Question:Is playing an instrument for a person's own enjoyment scriptural? For example, can I play the guitar and piano, and write my own songs -- not in worship to God, but for my own enjoyment? I feel somewhat at odds because I think about how we are to give thanks to God and in all things grow into Him (Ephesians 4:15), and how could we give thanks to God for things he does not desire us to use in worship? If I were to write a song about aspects of my own life, rather than worship and praise to God, would that be ok? I'm very confused in this aspect of music, and I would appreciate your advice.
God has given individual more freedom than He has given the church. For example, the Church raises funds purely by voluntary contributions, but an individual can work at a large variety of occupations to fund his household.
When it comes to the worship of God, God has limited us to singing.
"Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19).
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16).
Every command of God has a scope of application. There are situations when the command applies or does not apply. For example, the command: "So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself" (Ephesians 5:28), does not apply to single people, nor does it apply to women -- single or married. The command to sing applies to the music we direct to the Lord. It does not cover recreational singing.
Commands also set boundaries. Within the scope of the command is freedom, but the command sets limits we cannot go beyond. For example, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19), tells us we must spread the gospel. There is no limits to how we go: walk, bus, airplane, television, Internet, etc. But there are restrictions -- we can't stay at home and do nothing. The command to sing restricts us as to the type of songs we offer to the Lord: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, but there is freedom in which particular song, the style of music, how many songs, etc.
There is no restriction on all music, just the music offered to the Lord. There are restictions on the content of our music, however, just as there is restriction on our speech. "But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks" (Ephesians 5:3-4).
So go ahead and enjoy playing and writing music.
Thanks for the advice. In relation to worshiping God through singing, would giving thanks and glory to God for playing guitar and writing music constitute worship? I've felt uneasy every time I thank God for letting me have a guitar and play guitar, because I know he wants us to worship him in singing rather than the use of instruments. After all, aren't we to give thanks in everything to God? How can I understand this area better?
You make it sound as if having and using a musical instrument for your own enjoyment is contrary to God's purpose. Worship God in prayer and song in the manner in which God proscribes. But in your prayers you can be thankful for the blessings God has given you. Nor would it be wrong to acknowledge to others that you are thankful to God for the talents He has given to you in being able to produce music.