Idle Words (Part I)
By David Wise
As we finished this week’s focus of avoiding idle words, without purpose or effect, there were so many other areas I wanted to focus on but due to time I had to narrow down the ideas to what seemed most pertinent to our congregation. In this first part of the post, I simply want to flesh out a conviction that I have felt, ignored, embraced, neglected, moved toward, and ran away from at multiple times in my life. The area: idle words within music and songs.
This thought started as I was driving my daughters to school a few weeks ago and they were singing along (loudly and proudly) when a lyric came out that made me pause. I’d heard the song countless times before, but hearing it from a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old somehow caused me to reflect differently. The lyric was a part of a love song and without getting legalistic, this made me think about the reality of lyrics and how we repeat them so easily without really reflecting on what they mean.
Essentially what was being said is that some guy is more important than anything else and this girl would do anything to be with him. That’s not a message I want my daughters to embrace. Their relationship with Jesus should be the most important relationship in the world. It’s more important than their relationship with their mother and me, more important than friendships, and more important than any romantic relationships (once they’re 25 and done with college). What was more convicting though, was how many songs I’ve sung along with without thinking about what I was repeating and the heart behind it.
Legalism comes about when we try to place the burden of our personal conviction upon the masses without regard to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and leading. I’m not suggesting that it is wrong to listen to so-called secular music (even though the divide between sacred and secular is a pet peeve, that’s another post completely). I’m not saying you should go throw out all of your CD’s that have any lyrics that aren’t focused solely on God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. What I am saying is that as Christ followers, we should constantly be asking if what we’re taking in is beneficial in our relationship with God, or if it is bringing distance between us.
I know from first-hand experience (to quote Eminem) that “music can alter moods and talk to you.” The question we should ask ourselves is whether the music we’re exposing ourselves to is speaking life into us or furthering our usage of idle words. This is not an answer that I can, nor will, provide, but it is a question that I believe each of us must lean into: is what I fill my head with helping me to look more like Jesus or is it causing more of a disconnect?
Obviously only on paper are there such neat categories, in reality there are people who never understand the lyrics of songs and they can listen to just about anything without it affecting them. I’m not one of those people though, once I’ve heard a line or a lyric I can’t stop thinking about what was said. Sometimes that points toward grace, forgiveness, a great story, love, or life in general, but sometimes those lyrics point toward sex, gluttony, anger, violence, or revenge.
For me this is an area where I have to be diligent in what words enter my ears because those words will play on repeat over the loud speaker of my mind. If I listen to music with obscene lyrics, then I know my words will often follow suit and become more coarse. It doesn’t matter what negative thing the lyrics entail, those words are powerful in my mind and often come out of my mouth. Again, I can’t emphasize enough that my point is not to dictate what music people listen to, but only to start a thought process and begin a dialogue that gets others thinking and talking about how lyrics, in this case, can impact other people’s thoughts, hearts, and ultimately words. So let’s open up the dialogue, what are some ways that you’ve experienced the impact (positively and negatively) of words within music?