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Stewardship in Contemporary Music
Oftentimes God uses music to direct our hearts in worship toward Him. In fact, in Ephesians 5:19, Paul instructs fellow believers to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” Below are several contemporary tunes that challenge listeners to imitate Christ in giving generously. Use them to make a joyful noise to the Lord, the greatest Giver of all! In preparation, read what Scripture says about money, giving and generosity.
Not Home Yet
Steven Curtis Chapman. Listen to Our Hearts, vol. 2. Sparrow Records, 1999.
As followers of Christ, Stephen Curtis Chapman wants us to remember that this world is not our home. We are only pilgrims here, but we are headed toward a final destination: a heavenly home. Because of this hope, Chapman encourages us to persevere through the trials of life avoiding the two extremes of growing weary of this life, or growing all to content to stay here. Instead, we must live our lives through God’s strength. Chapman’s lyrics are a firm reminder of our calling to be faithful in the present moment while keeping our eyes fixed on what is ahead.
I Can Only Imagine
MercyMe. Almost There. Integrity Music, 2001.
Eternity with Christ will be unlike anything we have ever experienced in this world. What will it be like for us to stand face to face with our Creator, Redeemer and Eternal King? As MercyMe’s lyrics says, we can “only imagine.” None of the delights, pleasures or wealth of this world can begin to compare to the fullness of joy we will experience in the presence of Jesus. Even if we were to succeed in creating a “heaven on earth” out of earthly fame, fortune and power, it will pale in the light of God’s glory. This song encourages us to remember that our ultimate reward will be worshipping God for all of eternity.
Things We Leave Behind
Michael Card. Poiema. Sparrow Records, 1994.
Michael Card pushes his listeners to grasp the deep biblical truth of where the Christian can find true freedom. He begins by singing about Peter and Matthew, who gave up their lives of fishing and tax collecting to follow Jesus. In this illustration, Card attempts to show that even though these disciples had careers and money as all “free” men supposedly do, they were never truly free until the one dropped his net and the other walked away from his tax collector booth. In leaving their former lives and following Christ, Matthew was freed from the greed that plagued his soul, and Peter began to shed his sinful pride. While we ordinarily would have considered these disciples to be free men in their former careers, Card wants his listeners to understand that the only true freedom is found when we release all of our earthly possessions into the service of the Lord. Only then can we “open our hearts to the love of the Lord.” Card’s lyrics are a stirring reminder that once we know the love God has for us, we will begin to understand the great freedom that comes from leaving everything behind to obey His commands and experience His love.
Michael Card. Present Reality. Sparrow Records, 1988.
In Matthew 25:40, speaking to those who had cared for the poor and needy during their lives in this world, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” This startling truth is the inspiration behind this song. Card reminds his listeners that it is vital for us to help suffering, hurting and starving people not just because suffering is bad but also because Christ, having borne the sins of the world, bears with the suffering. As Card puts it, “He is in the pain.” But the richness of giving to the poor and needy does not end there. In fact, the whole reason we are able to help those in need in the first place is because God took it upon Himself to reach down to our own wretched condition and eternally provide for our needs through the death and resurrection of Christ. In wonder at this truth, Card asks, “Though He was rich, for us He became poor. How could He give so much, what was it for?” Card’s lyrics are a clear window into the reality and the mystery that in every act of charity, Christ is both the one who gives and the one who is given to. Our giving begins and ends in Christ, our Lord and Savior.
You Did Not Have a Home
Rich Mullins. The Jesus Record. Word Entertainment, 1998.
In one of the last songs he wrote before his death, Rich Mullins draws our attention to the self-denial and humility that Christ exhibited throughout His life. For the sake of being faithful to His Father’s calling, Jesus never settled into a home or took a wife. When Jesus came to Jerusalem, to the city of David of which He was king, He came riding in on a lowly donkey. In the midst of these details, Mullins’ lyrics come back to the refrain, “The hope of the whole world rests on the shoulders of a homeless man.” This truth is the most awe-inspiring, and it is the crux about which Mullins sing. Christ became homeless so that we might have an eternal home in heaven. This song is a wonderful celebration of what our Savior has done so that we might have life.
The Sheep and the Goats
Keith Green. The Keith Green Collection. Sparrow Records, 1981.
Keith Green does not mince words in this adaptation of the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). While most of the lyrics paraphrase Jesus’ words in this passage, Green mixes some of his own examples with the parable that make it hit close to home for the modern listener. Jesus rewards those who cared for the poor, the sick and the imprisoned, but He can barely stand to listen to the excuses of the goats, those who neglected the needy among them. Green imagines the excuses that many of us would give if we were numbered among the goats; for example, the needy with whom we have come into contact might have been too “creepy,” or perhaps we felt that helping them was not our “ministry,” or we did not feel “led.” As Green illustrates, these excuses are worthless. Jesus is so deeply concerned for the poor that neglecting to care for them is just as bad as neglecting to give of our time, money and possessions to Christ. Green’s song is wonderful in showing us that we have the privilege of serving God through serving the poor. It is also incredibly sobering in reminding us that neglect of the less fortunate among us is identical to slamming the door in the face of the Lord Himself.
