Music

What Are You Listening to?

by Kevin D. Denee

Hundreds of musical genres exist. Do you know the good from the bad?

The ear is a marvelously designed part of the human body. The messages it sends to the brain cause us to respond in a host of ways.

The roar of a lion or a tiger creates fear. A child crying for help generates a need to reach out and comfort. Thunder can startle or produce a sense of alarm. The screeching of brakes causes your adrenaline to rush. The whirring of sirens on police or emergency vehicles almost always grabs one’s attention. And the voice of a loved one can elicit feelings of happiness and joy.

Then there is music. In the Internet age, endless genres are instantly accessible at the click of a mouse. Just like other sounds, music can create a multitude of feelings, moods and actions—joy, peace, excitement, anger, depression, etc. But, there are also subtle feelings—and potential actions—that music can inspire.

Because of this, teens face many questions: What music is good to listen to? Should any be avoided? What does today’s music promote? Does it affect teens in the Church?

This article will not spell out all that can and cannot be listened to—it will not be a list of “do’s” and “don’ts.” It will, however, present principles and guidelines that are crucial when approaching music in a right way. Though some teens may not like what is said here, God’s Church must have standards. As an ambassador of God’s Way, you must be different from your peers in the world and set the proper example in all areas of life.

Sex, Drugs and Rebellion

Again, the world provides a vast array of different types of music. In past decades, rock and roll was the spear point of “pushing the envelope” in musical tastes, influencing virtually every segment of society. Yet even the worst of yesterday’s music is tame in comparison to today’s mainstream music.

Let’s consider some of the elements commonly endorsed and encouraged in popular tunes.

First and foremost is sex. While this is especially pushed in rap and hip-hop, almost every type of modern music promotes uninhibited sex. In nearly every music video, there is some reference to sex, and many are almost pornographic! When young people watch such videos, they are conditioned to think that the clothes and actions they see are common and “cool.” Teens often copy trends and lifestyles of these music artists.

Then there is the hardcore, “rage” music, with “artists” yelling at the top of their lungs. Their lyrics—those that you can even make out above all the blaring clamor—are filled with profanity and hatred. And this is not just on the fringe of society. A few years ago, a very popular artist sang that he hated his mom and wished she were dead, among other horrible things. In many genres, such performers win Grammy awards, the most respected in the music industry!

On a related note, violence is also commonplace. It is perceived as “cool” to be a gangster and listen to “gangsta” rap.

Rebellion against authority is a widespread message throughout today’s music, as it has been for decades. Many musicians know that if they appeal to “bucking the system”—authority—they will find an audience. Many songs promote the thinking that work, school, parents and the law are enemies to be disrespected, disregarded and disobeyed.

Drug use often goes hand-in-hand with mainstream music. From the 1960s onward, many highly popular bands created their music while high on drugs—music that promoted drug use and claimed to improve a drug high. Numerous high school students today are going back to that music to “improve” their drug experience.

There is another type of music that feeds into this thinking, called “trance.” And that is exactly what it is meant to do—put listeners into a trance. The repetitive beats and weird sounds are designed to enhance the high. Rave parties across the Western world are frequented by young people who go to drink and do drugs. Trance and other types of electronica are a core element of these parties.

Some musical groups and types of music are openly intertwined with Satanism. (We will learn that Satan is more involved than you might think.) Some bands pray to the devil before going on stage. Other groups hold séances before performing, seeking “higher powers” to enter them. The lead singer of one group would drink blood and act out a human sacrifice on stage. And another said that he becomes possessed when he goes on stage. He said rock is the perfect avenue to supernatural contact.

With all these bad elements, is there anything good about music? Absolutely! Before we understand who or what is behind all that is mentioned above, let’s understand why music can be a wonderful thing.

God’s Gift

God gave us sight to enjoy beautiful landscapes. He gave us a sense of smell and taste to enjoy foods. Similarly, God created our ears, and He gave human beings the ability to create and enjoy listening to music. There is an array of benefits that flow from listening to the right kinds. In fact, there are few things on earth more beautiful and enjoyable than quality music.

If you look throughout the Bible, you will find that God also enjoys music, as do His angels. This is one of the reasons that we sing to God during Sabbath services. The book of Revelation records different spirit beings singing, and Job 38 explains that the angels sang when the earth was created.

Learning about music can be part of a balanced education. Every young person can benefit from studying music in school. It can help one to become well-rounded, and certain studies have even shown that it can improve test scores in other subjects too. (As a side note, some of the most successful people in history enjoyed playing the piano, such as Herbert W. Armstrong, Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein and Harry Truman.)

Consider just some of the benefits:

• Music can be tremendously calming

• Music can be encouraging

• Music can be energizing

• Music can promote right thinking—proper meditation

The Ohio State University published a report on the health benefits of music, revealing that it...

• Helps the immune system become stronger

• Decreases stress and nervousness

• Decreases pain, nausea and vomiting

• Relaxes the mind and body

• Develops a more positive attitude

• Helps deal with stressful situations

What is Behind Wrong Music?

Let’s turn the coin over. Who or what is behind the music that promotes all the harmful effects listed earlier? Have all these elements appeared by accident, or is there something—or someone—in the background orchestrating their development?

Realize that Satan the devil tries to pervert every good thing God created. Consider. Through God’s gift of sight, human beings can look at the most beautiful panoramic views in nature and enjoy them. However, Satan throws all sorts of wrong images in front of people, thereby perverting sight. For instance, the Internet is a very useful tool, and was certainly guided by God to be able to take the gospel to the whole world at the end of the age. In contrast, Satan has taken this tool and created many, many horrible things to view with it. His goal is to pervert as much of God’s creation as he can.

