Beautiful Music in a Practical World

We are called to love our neighbors, often by giving money to help with bodily needs, but how can we prevent present physical concerns from overtaking the need for the Gospel? The arts, especially music, help to point us to the Gospel—particularly through beauty.

Tension between Beauty and Practicality

Recently, I have been observing a conflict about a new chapel in the first stages of construction. Many of the people whom this chapel would affect despise the very idea of it. (It should be noted that this disdain has nothing to do with hatred of Christianity.)

Among others, one of their arguments points to the extravagent cost of the chapel, especially the cost of two custom-built organs. Many argue that the chapel is over-the-top and that the money could be used in “better” ways, such as assisting those with low incomes. This example of the chapel and its two organs reveals an ages-long tension between the practical and the beautiful.

Is Practicality More Important Than Beauty in the Church?

Those who argue for the practical are often motivated by kindness, wisdom, and prudence. “We should use the money to help the poor.” “Spending money on a new organ the church doesn’t really need means less money in the budget to repave the beaten-up parking lot.” “Why should we have a large, beautiful, ornate church with gold and silver vessels when so many people need help?” 

There’s no doubt that the Church is called to help with physical needs that must be met. But even the best acts of charity can provide only temporary relief. We are, in the end, mortal beings. Our true hope is in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which brings us eternal life. 

In other words, when we become consumed by these temporary things, we are tempted to keep our eyes on the filthy floor of this world and may fail to take time to look up and recognize the Gospel in all of its beauty. As we turn our eyes toward heaven, we are reminded of a place that is beautiful and ideal in every way. A place that exalts the mind and the spirit.

The Gospel in the Beauty of Music

Beautiful music in church helps to guide our minds to these higher things. As a result, it can help to lead us to an understanding of the beauty of the Gospel message. From Biblical times and the Reformation to today, the Church has used music in this way. 

When music selections for a service are thoughtful and reflect the beauty and solemnity of the church service, they help us to remember our Creator and the beauty of His love for us in sending His Son for our salvation. Therefore, when the beauty of the music is enhanced by a new organ, a bell choir, or by simply using a good set of preludes on hymns, it is worth every penny put toward those things.

Looking to discover some beautiful music? Check out our playlist of hymn arrangements to help put your mind on things above.

Listen to Hymn Arrangements

Picture of Marie Greenway
Written by

Marie Greenway

Marie Greenway has worked and volunteered as a church musician since childhood. She graduated from Hillsdale College with a degree in music and was formerly the music teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School in Alexandria, Virginia. Now, she has shifted from spending the day teaching other people's children to spending the days and nights raising her own. Marie continues to stay involved at school by teaching piano lessons and coordinating the after-school music lesson program. When she is not teaching lessons, answering emails, or changing diapers, Marie loves to go on walks, read books, sight-read music, hang out with her husband, and risk all dignity earning smiles from her daughter.

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