There is plenty of scientific and psychological evidence to back up a resounding 'YES' to this question. Our brains are very complex computers that retain and process information not only directly but also subliminally and unconsciously. In this article, I would like to tackle 3 perspectives from a common sense and Biblical point of view.
PERSPECTIVE #1: "I don't listen to the lyrics; I only listen to the music."
When I minister to youth concerning music, I will often times show them the lyrics to 'inappropriate songs' on my PowerPoint presentation. I'm amazed how often they will verbally finish the lyrics before I finish showing them on the screen. Apparently, they do listen to the lyrics. The truth is that these complex computers called our brains retain much more of what we see and hear than we realize; even if we're just passively listening to a song. How many of us have woken up to a song on the radio and we can't seem to get the lyrics out of our head all day long. I'm amazed that I can still remember commercials that I heard from 30 years ago. Did I sit down one day with note cards to memorize those commercials? Of course not. I passively memorized them through repetitive listening. We do listen to the lyrics whether we're trying to or not.
PERSPECTIVE #2: "The lyrics don't affect me."
God seems to have a different opinion on this one. Proverbs 23:7 proclaims, "As a man thinks in his heart so is he." Apparently what we're 'thinking' about affects the state of our hearts. This isn't our physical heart that God is speaking of but our spiritual hearts. Our spiritual hearts determine our attitudes, desires, affections, pursuits, motives, etc. In fact, Proverbs 27:19 says, "A man's heart reveals the man." People may think they know us, but God sees who we really are by looking at our hearts. 1 Samuel 16:7 say, "Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart." I believe that it's naïve to think that we can listen to music filled with sex, violence and profanity on a regular basis and it will not affect our hearts. Of course, most of us will not become violent killers, or internet predators, but can we say that the lyrics that we listen to are pleasing to God? Would Jesus listen to these songs? Remember, moral failure rarely occurs through a blow out. It usually occurs through a slow leak. Let's be mindful to "Guard our hearts with all diligence, for out of them spring the issues of life." The lyrics DO affect us.
PERSPECTIVE #3: "The lyrics only reflect what's going on in our culture."
Unfortunately, that is a true statement. The lyrics do reflect what's going on in our culture. What's going on in our culture is spiritual and moral decay! I can understand an artist wanting to write and sing about issues that are going on in our society. Musicians have been doing that as long as music has been around. But, that doesn't mean that we should 'glorify' or 'approve' of those issues in the song lyrics.
Ephesians 5:11- 12 says, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret" Some of those 'shameful things' done in secret do reflect what's going on in our culture. But if God says that we shouldn't even 'speak' of those things, should we be making song lyrics out of those things and putting them to music? The sad truth is that we are doing that now and some of those songs are becoming top 40 hits. THE LYRICS DO MATTER IN OUR MUSIC SELECTIONS. As parents we need to monitor what are kids are listening to. When is the last time that you checked your child's music selections? There are many useful sites on the internet for checking out song lyrics. Do a Google search for popular song lyrics and check out what your child is listening to. If you are a young man or women reading this article, you don't have to wait for your parents to check out your song lyrics. You can make the choice to choose musical content that is spiritually healthy and God honoring. The Lyrics do matter. Let's choose them wisely.