This is also true of music.

Let’s examine Satan’s background. Before he rebelled against God, his name was Lucifer. Ezekiel 28:13 explains that God created him with the ability to compose and make beautiful music. One can only imagine the melodies Lucifer created when he was obedient to God. But when he rebelled, he perverted, twisted and maligned every aspect of his life—including music. Lucifer—who became Satan, meaning “adversary”—became rebellious, violent and profane, which is characteristic of today’s music. Put another way, the greatest created musical artist of all time became a perverted musician!

This is Satan’s world (II Cor. 4:4), and God’s Word describes Satan as the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Satan has control of the world’s airwaves. Those who create wrong music are influenced, knowingly or unknowingly, by “the god of this world.”

When you truly understand it, all songs are advocating one message or another. Musicians are more than entertainers—they are philosophers and preachers. They tell people how to live their lives—and people listen! All of this is directed by Satan, who “deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9).

What is the devil’s ultimate goal? To get you to do things that will pull you away from God’s Church and His way of life. He will try to do this by getting you to tune into his wavelength. Will you allow him this victory?

A Grave Warning

Many, probably most, teens in the Church would say that they avoid the types of music that display the kinds of bad qualities listed earlier. But are you sure?

We all must understand an important point: Satan the devil—who wants the youth to get off track and to fail in life—is a very subtle being! (See Genesis 3:1.)

How does this relate to you and music? Satan knows that he cannot immediately cause you to love the worst types of music. However, being subtle and crafty, he knows that he can cause you to walk down a path that leads to worse things.

Jeremiah 17:9 explains, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” This is perhaps the most basic element of human nature. Every human being is capable of deceiving themselves in almost every area of life. When it comes to music, you will find that you will deceive yourself into believing a certain type of music is okay, and that it is not affecting you. But you must be ever so careful—because it will affect you—for better or for worse! For example, if you listen to one borderline song in a genre filled with mostly bad aspects, it will inevitably lead you deeper into that genre. Eventually, it will lead you to be more tolerant of all the bad characteristics we have discussed.

In time, if you continually listen to wrong music, you will become conditioned. Most of today’s music is designed to collapse inhibitions and to compromise standards. In effect, Satan will break down your mental walls. If you allow the devil to get one toe in the door, he is strong enough to break down the entire door. Will you allow him to do this to you through music?

Isaiah 5:20 explains another helpful point related to music. Notice: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

The world thinks that its music is wonderful—an “artistic expression”—when, put very simply, it is rank evil. Perhaps you have fallen into thinking that certain types of music are okay when they are not. Will you re-evaluate the types of music and the songs you listen to and strive to be more careful in the future, as music gets progressively worse?

General Guidelines

There are various points to consider when choosing and listening to music.

Ask God for help—you cannot just choose music on your own. Notice Jeremiah 10:23: “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.”

Research. There is a wide variety of musical styles from which you can choose something that will fit your taste.

Learn to be discerning. Analyze why you like what you like in music. Be honest about your motives, and have the courage to avoid negative music. Ask yourself, “What is the performer trying to say to me? Are the lyrics inspirational?” And, more importantly, “Am I listening to this music and telling myself it is good because those around me in the world say so?”

Use balance. Not all music should be avoided—but wrong types should. Also, you should listen in balance. Some teenagers cannot take the headphones off their ears for any length of time. It is as if they do not know how to handle silence. This should never be the case with God’s young people. Music should be enjoyed, but not 24/7.

• Put bluntly, completely avoid wrong types of music. Do not fill your head with what amounts to junk! You would not want to continually spend time around the worst types of people at school. The same is true of music. Also consider that the more you are around bad music, the more it will have an effect on you. Notice Ephesians 5:11: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Also consider I Corinthians 15: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners [conduct]” (vs. 33). The bottom line: Avoid—turn away from—wrong types of music!

Beware of music videos! As mentioned, almost all videos promote illicit sex and other aspects of worldliness. In almost every case, watching music videos is a waste of time.

Here’s one more important point: Some teenagers feel that a type of music really “explains what they are going through.” For example, teens who are angry or upset at something think that some type of rage music underscores their feelings and is helpful for them to listen to. Others feel that gangster music actually helps them to cope with their “troubled lives.” This is simply not the case, and, in reality, will cause just the opposite. The listener will only feel angrier and think worse of himself or his situation. This music will only drive and reinforce such feelings!

Decisions to Make

We are instructed to have the same “mind” as Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:5). Ask yourself: “Would Jesus Christ listen to the music I am listening to?” If you think He would not, then you need to turn off the stereo or change your music selection. Put another way, if Jesus were in the room, or even a minister or your parents, could you listen to the music without being embarrassed or ashamed? If not, it is time for a change.

By reading this article, some teenagers may realize that they have been listening to wrong kinds of music. If this is the case, immediately get rid of it. Throw it away and find music that is uplifting. When you clean your mind out, you must fill the void with something, or you will go back to the old habit. Follow the apostle Paul’s instruction: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). The music you listen to should relax, refresh and uplift you, and produce a happy mood.

How does one decide what is good music? Matthew 7:16-18 explains an important principle: “You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

This means that you can know music by its fruits—by the messages it proclaims and the effects it has on you and your mind. If you believe this verse, you can know what good music is and is not.

When it comes to enjoying music, personalize your selection with Philippians 4:8: “Finally, [young people], whatsoever [songs] are true, whatsoever [songs] are honest, whatsoever [songs] are just, whatsoever [songs] are pure, whatsoever [songs] are lovely, whatsoever [songs] are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, [listen to] these [songs].”