I am starting to get really excited about the Casting Crowns concert that I am going to this coming Friday night. I’ve been listening to some of their music, which I love! But as I listened to The Altar and the Door, which happens to have some of my favorite songs of theirs on it, I was reminded of one little word in the song “What This World Needs” that has always bugged me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song, but there is just one little word that I would change if I could. So I decided it was time to write down why.
The second verse of the song starts:
What this world needs is for us to care more about the inside than the outside
Have we become so blind that we can’t see
God’s gotta change your heart before He changes your shirt
It’s that word “shirt” that bugs me, for three reasons.
First, it contradicts the first line of the verse. Your shirt is on the outside, and what we need to do is care about the inside, the heart of others.
Second, having faith in Jesus doesn’t do anything to change one’s clothing. To say that it does borders on a type of prosperity gospel, which the actual Gospels don’t support. There are a lot of people who trust in Jesus, who have what the world truly needs, but still have only the shirt on their backs.
Third, the perfect opportunity for a different word that both rhymes and is more Biblically accurate was missed. Whenever I hear this song, I wonder why it doesn’t say “God’s gotta change your heart before He changes your deeds.” The word “deeds” in place of “shirt” would both rhyme with “needs” in the title and elsewhere in the song, and would accurately reflect what happens when God’s love changes your heart. The “deeds” of the believer are changed by God. It might be that past bad deeds are changed to good deeds. Or it might be that one’s good deeds are changed from something done in an attempt to earn favor with God into something done out of gratitude for what Jesus has done to save us.
I do love the basic message of this song. In fairness to the band, I also want to share this explanation that I found by lead singer Mark Hall as to the basis for including the word “shirt” in this song:
“”What This World Needs” has a bit of a venting moment, a rant…more rock than anything we’ve done before… It’s about the fact that the gospel is not confusing people; we’re the ones who confuse people. Christians staple so much stuff to what Jesus says like ‘You can’t dress like that or use that version of the Bible.’ But we have to remember that God has to change people’s hearts before they can change their shirts. They need Jesus, and we need to get out of the way.” – Mark Hall (Casting Crowns)
This does make some sense, and I agree that what has to come first is for God to change the heart of a person. Then it will be God, through His Holy Spirit, who works in the heart of the believer to make us more like Christ. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 (NLT).