Should I Let My Children Listen to Secular Music?

A couple of years ago Spotify entered my children’s lives. Until then they basically only had access to my own music collection. Spotify opened the door to ANY kind of music, no filters. As they followed their friend’s playlists and explored on their own, they have listened to plenty of music that I believe is not contributing positively to their spiritual health.

So, what should I do? A quick and common answer is, “Don’t let them listen to non-Christian music.” Let me explain why I don’t think this is the best answer.

Our goal as parents is to help our children live a life of faith in Christ. Faith is a personal choice that must be made by each individual. We cannot make it for them. I believe my children will encounter worldly music, as well as many other worldly realities, no matter how hard I try to keep them from it. So a much more realistic and helpful strategy is to teach my children how to make wise choices.

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
— Hebrews 5:14 ESV

If I shield my children from all evil, how will they be “trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil?”

Faith requires freedom. But the goal is faith, not freedom. Our culture defines freedom as the ability to do whatever one wants. It is true that freedom includes our ability to choose between right and wrong. However, the freedom to make this choice does not legitimize the wrong choice. True freedom, the freedom Jesus Christ gives us, is the freedom to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. I have seen plenty of Christians escape legalism only to fall into immorality. Parents cannot teach and give their children freedom without teaching them how to make right choices.

So, I did not shut down Spotify. Instead, I sat down with my three teenagers and had a talk. First we read Col 2:8 and 2 Cor 10:3-5. I explained that the location of the spiritual battle is primarily in the mind and the essence of the battle is in ideas. We are in danger of captivity and deception from the philosophy of the world, arguments and ideas that are contrary to God. We commonly misunderstand the spiritual battle to be one of power. The spiritual battle is primarily a battle of truth. Satan’s strategy is to deceive us. Once we have the truth, by faith we have all the power we need!

I then asked my children to consider how much more powerful words and ideas are when they are set to music! I encouraged them to fast temporarily from any music that wasn’t explicitly God honoring, in order to raise their awareness and observe how this choice affects them. I taught them that it is their responsibility to ruthlessly analyze the presuppositions, claims, and imperatives they hear in any music they listen to. To do this, it is usually necessary to read the lyrics. If they have done this and still want to listen to a song that does not explicitly honor the Lord, then I have asked them to submit that song to me for evaluation and discussion. This will provide many opportunities to teach them biblical, critical thinking. These are opportunities to train their powers of discernment.

At some point, they will demonstrate their ability to do this on their own. This is the goal! We do not want to release individuals who are trained by rules and seclusion. Neither do we want to release adults who have freedom but no discernment. We want to release them with passionate, wise hearts for Christ.  While I do have some carefully selected non-Christian music in my personal library, I believe that as our love for the Lord grows, our hunger for music that draws us to him will also grow.