What Bob Dylan Got Right

 What Bob Dylan Got Right

In 1979 Bob Dylan recorded the song "Gotta Serve Somebody." For those who listen with biblically informed ears the refrain echoes Paul and Jesus:

Paul: "You are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness" (Romans 6:16).

Jesus: "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other" (Matthew 6:24).

Dylan's refrain:

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed,
You're gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

This is one of the truest songs Dylan has written. John Lennon was so angry with it that he wrote an obscene counter-song, "Serve Yourself," which was so bad, Yoko Ono published an apologetic explanation of it in 1998.

To celebrate Dylan's getting this truth so right, I have written new lyrics, not because they are better, but because they are updated for my religious world.

If you'd like to read it, and you don't know the song, it might help to have the tune in your head as you read the new lyrics. You can listen to it here:

 

"Gotta Serve Somebody (Remix)" by John Piper

You may like Bob Dylan or you may think he's trash,
You may not remember when he had a mustache,
You may think the man is stoned, his throat is full of tacks,
You may wish his blood had been poured out on the tracks.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed,
You're gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a modern Jew, and think your Bobby's great,
You may be from Hibbing, by a simple twist of fate,
You may think religion is a crock and a sham,
You may shut your ears at the blood of the Lamb.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may have a ponytail and know how to preach,
You may have been baptized on the Malibu beach,
You may love the album, "Saved," and hope that it is true,
Or you may think that Bobby's brain was tangled up in blue.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may be a racist and wish times had never changed,
You may hate the sixties when it all got rearranged,
Or you may be a Democrat on Capitol Hill,
You may sing the story of the death of Emmett Till.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may think the globe is getting hotter every day,
You may follow Albert Gore and be a protégé.
Or you may drive an SUV and never be chagrinned,
You may give the answer: Ice, is blowin' in the wind.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may swear by Kindle, or you may swear by Nook,
You may love your iPad screen, or you may love your book,
You may have a radio and let the jockey choose,
Or you may love Pandora 'cause it follows all your cues.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may be emergent now and worship on a rug,
You may think that doctrine is a bourgeois drug,
You may call yourself Reformed, with a torn pair of jeans,
You may specialize in church for cool libertines.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may love philosophy and you may love Descartes,
You may love Beethoven's flair, and you may love Mozart,
You may love Bob Kauflin and the sounds of Sovereign Grace,
Or you may wish the world was full of a thousand Lecraes.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You might use a manly gel to make your hair a mess,
Or you may wear a coat and tie the way the bankers dress,
You may preach like Francis Chan and think that hot is cool,
Or you may be as nonchalant as Keller on a stool.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed, . . . . 

You may swear by Narnia or you may swear by Grit,
You may think an actor is a trained hypocrite,
You may love the culture, and you may love the world,
Or you may see her sensual, with a finger curled.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may think that Dylan was a shelter in the storm,
Or you may think his single rule was disobey the norm,
You may think it's too late: he's a victim of renown,
Or you may hope he'll turn again when the deal goes down.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may see him tryin' to get to heaven on his own,
You may think he's lost his way like a rollin' stone,
But you can see one thing is clear, it's shining in the night,
You may like it, you may not, but Dylan got this right:

You're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed,
You're gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.