Beware of Music That Debases!
“Instruct me, O Jehovah, in your way, and lead me in the path of uprightness.”—PSALM 27:11.
1. How is Jehovah’s gift of music unique?
JEHOVAH GOD graciously gave mankind the gift of music. This was a unique expression of his undeserved kindness, for although music is not needed to sustain life, it enables humans to express emotions—their sorrows, their joys. (Genesis 4:21) It can bring comfort when there is sadness or greater happiness in times of joy. Appropriately, then, James wrote fellow Christians: “Is there anyone in good spirits? Let him sing psalms.”—James 5:13.
2. Music and song have had what relationship with Jehovah’s worship?
2 Singing and music have long been associated with the worship of Jehovah. His ancient people joyously praised him in song at times of deliverance. (Exodus 15:1-21; Judges 5:1-31) God directed the establishment of a musical organization for service at his temple. (Psalm 68:24-26) Jesus Christ and his apostles sang praises after the Lord’s Evening Meal. (Mark 14:26) The apostle Paul urged fellow Christians to express their sentiments in ‘spiritual songs, accompanying themselves with music in their hearts to Jehovah.’ (Ephesians 5:19) And to this day, singing is a regular feature of worship among witnesses of Jehovah.
3. What evidence is there that music has power?
3 Music undeniably has power. It can reach hearts and stir emotions. So, worldly anthems and marches are used to arouse patriotic fervor. Worldly schools have “fight” songs to inspire athletes. Advertisers use catchy tunes to sell products. Such evidence of music’s power should put Christians on guard.
Why a Need for Caution?
4. As regards music, concerning what must worshipers of Jehovah be especially careful?
4 Satan the Devil is also aware of music’s great power, and he sometimes uses it to affect the heart and lead people away from the pure worship of Jehovah. In this respect, therefore, loyal Christians need to ‘safeguard the heart, for out of it are the sources of life.’ (Proverbs 4:23) We must be especially careful that the music we listen to does not lead us away from “the path of uprightness” and into debased, God-dishonoring conduct.—Psalm 27:11.
5. In choosing music, why should we be very selective?
5 Jehovah has been very generous in giving humans the gift of music. But how often it has been misused! Therefore, in choosing music, we need to be very selective and discerning. Even without hearing the words, we can often tell what kind of spirit certain songs are designed to produce. From a distance, Moses could discern that music emanating from the Israelite camp was not ‘the singing over mighty performance or the singing of defeat.’ When he finally came to the camp and saw how the people were acting, he knew that the music had been of the kind that led to unrestrained idolatrous conduct. (Exodus 32:15-19, 25) So we today need to examine the kind of mood, or spirit, that the music we listen to is producing. Does it uplift us, or is it music that debases?
6. How has the Devil been using some music, and so what words of Paul are particularly noteworthy?
6 The apostle Paul realized that Satan desires to debase or corrupt Jehovah’s people. Hence, Paul urged fellow believers to separate themselves from the unrighteous, and asked: “What fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17) Today, the Devil has cunningly been using various forms of unrighteousness in music, thereby endeavoring to seduce people into degraded conduct and thus turn them away from God. Dedicated witnesses of Jehovah need to be alert to these dangers.
Have No Share With the Demons!
7. How can a Christian tell if there is demonic influence in certain music?
7 In the field of music spiritual perils do exist. For instance, many popular musicians are involved in the occult. Some openly admit that they worship Satan, and satanic influence often shows up in their music and songs. But how can a Christian tell if demonic influence exists in certain music? It is sufficient in some cases to look at the cover of a record album. Depicted on it you may see characters dressed to look like witches, demons or devils. Or the cover may have pictures tending toward the mystical or the occult. The name of the musical group or of an album may indicate a connection with the demons, as may the titles and words of the songs. For example, what would you conclude from song titles such as “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Children of the Grave”? The New York Post reported that one such song was “a brazen admission” that the musicians were “working hand-in-glove with Satan.”
8. By means of backward masking, what kind of messages have been put in some musical recordings?
8 There have also been recordings of unscriptural and even demonistic messages by means of a technique called backward masking, used by a number of musical groups. When the recording of one very popular song is played backward, it repeatedly says, “Decide to smoke marijuana.” If played backward, another popular recording carries this message: “I will sing because I live with Satan. . . . There’s no escaping it, my sweet Satan.”
