There has been a lot of ink spilled and feuds formed due to worship styles. I have heard of churches imploding because of instrument choices and genre preferences. Here in the States, we can have a church worship alongside a band playing guitars, while down the street, another church may worship with a piano and choir. Sadly, this has caused a lot of divisions among churches. While there is a time and place to discuss these worship styles, there is a bigger issue at play. Believers are making an art out of missing the real danger. Many of our most popular worship songs are teaching false doctrines. There is a battle here but not in style or whether you like your worship leader playing a guitar or piano. The real battle is in what you are singing…not how you are singing it. Let me give an example.
There is an old gospel hymn by Hank Williams called, “Lord, Build Me A Cabin In Glory.” As the title suggests, the main idea of the song is that as believers we should seek to have a small cabin in heaven. Consider some of the lyrics:
Listen, Lord, I’m not askingLord, Build Me A Cabin In Glory
To live in the midst
For I know I’m not worthy
Of such splendor as this
But I’m asking for mercy
While humbly I stand
Lord, build me a cabin in the corner
Of glory land
The song paints a picture of humility before the Lord. The singer is placed in an unworthy posture in which he is begging for a small piece of heaven. According to this song, all we can hope to have is a little corner of the Kingdom by His mercy. Therefore, this is true humility and we are not meant to wish for anything more than this small cabin in the corner of heaven. But is that how the Bible talks about the Kingdom to come?
Matthew tells us we are to store up treasures in heaven (Matt 6:19-21). The author of Hebrews says that Moses left all the riches of Egypt because he sought the riches that Jesus would give (Hebrews 11:24-26). Abraham wandered and lived in tents all his life because he sought the inheritance, the land of promise, and the city not made with human hands (Hebrews 11:8-10).
That’s a dramatically different picture from the song above. Keep in mind, these passages are speaking of believers who already had eternal life. These men knew they would be in the Kingdom, but they also looked for the riches they could have in that Kingdom.
These passages and more teach us we are to seek and expect riches in the coming Kingdom for the work we do here on earth. As Paul said to Timothy:
If we endure, We shall also reign with Him.2 Timothy 2:12 NKJV
If I am faithful to the Lord now, He will not only give me a cabin in the coming kingdom; He will let me rule over that Kingdom with Him. My savior doesn’t want to shove me in some back corner of heaven and leave me there to sit in a cabin for all eternity (talk about boring!). He has unlimited riches and His Kingdom will know no end. He is not a miser unwillingly offering us the scraps of heaven because we soften Him up by begging. He is a gracious King who lavishly pours out His blessings upon His children. That’s the King and the Kingdom we are going to live in.
While I can appreciate the song’s attempt at humility, it is not a biblical picture of eternity, nor how we should view living out our Christian life. So, I would like to offer an alternative to “Lord, Build Me A Cabin In Glory.” There is another hymn I recently came across called “I’ve Got A Mansion Just Over The Hilltop.” Consider these lyrics:
I’m satisfied with just a cottage belowI’ve Got A Mansion Just Over The Hilltop
A little silver and a little gold
But in that city where the ransomed will shine
I want a gold one that’s silver-lined
I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And someday yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold
That’s a totally different message! This song speaks of the coming Kingdom and all its splendor. It teaches us a similar lesson to Matthew 6: that wealth and treasure here on earth are meaningless compared to what we will have in the coming Kingdom. In contrast to the previous song, this hymn teaches us we should be seeking the treasures and mansion in the coming Kingdom. What a wonderful reminder of the Lord’s promises.
These hymns are just the beginning! My examples are older hymns, but I encourage you to look at all of your music in this way. Music is a wonderful and powerful tool. It is often where we get our foundational doctrines, especially as children. With that comes a responsibility. We are to be like the Bereans, searching the scripture to make sure we are being taught the truth (Acts 17:11). Music teaches us things and we need to make sure it is biblically sound. This is true across the spectrum of musical styles. Regardless of our preferences, we need to be on guard. Know what you are singing. You will be held responsible for it.
Talk about the songs you’re listening to with others! Driving down the road, during church, or before bedtime are opportunities to sing songs but also share your thoughts with one another. Discuss the lyrics and the doctrines within them. It’s an easy pre-made Bible study lesson you can have just in your daily conversations. Maybe they are wonderful lyrics. Why? What makes them good? What is the song teaching? Where do you see that in Scripture? Maybe the lyrics aren’t so great. Why? This will not only help our friends and family members think more critically but also train our own ears. Music is a way we connect with others. Don’t miss the opportunity to share with your friends and family.
Singing is a gift from the Lord and something He did as an example for us (Mark 14:26). It’s used in times of suffering, as a way to worship and to teach. Let’s not take this gift lightly. Go out and make a joyful noise (Ps 100)!