In general, I am a fan of country music, however, there is one song that I hate (Okay. Lots more than that. But one in particular that serves as a perfect lead-in for my post.). Have you ever heard the Faith Hill song “This Kiss”? The telling lines are in the first verse and the chorus: “If I could have just one wish, I wish you could see the way you kiss…I love the way you love me.” Is it just me, or is this the most selfish love song EVER? Not that I am picky about songs written in admiration of me, but I would be disappointed if I were Tim McGraw or whoever this song was written for/about. This is the sort of love song that my needy dog Callie would write. She loves me not because of my character or my talents or my personality, but only because I hold her, feed her, let her outside when she needs it, and I pet her head. It’s selfish, immature love.
Speaking of selfish love, if I understand the premise of the current hit song “GoldDigger,” it’s basically talking about this girl who is only in a relationship because of the material comforts that it provides her. Without much of a graceful transition, I’m going to jump to my point here and propose that while a GoldDigger (material or emotional, as in “This Kiss”) in a human relationship is easy to spot, we all at some point or another fall into this category when it comes to our worship of God. Many posts ago, I basically said that many Christians treat God like a benevolent, heavenly Sugar Daddy, and that this is painfully obvious in the music that (across traditions!) we sing and love. I will add a quick disclaimer here: I am looking forward to Heaven, and I am grateful for the blessings that I receive from God. HOWEVER:
+ Too often we love to sing and reflect upon our blessings (God has done this for me. God gives me such value and esteem. God gives me good things. Etc.), but we conveniently forget that the Bible implies that those blessings come with some responsibility: that we are blessed in order that we might be a blessing to others. I think that we are too content to hole up in our churches and sing about the gifts we have received, but we don’t take any responsibility for sharing those blessings (spiritual and material) with those outside of our doors. God’s chief concern is not our prosperity or comfort.
+ My other major complaint, which hits contemporary music the hardest, is that the worship of God is often lost in the worship of our own emotional response to God. A perfect example is the smash hit “I Can Only Imagine.” Yes, Jesus makes an appearance in this song (I think), but the real focus is “I can’t wait to see how I will feel/act in Heaven.” Notice the pronoun there? We worship God not because of who He is, but because of how He makes us feel.
I am not saying that it is never appropriate to have a personal reference in a song of worship. Many great and beautiful hymns are about “me,” including “Amazing Grace,” “Rock of Ages,” and lots of the Psalms. It’s just also nice to take a break from meditation of our own personal happiness and eternal rewards to think about God himself and the work that he has called us to do.