9. Ideas of what kind can be absorbed when one listens to certain kinds of music, and how can this be dangerous?
9 Normally, of course, people do not play recordings in reverse. Yet, when listening to certain musical records, either unscriptural or demonic ideas may be absorbed by a mind left open to improper suggestion. High Fidelity Magazine quoted a divisional head of one record company as saying: “The kind of receptivity needed for the new rock and the new classical are exactly the same. . . . You have to give yourself up to it and let them take your mind.” But is this wise? A spiritually unguarded mind can leave you open to intrusion by the demons!—Compare Matthew 12:43-45.
10. How should faithful Christians view anything demonistic?
10 To his beloved fellow believers the apostle Paul wrote: “The things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons. You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of ‘the table of Jehovah’ and the table of demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:20, 21) Immorality and involvement with spiritism, the occult or anything demonistic have no proper place in the life of a faithful Christian.—Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Galatians 5:19-21.
11. What should a Christian do if he discovers that he has demonistic musical recordings?
11 In view of divinely inspired counsel, then, what should a Christian do if he discovers that he has musical recordings betraying demonic influence? Surely, he should destroy them, for Jehovah’s people must not be “sharers with the demons.” Under similar circumstances, early Christians at Ephesus acted without hesitation, for we read: “Indeed, quite a number of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them up before everybody. And they calculated together the prices of them and found them worth fifty thousand pieces of silver.” (Acts 19:19) Those “lovers of Jehovah” hated what was wicked and were not deterred by thoughts of material loss. Rather, to their great spiritual benefit, they destroyed possessions of demonistic nature.—Psalm 97:10.
Avoid the World’s Spirit
12, 13. (a) What worldly spirit often is associated with present-day music and musicians, and how has this been displayed? (b) How should Jehovah’s Witnesses apply Galatians 6:7?
12 Neither should we overlook the worldly spirit of wild abandonment often associated with today’s music and musicians. (Compare Ephesians 2:1-7.) For instance, when one concert was canceled, thousands of fans rioted, The Toronto Star reporting: “They bombarded 268 policemen with bottles, chains and other missiles during a 30-minute rampage . . . They tore out 200 seats welded to steel posts and bolted to concrete. They heaved scores of metal chairs on stage. . . . They ripped out steel turnstiles, smashed windows in ticket booths and the Grandstand restaurant, and damaged several cars outside the stadium.” Should a Christian ever be in such company?
13 At such performances alcohol and drugs are usually taken in freely. Additionally, the music and actions of the performers engender a spirit of wild abandonment. Clearly, the type of music played on such occasions, along with elements including demonism, drugs and violence, can only be debasing. Could a Christian, then, listen to the same music in his own home without being affected detrimentally? Hardly! And no faithful witness of Jehovah will ignore the Bible principle: “God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.”—Galatians 6:7.
14. Why is it not fitting to listen to and dance to a song suggesting immoral conduct?
14 Yet, some have felt: ‘I don’t listen to the music for the words; I just like the beat. It’s good to dance to.’ But there can be danger in this, too. According to The Times-Herald of Newport News, Virginia, “an avid disco dancer might dance all night to a hit song without noticing any more about the music than the pulsating beat and the hook line, a musician’s term for a catchy phrase that’s repeated frequently.” True, the music may have a catchy beat for dancing, but what are the words encouraging us to do? What is entering the listener’s mind? For example, how can a loyal witness of Jehovah dance to the music of a song that urges him, over and over again, to go and commit fornication?—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
15. What debasing trends are there in modern music?
15 Of course, morally debased lyrics are not limited to rock and disco music. In many lands or localities there are forms of music that may be quite popular locally despite having a beat or using lyrics that true Christians may find quite objectionable. Concerning country music, an article in The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, states: “Honky tonk angels and cheatin’ men have always played their part in country songs, but never in the history of the music have their illicit affairs been so graphically depicted as they are today.” Alluding to another trend in popular but immoral music, The Spokesman-Review says: “Women are singing about sex in the night and sex on the dance floor and sex on the street corner.” Can such songs be anything but debasing?
