As I grew up around Christianity most of my life, this was a question that I’ve seen asked and discussed among many people within the faith. You have one side of people who believe that it’s okay to listen to any music you want to listen to, and you have other people who say that it’s ungodly to listen to music that’s not Christian-based. With any debate regarding what’s truthful and acceptable within the Christian faith, we can always turn to the Scripture to help make our conclusions. I think the first thing that must be considered is what defines “Christian music”?
One could say it’s defined by it being a song that’s about Jesus. That would seem like a logical answer, but does Scripture define for us what Christian music is? Well, we know that Jesus and the Apostles sung hymns to God, but something interesting you might not have known, is what hymns they sung. If you look at the Greek word for hymn, it’s hymneo, which means to sing the praise of, sing hymns to, to sing a hymn, to sing, and one other thing that’s very interesting. It also means, “singing of paschal hymns these were Psalms 113 – 118 and 136, which the Jews called the “great Hallel”. Pretty neat huh. So here’s one defined aspect of music that for sure we know is music of God. Now with that said, we could perhaps even say the whole book of Psalms is music of God given that in the Hebrew Bible the title of the book is Tehillim, which means “songs of praise”.
There are other songs in Scripture that can be found in Exodus, Numbers, and many other places throughout the Old and the New Testament. So in bringing up all of these songs in Scripture, the point I offer for thought in conclusion is that perhaps technically the only defined “Christian music” is that of the songs we find in Scripture. It would thus seem to make modern music that gets defined as “Christian music” also secular, if one is to conclude Christians should not listen to secular music. Now one could counter argue that if one sings praises to God as instructed it shouldn’t matter whether it’s a song in Scripture or a song someone made up. It’s a fair thought to bring up, but I would counter that if there are so many specific songs we are given to sing in Scripture, perhaps that would seem to more suggest that that’s the music God wants Christians to listen to and sing.
Be that as it may, the next point I’m about to make will perhaps negate this mini-debate of what is and what is not Christian music, by pointing to a verse that would seem to indicate that it’s ok to listen to music that’s not whatever one defines as “Christian music”. In 1 Samuel 16, Saul was suffering from evil spirits as a result of disobeying God in the last chapter. The one thing that soothed Saul from his evil spirits was when David played the harp for him. 1 Samuel 16:23 states, “So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him.” Now this is an example of music that had absolutely nothing to do with praising God, and it not only appeared to have been okay with God given nothing bad happened as a result of this incident, but beneficial as well as it refreshed Saul and made him well.
In observing this issue as best as I can from a Scriptural standpoint, I would conclude that perhaps listening to any music in and of itself is not sinful. Maybe the real question to be asked though is if whatever music you’re choosing to listen to is influencing you positively or negatively. A song can just be a song sometimes, but sometimes songs can inspire and influence one to do things that aren’t Scriptural. Philippians 4:8 states, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Perhaps it is the case that if the music you listen to is taking your focus off of dwelling on these things listed, that it would possibly not be the best music for you to listen to. In the end, Christians will make their own conclusions of what they choose to listen to, but no matter what is listened to, hopefully all will do the best they can in every aspect of their lives to live in honor to God.
Peace to all those who are in Christ.