Sunday, May 24, 2015

Gospel Plow

Keep your hand on it.
(I'm talking about your plow)
Think about heaven.

Some people must wonder if the rest of us must spend so much time incorporating juvenile sex innuendo into our art. I wonder why we don't spend more. Given the chance, a cheap laugh gets you a big laugh. Well, maybe it does if you're a more talented comedian than I am. In any case, this is "Gospel Plow," a traditional American song and one of the songs on Bob Dylan's debut album from 1962. The title, Wikipedia informs me, comes from Luke 9:62 in the Bible:

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Context? In the book of Luke, Jesus has just spent some quality time exorcising a demon from a child. The disciples argue about one thing or another. Jesus gives them a ration of shit about this. He then gets pissed off because John says to him that they saw another exorcist getting busy with an exorcism, and then didn't allow him to follow Jesus. Jesus says, he who is not against us is for us, so what is your problem? Then they decide to go to Jerusalem, and they pass through villages in Samaria where he and the disciples are unwelcome. James and John suggest asking God to rain fire on their houses and burn the people to death. Jesus explains why this is somewhat Old Testament-style thinking. Then they find another guy who wants to follow them. Jesus complains that he has nowhere to sleep that night. Another guy wants to join up, but says he has to bury his father first. Jesus says, are you kidding? Let the dead bury their dead. You're with me or not with me. Another guy says, "Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house." At that point, Jesus lectures him about the man with the plough. 

The song, like the verse, equates holding the plough with keeping your eyes on the heavenly reward. In other words, once you have your hand on the plough, you need to keep looking forward. Looking backward makes you screw up the straight line. Now you know.




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