Music is a powerful force in our lives. The right song can lift our spirits, bring back memories, or move us to tears. But as Christians, we need to be careful about the music we listen to. Not all music aligns with godly values or brings glory to God. In this post, we’ll explore what the Bible teaches about secular music and how to discern what is pleasing to God.
As a believer, you want to fill your mind with things that honor Christ and grow your faith. But so much of today’s music promotes values that conflict with scripture. Immorality, violence, materialism, and independence from God are common themes. Should Christians avoid all non-religious music? What guidelines does the Bible give us?
While scripture does not specifically prohibit all secular music, it gives us principles to discern what is acceptable. As we will see, the key factors are the content of the lyrics, the effects of the music, and our personal maturity in Christ. When faced with questionable music, we must thoughtfully and prayerfully evaluate it against God’s word.
- The Bible stresses purity, righteousness, and discernment in all areas of life, including music.
- Lyrics that endorse sinful behavior or rebellion against God should clearly be avoided.
- Music that stirs inappropriate passions, promotes immorality, or dulls our spiritual sensitivity should also be avoided.
- Questionable music may be acceptable for mature believers who can discern its influence, but should be off-limits for newer or weaker believers.
- Christian freedom does not mean listening to anything we want, but living wisely to honor and obey God.
- The Holy Spirit can guide us as we strive to choose music that aligns with biblical values.
Lyrics: What message does the music convey?
One of the most direct ways that music can influence us is through the lyrics. Scripture tells us:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
God cares about the messages we expose ourselves to, including in songs. Lyrics that celebrate sinful behavior or encourage ungodly attitudes are clearly inappropriate for Christians.
For example, songs advocating violence, substance abuse, sexual immorality, irreverent treatment of God, or promotion of the occult have no place in the life of a believer seeking to honor God. As you read in 1 John 2:15-17:
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
Some specific sinful behaviors condemned in scripture that you may hear glorified in secular music include:
- Sexual immorality: fornication, adultery, lust (Galatians 5:19-21, Matthew 5:27-28)
- Drunkenness and substance abuse (Ephesians 5:18, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
- Greed and coveting (Colossians 3:5, Exodus 20:17)
- Occult practices and astrology (Deuteronomy 18:9-12, Acts 19:18-20)
- Profanity and coarse joking (Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 3:8)
- Idolatry and false religion (1 Corinthians 10:14, Exodus 20:3-6)
Lyrics promoting or celebrating sin should clearly be avoided. Set a high standard for the media you engage with as you seek to keep your mind pure and avoid influences that dull your spiritual sensitivity.
Music: How does it impact your attitudes and passions?
In addition to lyrics, the music itself can shape our thoughts and emotions in positive or negative ways. Many secular songs today are designed to stir inappropriate passions or create an ungodly sensuality.
As you read in 1 Corinthians 6:12:
“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.”
And in Romans 13:14:
“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
While Christian freedom allows room for personal discretion, we should be wary of music that promotes immorality or dulls our ability to discern right from wrong. Lyrics or rhythms that create an unwholesome sensuality or provoke our sinful nature do not honor God or cultivate righteousness in our lives.
Ask yourself: Does this music promote purity and holiness? Does it bring my thoughts closer to God or distance me from Him? Does it make me more sensitive to ungodly influences or less discerning? The goal is not just to avoid sin itself, but to avoid influences that distract us from single-hearted devotion to Christ.
In addition, music has a powerful emotional impact. Many secular songs can stir feelings of agitation, arrogance, despair, or longing that do not align with a Christian worldview. While emotional experiences prompted by music are not necessarily sinful, they reveal how easily music can shape our inner life. We need to ensure what we listen to points our hearts toward God’s truth and not the “wisdom of this world” (1 Corinthians 1:20).
Ultimately, the Holy Spirit should be guiding your passions, not sinful impulses or fleshly emotions stirred by music. Carefully weigh the impact each song has on your attitudes and desires.
Maturity and Discernment: Should new believers avoid all secular music?
Mature believers have more discernment to filter profane influences from what they hear and see. But new believers or those struggling with self-control are far more vulnerable to corruption and outside influences.
Paul speaks of this distinction in 1 Corinthians 8-9 regarding gray area matters like eating food sacrificed to idols. While mature believers could eat such meat without concern, new believers were at risk of lapsing back into idolatry, so had to abstain for conscience sake. The principle applies to discernment in many areas, including music.
For example, in Romans 14:14-15 Paul writes:
“I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.”
Out of concern for others, you may need to refrain from music that while not inherently immoral, might lead others astray. Parental advisory warnings on albums often signify content that may be inappropriate for young or impressionable listeners. Use discretion and consider not just your own conscience, but how your musical choices impact others.
In the end, mature believers have more Christian freedom to exercise personal discernment. But with freedom comes responsibility. As Galatians 5:13 reminds us:
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
If you have developed strong spiritual maturity and discernment, you may be able to occasionally engage with some secular music without being harmed. But be very cautious of anything that diminishes your fervor for Christ or normalizes ungodly attitudes. And be willing to abstain out of concern for others who may not have that same maturity.
Applying Discernment with Grace and Wisdom
When approaching gray area matters like secular music, we need great discernment and wisdom applied with grace. Extreme legalism can place unnecessary burdens on believers. But lax standards can expose people to influences that erode their faith.
Philippians 1:9-10 offers this prayer:
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”
Pray for discernment rooted in God’s word. The Holy Spirit will guide you as you strive to choose music that honors Christ and promotes godliness in your life.
Evaluate songs individually rather than rejecting all secular music outright. Consider the lyrics, the style, the emotions provoked, and your own spiritual maturity. But when in doubt, err on the side of caution.
Finally, remember that legalism and judgmental attitudes have no place in this issue. Romans 14:3-4 warns:
“The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”
Extend grace to other believers who may apply discernment differently. But also lovingly encourage each other to pursue holiness and guard against influences that hinder faithful obedience to Christ.
How can you fill your mind with music that pleases God and respects biblical values? Seek out music that promotes themes like:
- Praising God (Psalms 150:1-6)
- Truth and noble virtues (Philippians 4:8)
- Encouragement in faith (Colossians 3:16-17)
- Hope amid trials (Romans 15:4-13)
- God’s mercy and grace (Psalm 103:1-5)
Stay sensitive to lyrics, themes, and influences that may conflict with God’s word. Be discerning about emotional impact and sensual elements. Consider your maturity and ability to filter, as well as how your choices affect other believers. And above all, ask the Holy Spirit to guide your decisions and give you wisdom.
God desires us to delight in what is pure, lovely, and admirable. Music is one avenue where we can fill our minds with praise, hope, and truth that draw us closer to Jesus every day. By following biblical principles of discernment, we can choose music that honors God and helps us “be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds” (Romans 12:2). Our theme song should be to live all for Christ and His glory.