Asleep in the Light
Keith Green. The Ministry Years, Volume 1, 1977-1979. Sparrow Records, 1987.
In piercing words, Keith Green pleads with the believer to heed the call to care for the poor among us. Green appeals to everyone to quit pretending like “the job’s done,” or that it is enough to say, “God bless you” when people are drowning in hunger, sickness and suffering. Green’s words are especially strong in light of the immense wealth and prosperity in the American church. Green asks, “How can you be so dead, when you’ve been so well fed?” With all of the blessings that God has poured out on us, Green makes no bones about reminding us that it is a sin not to share with the needy people with whom God brings us into contact. When we refuse to open our doors to those in need, Green sings, “You’ve left Him out on the streets.” How, then, could we consider ourselves better than those who crucified Jesus?
It’s the Thought
Twila Paris. It’s the Thought. Starsong, 1989.
The lyrics are available.
He Is No Fool
Twila Paris. For Every Heart. Starsong, 1988.
Twila Paris formed her song around the famous quote spoken by missionary martyr Jim Elliot, who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Paris’ lyrics tell the stories of two great men who had all the potential for worldly success. One man was born into a family of privilege and destined for a life of accomplishment. The other was a fantastic athlete who could have made a career out of his talent. But both had eternal perspectives and realized their worldly success would be short-lived. They gave up their worldly success to pursue Christ, their “one priceless jewel,” even when everyone around them considered them to be utter fools. However, if we consider the eternal heavenly rewards that these men have gained, it is hard to consider them fools.
Ray Boltz. Thank You. Word Entertainment, 1988.
Ray Boltz’s song is a powerful picture of the joy we might find in heaven if we are generous here on earth. He recounts a dream about being in heaven with a companion. Walking around paradise, people began approaching his friend, telling him how his generosity was instrumental in bringing them into a saving relationship with Jesus. First, a former Sunday school student came, then a man who had come to faith through a missionary this man had supported. Many more followed. It would truly be a great reward to arrive in heaven and meet people whom you had led to Jesus. Boltz’s lyrics are a powerful reminder that our generosity on earth is not just a good exercise of one’s faith. More importantly, generosity is a gift that God uses to change people’s lives forever.
Treasures in Heaven
Burlap to Cashmere. Anybody Out There? Squint Entertainment, 1998.
With simple words, Steven Delopoulos sings a powerful message. Deep down, believers and unbelievers all know that it is nonsense to think that anything in this world lasts. Realizing this, there is much reason for sorrow. But Delopoulos sings about how there is one reason for joy: Christ died so that we could build up treasures for ourselves in heaven that will last forever. The song is simple, but it is charged with strong biblical truth about how we should live our lives.
The Lumber Song
Eli. Things I Prayed For. Forefront/EMD, 1999.
Eli mixes an acoustic alternative style with a Celtic sound to produce a witty tune about storing up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19). The lyrics open with the death of a man and his subsequent arrival at the gates of heaven, where he is greeted by St. Peter. The man is escorted down streets paved with gold, past beautiful stone mansions. Each passing house gets smaller and smaller until the pair stop in front of a tiny two-room shack. "Hope you're happy with that," Peter says to the newcomer. The man asks, “How can this be?” to which Peter replies, "That's all the lumber you sent!" Through this clever illustration, the lyrics teach that while you can't take your treasure with you, you CAN send it on ahead.
The Day I Lay My Isaac Down
Lowell Alexander, Dave Clark, Bonnie Keen and Tony Wood. Experiencing God. Starsong, 1999.
In Genesis 22:1-19, God tested Abraham to see if he really believed everything he possessed belonged to God. Isaac was a son made more precious through God’s promise that Abraham in his old age would become the father of a whole nation. All of Abraham’s hope rested upon this one child, but when God called him to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham obeyed. God rewarded him by providing a sacrificial ram as a substitute. These lyrics point to Abraham’s faith and obedience to God in laying Isaac down as a model for all of us. Faithfully following Christ means that we surrender everything, including our will, to Him. We will never truly understand what it means to abide in the Holy Spirit until we die to ourselves and place all that we are and have at Christ’s feet. However, this song does not leave us high and dry with a simple command. In reality, the only reason why we would ever want to “lay our Isaac down” is because God the Father did exactly the same in sending His only Son, His beloved child, to die on a cross to save a band of sinful humans. Since we serve a living God, abounding in grace, out of grateful and trusting hearts, we too can “lay our Isaac down” in His service.
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