I may love the style and may even have beautiful memories attached to them, but when I really think them through, I don’t want to hear those words leaving my mouth headed to God’s ear.
Because they’re bad theology.
And I am talking about religious songs here. Granted, most songs that make it into our church services are there (hopefully!) because they hold God’s truths. And many songs that we sing along with on our Christian radio stations are also God-honoring.
But you can’t depend on it. Before you let the words stream out of your mouth, think them through. Are they pleasing to God? Are they true? Do they echo scripture?
This isn’t about worship wars, the debate between traditional hymns versus contemporary praise music. This is bigger than that. This is about accurate content versus false. Truth versus lies.
Songs we sing will either reinforce good theology or perpetuate bad theology.
Use songs as prompts for more Bible study. Take a song you absolutely love and trace its message back to its biblical roots. Then jot the scripture reference in your hymnal or CD insert, and write the song title in the margin of your Bible by that verse.
While songs that come straight from scripture are easiest to track (I love those!), don’t rule out studying those whose themes don’t necessarily match word for word passages.
Stuart Townend is a current songwriter who expounds on the central gospel theme in many of his songs. He has penned such greats as “In Christ Alone”, “The Power of the Cross”, “The King of Love”, “Beautiful Savior”.
“How Deep the Father’s Love” is one of my favorites for the way Townend weaves the story of redemption in his strong and emotional lyrics. Here are a few stanzas and a few scriptures:
How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
(See Ephesians 3:18-19; John 3:16; Psalm 135:4)
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory
(See Matthew 27:46; Luke 23:35; Hebrews 2:10)
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
(See Galatians 6:14)
In contrast, when I was a child my church sang many songs about “work.”
…Work thro’ the morning hours
Work while the dew is sparkling
Work ‘mid spring flow’rs
…O land of rest, for thee I sigh!
When will the moment come
…To the work! To the work!
Toiling on, toiling on, toiling on
…Thro’ the long and toilsome day
‘Neath a blazing, burning sun
Bear the heat, pursue your way
Till your task is done
Work, work for Jesus
Work, work today
Yes, we are to work for Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:58). Many scriptures point to this. But the message I picked up from these songs was to work for my salvation instead of rest in Christ’s work of salvation (Hebrews 10:10,14; Matthew 11:28-29).
So when I hear those songs now, I can’t sing them in good conscience.
Some songs might only need a word change here or there to make the song biblically sound. At my church we’ve tweaked “Days of Elijah” from:
And these are the days of Your servant David
Rebuilding a temple of praise
And these are the days of Your servant Ezra
Rebuilding a temple of praise
because we know King David wasn’t allowed to build the temple even the first time (1 Chronicles 22:8), and Ezra was in charge of rebuilding the second temple (Ezra 7).
Occasionally I’ll just drop out from singing a stanza if I can’t sing the lyrics sincerely. And my friend Linda often changes the group pronouns to the more personal “I” when she sings.
So be diligent and study the words you sing to yourself, to God, to others. We’re just as accountable for the words we sing as the words we speak. Let’s use words of songs as the powerful tools they are to teach and encourage each other (Colossians 3:16) as we praise and give thanks to our Father.
How has a song helped you? What is one of your favorites?