“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God” (Colossians 3:16).
Does this reference “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” in Colossians 3:16 preclude us from listening to various forms of secular music? To answer that question, it may be helpful to start by defining our terms. For the purpose of our discussion, we can begin with the assumption that “secular music” does not refer to a particular style of music but to any type of music that is not specifically intended to praise, honor, or worship God.
Although a case could be made to support the idea that Christians should only listen to music that’s designed to honor God, we may wish to reflect on what it would mean to adopt that standard. For instance, a person who held to that standard could never listen to most classical or instrumental music. Nor could he or she listen to any number of other songs with completely unobjectionable lyrics.
Nevertheless, we should also consider an important directive from 1 Corinthians 10:31: “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (NIV). In fact, the verse that immediately follows Colossians 3:16 reiterates this idea as well: “And whatever you do, in word or in act, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving praise to God the Father through him.”
So a good answer to this question may not be as easy as it seems. Therefore, we would do well to step back and employ some Scriptural principles to help us make good decisions in this area.
For instance, the Biblical book of 1 Timothy tells us that God has given us all things richly to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). “All things” would certainly include music produced by gifted musicians who use their God-given talents to produce compositions that we can enjoy without objection.
We also have the example of the Apostle Paul who quoted from the work of at least one non-Christian poet in the New Testament book of Acts. In that passage, Paul said, “…for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring’…” (Acts 17:28 emphasis added). This tells us that Paul must have had some familiarity with the work of these secular artists. Because of this, it is difficult to issue a blanket prohibition against all forms of secular music.
There are some strategies we can use to make good decisions in this area and we’ll consider some of them next.