Music is a gift from God with the capacity to lift up the human spirit as well as down it. It can spark sublime emotions in us, as well as stir up base ones. Christians are used to worshipping God with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (“gospel music”), but generally frown at singing any other genre of music. Does the Bible condemn listening to all non-gospel music? Are there certain types of secular music that are permissible for a Christian to listen and dance to? Let’s turn to Scripture for guidance as we seek answers to these questions.
St. Luke 7:31 ” How shall I describe this generation? ” Jesus asked. ” With what will I compare them?
St. Luke 7:32 They are like a group of children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you weren’t happy, so we played funeral songs, but you weren’t sad.’ (NLT).
From the passage above, we see the Lord recognising the necessity of playing different types of music for different occasions. The music played at a funeral service is expectedly different from the one played at a wedding feast. It would be most inappropriate to play a mournful music during a wedding celebration, as it would be to play a joyous music during a funeral service! The important lesson here is this: the genre of music to be played is determined by the occasion and the mood of the moment!
Thus, the activity we’re involved in determines the kind of music to play. When we’re involved in the praise and worship of God, the music should reflect the majesty of God and his glorious attributes, which should be extolled to the highest heavens. Such music should glorify God only. Only gospel music is appropriate for such moments. Now, what if a Christian is in an intimate moment of love-making with their spouse? What kind of music will be appropriate for such a moment? At such moments of intimacy, we’re expected to be romantic, to say and do things to our spouses that spark romantic emotions and make their hearts leap and their heads spin with emotions and desire. It wouldn’t be appropriate to sing worship songs at those moments! What we need to capture and heighten the mood at such a time is music whose lyrics is purely romantic! Now, listen to some of such music from the Bible.
Song of Solomon 1:1 The song of songs which is Solomon’s.
Song of Solomon 1:2 Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth; for Your loves are better than wine.
Song of Solomon 1:3 For Your ointments have a lovely fragrance; Your name is as ointment poured out; on account of this the virgins love You.
Song of Solomon 1:4 Draw me; we will run after You. The King has brought me into His chambers. We will be glad and rejoice in You; we will remember Your loves more than wine; the upright love You.
Song of Solomon 1:13 A bundle of myrrh is my Beloved to me. He shall lie between my breasts.
Song of Solomon 1:14 My Beloved is to me like a cluster of henna in the vineyards of Engedi.
Song of Solomon 1:15 Behold, you are beautiful, My love. Behold, you are beautiful; your eyes as doves’.
Song of Solomon 1:16 Behold, you are beautiful, my Beloved; yea, pleasant. Also our couch is green (LITV).
Song of Solomon 4:1 Behold, you are beautiful, My love. Behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are as doves’ from behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats which lie down from Mount Gilead.
Song of Solomon 4:2 Your teeth are like a flock of shorn sheep which come up from the washing place; of which they all are bearing twins; and barrenness is not among them.
Song of Solomon 4:3 Your lips are like a cord of scarlet, and your speech is becoming; your temples are like a piece of pomegranate behind your veil.
Song of Solomon 4:4 Your neck is like the tower of David, built for an armory; a thousand bucklers hang on it, all the shields of the mighty men.
Song of Solomon 4:5 Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, feeding among the lilies.
Song of Solomon 4:7 You are all beautiful, My love. There is no blemish on you.
Song of Solomon 4:9 You have ravished My heart, My sister, My spouse; you have ravished My heart with one of your eyes, with one chain of your neck.
Song of Solomon 4:10 How beautiful are your loves, My sister, My spouse! How much better are your loves than wine, and the scent of your ointments than all spices!
Song of Solomon 4:11 Your lips, My spouse, drip like the honeycomb; honey and milk are under your tongue. And the scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon (LITV).
Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal on Your heart, as a seal on Your arm. For love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as Sheol; its flames are flames of fire, a flame of Jehovah.
Song of Solomon 8:7 Many waters cannot quench love, nor will the rivers overflow it. If a man would give all the wealth of his house for love, they surely would despise him (LITV).
Yes, these songs are in the Bible! These are like some of the romantic secular music we hear today. From beginning to end, the Songs of Solomon focus on the love and romance between a couple. There’s no mention of God, no praise of God, no declaration of God’s majesty, and no falling down before his throne! From beginning to end, the songs focus on the spouses and their love and romance. These songs can be considered secular music, because they are not gospel music. They don’t praise God, they don’t extol God’s virtues and they don’t magnify his name. They just celebrate the love between a couple. Yet, they are included in the canon of Holy Scriptures!
What Scripture is teaching us here is that, God is not a sadist, and that he delights in his children being romantic and loving in their marital relationships. God expects Christian couples to be romantic and to celebrate and enjoy their relationships as married people. Part of the love-making God expects between couples is to play with each other, to be romantic with each other, and to sing songs of love and romance that praise and extol each other’s love and virtue! God expects Christian couples to sing romantic songs to their partners and make them feel giddy with love! He expects us to celebrate our spouses and our love for them with romantic music! One of your responsibilities as a married person is to please your spouse. And, doing that entails extolling the virtues of your spouse through songs that praise them and reaffirm your love! Sing and play romantic secular songs for them!
Proverbs 5:18 Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
Proverbs 5:19 She is a loving doe, a graceful deer. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love.
Proverbs 5:20 Why be captivated, my son, with an immoral woman, or embrace the breasts of an adulterous woman? (NLT).
