Is Music a Tool or a Gift? Or Both?

1Last week in my post “Jesus Is The Feast” I made the point that discussions and arguments about music (especially in the church) go awry when we’re under the impression that music is the feast. It’s not. Jesus is the feast and music is a wonderful tool to help people encounter him, savor him, and feast on him.

I had a few questions along the lines of: “But isn’t music is gift? Isn’t saying ‘Music is a tool’ downplaying the fact that it’s a gift from God?” My response was that music is both a tool and a gift. It doesn’t have to be either/or.

Bob Kauflin has been hugely instrumental in helping me (and many others) think through the role of music. I asked him this question: is music a tool or a gift? He responded:

Is music a gift or a tool? Why do we have to make a choice? It’s like food. Is it a gift or a tool? It’s both. It’s easy to see food as a gift when you think of the variety of tastes, textures, and smells God has caused it to be associated with. Filet Mignon, chocolate, corn on the cob, and sweet red apples are gifts! But we eat to survive and to maintain our strength. Mothers can use food as way of blessing their families. In those senses food is a tool that serves a functional purpose. It’s unhelpful and unnecessary to say that food is either a gift or a tool. Likewise, music is gift we can delight in, enjoy, and thank God for whether we’re enjoying pop, classical, jazz, or bluegrass. But it becomes tool when we use it to enable the word of Christ to dwell in us richly, to teach and admonish one another, and to express gratefulness in our hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).

The point of all of this is that music, in its proper place, is a wonderful tool God has given us for his glory, for the proclamation of the gospel, and for the edification of the church. It’s also a wonderful gift of common grace that the whole world can enjoy and delight in. But music is not an end unto itself. It is a means to an end. And the end is the praise of the glorious grace of God in Christ. When we forget this, and the means becomes the end, we are like a dog chasing its tail in a futile search for fulfillment.

Music will not ultimately fulfill anyone or save anyone. Only Jesus will. Music can (and should) preach that message loud and strong. This is the good news of the gospel that can (and should) unite Christians all over the musical preference spectrum.

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