The post heading is from a children’s song we used to sing in Sunday School. If you are not familiar with it you can learn about it here. The song teaches children basic Christian discernment while also teaching them anatomy by pointing to the parts of their body they need to be careful with, such as ears, eyes, and mind. As I was thinking about the words to the song, it occurred to me just how deep they really go. We are to be careful with what we hear, see, think about and so forth. But do we carry it too far, or not far enough?
I was prompted theologically to write this post based on some past comments presented on this blog. I have also petitioned some of my fellow bloggers and church elders concerning this subject matter. Since I write about music as much as anything else culturally on this blog, I will focus on that medium in this post. In past discussions I have participated in with other Christians concerning the secular medium of connecting culturally, the basis of discernment has surrounded Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.(ESV)
But are we using this verse correctly? We have a tendency as Christians to want to create a list of dos and don’ts. Much like filling in the gray area not covered by the Ten Commandments. Like a fellow believing blogger, I would say the scope of this verse and context is much broader. Is Paul instructing us to only consume the medium labeled “Christian” as many folks have thought? Should we not watch sporting events like football of hockey then? Should we only listen to hymns and Contemporary Christian music? Should we only read Christian publications? I don’t think Paul is instructing us this way. I believe, as do many others I petitioned, that Phil. 4:8 is more of a list of exhortations rather than a list of things to avoid. But there are other passages in scripture that do deal with what we consume.
1 Corinthians 6:12 tells us:
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.(ESV)
The apostle Paul writes that we do have freedom in Christ, but there is a potential to abuse that freedom and be enslaved by it. We have the freedom to listen to many forms of secular music, from Thrash Metal to Hip Hop, and Country. But there is the potential to consume so much of the blatantly anti-Christ, anti-moral stuff that we could become enslaved to it. In 1 Corinthians 6:18 it says we are to flee immorality. Will what we listen to, evoke imaginations that will arouse lust? It may, or it may not at all. Someone might just listen to a Thrash Metal song and stir up imaginations of violence, and in others imaginations of pumping iron. Can we listen to a song because we like the music even though the lyrics are not glorifying to God at all? These are all good question to consider as we look at the grace of God and the freedom we have in Christ.
Let’s look at some more scripture as we consider these questions. 1 Corinthians 10:23-31 tells us:
23 All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, This has been offered in sacrifice, then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience. 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.(ESV)
We can apply this to what we consume in the way of music as well. Everything we listen to is lawful but not all of what we listen to is helpful. Each one of us has a conscience and if we feel compelled to abstain from certain forms of music or certain lyrics then we should listen to our conscience. But in turn we should not determine what we can or cannot listen to by someone else’s conscience.
I think this is time to bring to light what is found in Romans 14. It addresses the degree of strength each believer has as it applies to what he consumes. Based on the context of this very helpful passage we can apply it to anything we might consume, such as music. One person may believe he or she can listen to anything while the weaker believer might believe he can only listen to contemporary Christian music. But the passage also teaches us that one should not sit in judgment of the other based on their personal conviction or preference. I would encourage everyone to re-read this amazing section of scripture.
I would like to conclude with a bit of a qualifier. By this posting I am not giving you license to listen to any form of debauchery in the form of music. If this kind of music stirs up some ungodly images or feeds some form of vice or lust within you, you probably should be abstaining from that music. I also believe that this medium of music, like the visual medium can desensitize us to sin and it’s offensiveness. If we listen to enough music that treats women like property or pieces of meat then you may begin to be affected by this and treat them the same way. Music is a very strong persuader. Why do you think advertisers use it to sell products? As a friend and fellow believer put it, we need to know God. We know him by reading and studying His word. We also need to be honest with ourselves. We know what our bent in things are. If we believe to be a sin to us, then it probably is. But if we take the total freedom route, we need to be testing, and honing our discernment skills as we live out lives.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Contributors: Chris, Dave, Jacob, Jim, Seth, Travis, and Tyler.