1 Corinthians 7:32 In everything you do, I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him.
1 Corinthians 7:33 But a married man can’t do that so well. He has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife.
1 Corinthians 7:34 His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be more devoted to the Lord in body and in spirit, while the married woman must be concerned about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband (NLT).
Proverbs 31:28 Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her:
Proverbs 31:29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”
Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
Proverbs 31:31 Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise (NLT).
A Christian is not to sing or dance only to songs that praise God. There are songs for every occasion. There are songs for wedding feasts, for funeral services, for romantic celebration with one’s spouse. There are songs that teach about nature, about moral values, about relationships, etc, without praising God directly. Yet, such songs are appropriate on various occasions, and can be lawfully and legitimately sung and danced to by Christians. When we celebrate nature and natural values and virtues like love, courage, bravery, etc, we’re equally celebrating the Maker of nature, who is God! When we sing about justice, liberty, mercy and human rights, we are promoting values that God cherishes. You can praise God directly by extolling him, or you can praise him indirectly by extolling his works and the things that are dear to him. By praising the works of an artist, you’re praising the artist!
Psalms 19:1 For the choir director: A psalm of David. The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship.
Psalms 19:2 Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.
Psalms 19:3 They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies;
Psalms 19:4 yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world. The sun lives in the heavens where God placed it.
God’s people can sing songs that celebrate victory in battle by praising warriors, or songs that celebrate fallen heroes, without mentioning God in those songs. The women in Israel sang songs to celebrate the warriors of Israel in their victories, as a way of encouraging them and boosting their morale. David composed and sang a song of lamentation in memory of Saul and Jonathan who died in battle, and taught Israel to immortalise them through that song. Yes, David was the sweet psalmist of Israel that composed almost the whole of the psalms (Israel’s hymn book), yet he composed and sang what would be considered secular music (“blues”), music that did not have any direct bearing to the praise and worship of God. But, that song celebrated friendship, love and courage. These are all things that God loves. That secular song of David found its way into the Holy Scripture.
1 Samuel 18:6 But something happened when the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed Goliath. Women came out from all the towns along the way to celebrate and to cheer for King Saul, and they sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals.
1 Samuel 18:7 This was their song: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!” (NLT).
2 Samuel 1:17 Then David composed a funeral song for Saul and Jonathan.
2 Samuel 1:18 Later he commanded that it be taught to all the people of Judah. It is known as the Song of the Bow, and it is recorded in The Book of Jashar.
2 Samuel 1:19 Your pride and joy, O Israel, lies dead on the hills! How the mighty heroes have fallen!
2 Samuel 1:20 Don’t announce the news in Gath, or the Philistines will rejoice. Don’t proclaim it in the streets of Ashkelon, or the pagans will laugh in triumph.
2 Samuel 1:21 O mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you or your slopes. For there the shield of the mighty was defiled; the shield of Saul will no longer be anointed with oil.
2 Samuel 1:22 Both Saul and Jonathan killed their strongest foes; they did not return from battle empty-handed.
2 Samuel 1:23 How beloved and gracious were Saul and Jonathan! They were together in life and in death. They were swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions.
2 Samuel 1:24 O women of Israel, weep for Saul, for he dressed you in fine clothing and gold ornaments.
2 Samuel 1:25 How the mighty heroes have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies dead upon the hills.
2 Samuel 1:26 How I weep for you, my brother Jonathan! Oh, how much I loved you! And your love for me was deep, deeper than the love of women!
2 Samuel 1:27 How the mighty heroes have fallen! Stripped of their weapons, they lie dead (NLT).
Thus, we see from Scripture that people of God are not expected to sing and dance to only gospel or sacred music. We’re not only to sing hymns, psalms and spiritual songs. Because we’re also carnal beings that participate in carnal activities, we can talk and sing about those activities as we live and celebrate the life God has given us. There are times and occasions for everything under the sun. There’s a time to worship and praise God. There’s a time to praise and celebrate our spouses. There’s a time to celebrate our heroes. There’s a time to mourn the dead. In all these times and seasons that represent the length and breadth of the human existence and experience, we’re expected to have an appropriate song for each occasion. Some of these songs may be sacred, while some of them may be secular. And God is perfectly okay with all of them!
Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
Ecclesiastes 3:2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
Ecclesiastes 3:4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
Ecclesiastes 3:8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace (ESV).
What Christians should be more concerned about with secular songs is their lyrics. The lyrics of any song we sing must be devoid of vulgarity and baseness. We must avoid songs that inspire or promote violence, vulgarity, debauchery, lewdness and all forms of ungodliness. In all things, we must consciously choose to listen to, and meditate on, things that are pure, wholesome, honourable, just and commendable. Even as we listen to secular music, we must be careful to discern between good and evil and shun evil!
Philippians 4:8 For the rest, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things have honour, whatever things are upright, whatever things are holy, whatever things are beautiful, whatever things are of value, if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, give thought to these things (BBE).
In conclusion, Scripture does not mandate Christians to listen and dance to only gospel music. While gospel music is used in the worship and praise of God, some secular music are permissible for Christians as we celebrate love with our spouses, and as we celebrate nature and eternal values, virtues and relationships with others. Some secular music that capture these themes and moments can be legitimately enjoyed by Christians. However, we must be careful to judge the lyrics of such music, to ensure they’re not vulgar, base, lewd, violent or ungodly. Whatever we listen to must be honourable, lovely and commendable.