16. What help is there for a person whose heart is moving him to listen to or dance to sexually debased music?
16 Never forget that the imperfect human heart is treacherous, desperate. (Jeremiah 17:9) Is your heart persuading you to listen to or dance to what you know to be wrong in Jehovah’s eyes? If so, beware! Prayerfully seek God’s help so that you can ‘keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord and quit sharing in the works belonging to the darkness.’ (Ephesians 5:10-12; Psalm 5:1, 2) Your firm refusal to listen to or dance to sexually debased music may even serve to reprove others whose heart may be misleading them.
17 Those immersed in the spirit of this wicked system of things may take delight in sexually debased music. But how could this possibly be true of faithful Christians? They are counseled: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people.” (Ephesians 5:3) Have we fittingly ‘repudiated ungodliness and worldly desires’? Then let us watch not only what we say but also what we listen to, so that it does not include songs about immorality. Let us “live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things.”—Titus 2:11-14.
18. Regarding our attitude toward certain musicians, what questions might be asked?
18 But how do you personally feel about worldly musicians? Ask yourself: Do I imitate some of them in my dress, grooming and speech? How much of my conversation is about them and their music? Am I idolizing them by wearing T-shirts or jackets that advertise such performers, or even by hanging their pictures or posters in my room? Does this please Jehovah, to whom my reverence should go? Am I following the Bible’s plain counsel to “flee from idolatry”?—1 Corinthians 10:14; Romans 1:24, 25.
Distinguish Between Right and Wrong
19. With respect to music, how should properly trained perceptive powers be used?
19 The apostle Paul wrote: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) Christian parents and youths need to use properly trained perceptive powers to distinguish between right and wrong. They need to recognize and thoroughly reject the deceptive enticements of debasing music. As the “anything goes” moral code becomes more entrenched in this Devil-dominated world and its music, witnesses of Jehovah, young and old, must become ever more decisive in aligning their lives with the high standards of their heavenly Father.—Psalm 119:9-16; 1 John 5:19.
20. What is recommended in the case of a young person who is getting caught up in the spirit of questionable songs?
20 Never forget that music has power. It can affect the heart. Do you see yourself getting caught up in the spirit of questionable worldly songs? Then act promptly to safeguard your heart. If you are a youth, discuss the situation with your Christian parents. Also, pray fervently to Jehovah for help by means of his holy spirit.—Proverbs 4:23; Luke 11:13; Galatians 5:22-24.
21. How can Christian parents help their children to avoid debasing music?
21 Parents, what are you doing to help your children to distinguish between acceptable music and the debasing kind? As Christians, can you properly allow them to listen to songs featuring demonism, sexual immorality, drug abuse and violence? Well, then, before buying a record or allowing your children to listen to certain music, take the time to examine the album cover to see if it gives evidence of corrupt influences. Consider the titles and the lyrics of the songs. If the songs are debasing, discuss this kindly with your youngsters. You might point out that all Christians should be ‘babes as to badness but full-grown in powers of understanding,’ not seeking knowledge of vile things or filling their minds with debasing ideas. (1 Corinthians 14:20) After such a discussion, doubtless you and your children will get rid of any Scripturally objectionable records in your possession and together resolve that never again will you listen to debasing music.
22. (a) Why are we not missing anything worthwhile by rejecting music that debases? (b) What should be our attitude and viewpoint in choosing music?
22 There is a wide variety of Scripturally acceptable and upbuilding music, including delightful Kingdom songs enjoyed by Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. So we are not missing anything worthwhile by rejecting music that debases. By a regular study of the Bible and related Christian publications, may we train our perceptive powers to distinguish between right and wrong. Then let us cling to what is right. If any music conflicts with God’s righteous standards, reject it. Yield to his instruction and be firm in staying on “the path of uprightness.” (Psalm 27:11) By all means, beware of music that debases! At the same time, may your personal choice of music be a praise to God, who “furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment.”—1 Timothy 6:17.
How Would You Answer?
□ What evidence do we have that music has power?
□ How can you tell if there is demonic influence in certain music?
□ What should be done if you have musical recordings betraying demonic influence?
□ If a person’s heart is moving him to listen to or dance to debasing music, what help is there?
□ How can Christian parents help their children to avoid music that debases?
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Debasing music is not for Jehovah’s people
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Should true Christians imitate worldly musicians in dress, grooming and life-style?