Is it a Sin to listen to secular music?

As Christians, many of us struggle with this question on whether it is right or wrong for us to listen or even dance to secular music.

Many others struggle with it, especially folks who came up through legalistic systems that label anything that isn’t distinctly ”Christian” as “of the devil”.

I can’t be taken away from some secular musicians are immensely talented. Secular music can be very entertaining. There are many secular songs that have catchy melodies, thoughtful insights, and positive messages.

Although this question is a “no-brainer” for many Christian musicians, I don’t have a “one-size-fits-all” answer to that question, but I have some observations and experiences that might be helpful.

This question comes up a lot. Then again, as humans, we are always looking for boundaries – something to tell us what is right and what is wrong. Something we can do and observe, otherwise known as the law.

So, for those looking for a simple answer: it depends. Listening to secular/worldly music can be but is not always a sin.

Whether or not to listen to secular music is primarily about the song’s content, not the music itself. If the song’s message is one that is pure and honourable, take for instance, a song that talks about a daughter’s love for her dad, then listen away.

If the song or its lyrics in anyway glorifies sin, then run away. Even more, those asking this question should make sure they are not seeking to keep one foot in the world while trying to follow Jesus.

And above all, we must learn to listen to and crosscheck with the Holy Spirit especially if there is doubt in your heart about whether a song is acceptable. In such an instance, then it is advisable to avoid it.

This and other questions like it can be a challenge for new believers. This is because, in the Bible, there is no account of where it was written that “thou shalt not” concerning secular music. In the absence of specific direction, we must look to more general biblical principles to be our guide.

In determining whether or not to listen to secular music, there are some primary factors to consider and they are the purpose of music, style of music, and ultimately, the content of the lyrics.

Purpose of music: Is music designed solely for worship, or did God also intend music to be soothing and/or entertaining? The most famous musician in the Bible, King David, primarily used music for the purpose of worshipping God. So, be conscious of the type of music you want to listen to. While at it, remember to ask this ultimate question – Does the song glorify sin? Romans 1:32 is the last verse in a judgment pronounced on a depraved people, starting in verse 18. At the end of describing a wicked world that refused to acknowledge God, he adds to the list of their transgressions praising the sin that others committed.

Style of music. Sadly, the issue of music styles can be very divisive among Christians. There are Christians who adamantly demand that no musical instruments be used. There are Christians who only desire to sing the “old faithful” hymns. There are Christians who want more upbeat and contemporary music. There are Christians who claim to worship best in a “rock concert” type of environment.

It is wrong for us as Christians to declare that a preferred style of music is the only “biblical” one and declare all other forms of music unwholesome, ungodly, or even satanic. Some music (and other entertainment) are blatantly sinful and in opposition to the scripture. In this case, without being told, such songs are sinful.

When considering whether or not to listen to certain music, the deeper question you must ask yourself is, “Does this glorify God?”

The content of the lyrics: Before thinking of whether the purpose of music or the style of music determines whether a Christian should listen to secular music, the content of the lyrics must be first considered.

Philippians 4:8, although wasn’t specifically speaking of music, is an excellent guide for musical lyrics: “Finally, brothers, 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.”

Therefore, if we think about such things, surely those are the things we should invite into our minds through music and lyrics.

So the next time you think of listening to any song at all, we should be ready to ask if the lyrics in a secular song can be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy? If so, then there is nothing wrong with a Christian listening to a secular song of that nature.

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