If I Had a Hammer

October 17th, 2013

Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord and not for people. You know that you will receive an inheritance as a reward. You serve the Lord Christ. —Colossians 3:23-24

“If I Had a Hammer,” written by folk singer Pete Seegar and Lee Hays, was first recorded by The Weavers in 1949. Yet the timing for a number like this was completely wrong. Therefore the song, with its symbolic lyrics alluding to bringing equality and justice to everyone no matter race or station in life, would not become a hit until the 1960s when recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Though almost childlike in presentation, this version of “If I Had a Hammer” would become a musical anthem for the Civil Rights movement.

Throughout its simple and repetitious verses, the song embraces a theme of constructing an ideal world by using various tools. These seemingly fundamental elements of everyday life were to alert people of danger while pushing brotherly love as the cure for a corrupt world’s ills. The hammer represented justice, the bell represented freedom, and the love stood for acceptance.

It wouldn’t take much rewriting to make “If I Had a Hammer” a Christian hymn. After all, we are to build God’s kingdom here on earth, and that requires justice, freedom, and love. But what other tools could be used to create this new kingdom?

We might want to begin with faith. Jesus assured us that even childlike faith could move mountains. We were also warned that without faith works were dead. So our first verse needs to embrace faith as the cornerstone of our Christian endeavors.

Next we must turn to prayer. Jesus emphasized the importance of prayer and even gave us a model to use when speaking to God. Prayer is a way that we can reach the Lord and He can reach us. So for faith to truly grow, we must make prayer a habit that is as much a routine as breathing.

Every good builder works from a plan. The plans for building a bit of heaven on earth can be found in the Bible. So studying the Scripture is essential for us to find the knowledge and wisdom we need when confronting problems.

And the final element needed to compose a new version of “If I Had a Hammer” mirrors what Seegar and Hays wrote so many years ago—love. It is almost impossible to reach out to “the least of these” if we don’t feel God’s love in our hearts. As Paul pointed out, the strongest and most powerful of all our emotions is love. So we have to love those around us to fully engage ourselves in helping them. Today is a good day to put our faith into action by praying, studying, and loving. If we live by that simple theme, we will lift others’ burdens, bring fulfillment to our own lives, make the world a bit better, and really have something to sing about.

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