Can Music Be Right or Wrong?

By Jesse Becker

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I was recently asked about the morality of music. In other words, is there good music and is there bad music? This question has been asked a lot and answered in many different ways. This short discussion is not going to address the lyrics, but just the music underneath.

For anything to have a position on a morality scale there must be a standard by which to measure. We know that God’s Word is the only valid ruler we can use with confidence. It is the only place where we can find truths and principles that remain intact through all societies, trends, and fads. They can be applied and they can guide no matter which direction the shifting winds blow. These principles remarkably work in many areas of our lives as well.

I use two primary principles to guide the music I listen to personally and use for corporate worship.

1. The battle of the flesh and spirit

Throughout the bible we see a battle between our flesh and our spirit. When we are saved we become God’s possession, both body and spirit. To please God we must submit to the Holy Spirit and deny the flesh daily. Those that are not saved can only submit to the flesh because, as the Bible puts it, their spirit is dead.

The world, who can only submit to the flesh, has an overriding sound to the music they create and consume. It contains the sounds that feed and bring attention to the flesh. In a nutshell, it is heavy with rhythm. Across all the genres the overriding characteristic is lots and lots of rhythm. Rhythm is scientifically shown to bypass the thinking mind and speak directly to the body.

So, does that mean all rhythm is bad? Let’s look a second principle to help us figure that out.

2. Balance or excess

Ephesians 5:18 tells us of this principle in reference to not being drunk with wine wherein is excess. When someone has excess in their life there is an imbalance, and imbalance can cause all sorts of problems. The apparent excess of rhythm in the world’s music is out of balance with melody and harmony. And knowing that rhythm speaks to the flesh, we can see where this imbalance leads. Another area of imbalance in popular music is the repetition of harmony. A typical song with this imbalance uses about 4 chords over and over and over again. It becomes hypnotic and the mind ceases to be challenged to think.

Verse 17 of Ephesians 5 tells us to not be unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is. And then verse 19 talks about making music to the Lord! If you desire to strengthen your walk with God you can apply these principles to determine what music is good for you. Music that feeds the heart and spirit and the flesh in reasonable proportions is a good place to start. We strive to keep the music in our church services balanced so that they can be lively, yet appropriately reverent and engaging.