste modesty or a flaunting wantonness? Paul wants us to ask ourselves if it is lovely. Well – there you go. Do you like it? =) Paul wants us to ask ourselves if it is of good report. Is this kind of music and what it speaks into my life generally well thought of? Does its message have a good reputation? Paul wants us to ask ourselves if it is virtuous. Does it contain a moral excellence? Paul wants us to ask ourselves if this music can be praised. Can you give your friends a glowing a report about it? Can you tell God it is good stuff? Can you thank Him for it?
Second, does it bother my conscience? And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. (Acts 23.1) Conscience as my ONLY guide is dangerous; ignoring my conscience as A guide is foolish. Some time ago I was discussing a certain situation with my wife. It was in regards to a person who had chosen to leave our church. Very few people knew the whole story, and I could not share with others what I did know. I said to my wife, "My conscience is clear." In other words, others may look at my decisions and accuse me of what was essentially malpractice. But my conscience was clear. Lying on my bed at night it did not accuse me that I had been unjust. It is in this sense that I use it here. If you have been reading my blog for these months that I have discussed music you have become decently educated on its roots and effects. Knowing what you know as you listen to your music does your conscience bother you or leave you alone?
Third, what is the context of my emotional response to this music? Emotions are almost always right or wrong depending on their context. Hate – are we talking about your parents or about sin? Lust – are we talking about your husband or someone else's husband? Joy – in the Lord or in revenge? Etc. Music is an emotional language. I cannot help but respond to it emotionally, but what is the context of that emotional response? The emotion that it induces in my heart – is it directed in the right way or the wrong way?
This last one is so absolutely essential because how I think and what I feel produces in me my behavior. How I act is directly tied to what I think and feel. We do what we do because we want what we want. Thus, if I am ingesting something that is instructing me or moving me or influencing me to act in the wrong way I ought to stop listening to it. For example, if I have a friend who is always talking up how easy it is to embezzle money from the church I would be foolish to continue to listen to him. I may not have YET embezzled money but regardless I should stop listening to him.
Solomon said it this way under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge. (Proverbs 19.27) Music instructs us constantly. As a Christian I am foolish to listen to music that glorifies adultery, encourages divorce, advocates rebellion, celebrates drinking, etc. Is my music producing in me an inappropriate emotional response? Because if it does that emotional response will influence me in the direction of wrong, and thus I am foolish to continue to listen to it.
There must be more to your music choices than "I like it." These three tests are a good starting point in your personal music choices.