Every now and then I hear a song, thinking to myself, “That needs to be a music & theology post.” This song by Brad Paisley is one of those songs. Bigger Fish to Fry comes straight off one of the greatest country albums, “Fifth Gear” by Brad Paisley. Seriously, every song on that album is well done and catchy. At least I think so. That said, the theology behind the song Bigger Fish to Fry is suspect at best. Here are the lyrics. Let’s take a look together, shall we?
Paisley begins the song by singing, ” I said a bad word when I was a kid / Mamma said that I’d be sorry for the sin that I did / My daddy whooped me and the preacher said shame / And I tried like h**l to change.” Right here we see Paisley’s Mom is right, we should not be cursing (Ephesians 5:4). Our speech is to be gracious, not foul (Colossians 4:6). As Christ says, what comes out of our mouth not what goes in can condemn us (Matthew 15:11-18). Maybe his father shouldn’t have “whooped” him. And maybe he did not try to change that hard as we see him curse at the end of this verse. Then we get to the chorus.
Paisley sings, “But I cuss, I smoke, I laugh at dirty jokes / The minor vices, man I know ’em well / I’ve closed down bars, I’ve lusted in my heart / My ex’s think I ougta burn in hell / But the devil he won’t notice when I die / Don’t you figure he’s got bigger fish to fry.” Where to begin with this section.
We’ve already talked about no cursing, but also dirty jokes are problematic (Ephesians 5:4). Smoking, no real Biblical discussion of smoking, but – oh well. Closing down a bar implies you’ve been drinking all night – AKA you’re drunk. The Bible is clearly against drunkenness (Proverbs 20:1, 1 Corinthians 6:10). Jesus is clear on lusting in the heart – it’s a sin (Matthew 5:27-28). His ex thinks he “ougta burn in hell,” apparently. This implies people on the outside may not look at him too kindly. The Bible recommends trying to maintain a good appearance for the sake of the Lord and for yourself (Proverbs 22:1, 1 Peter 2:12). So, basically everything he’s doing is sinful. Every sin deserves retribution from God leading to damnation (Romans 6:23). Luckily, Jesus can save us from our sins as noted in the second half of Romans 6:23.
That said, the last part of the chorus discusses a common misconception. It treats Satan as some kind of lord of Hell, as though he is like Hades in Greek mythology ruling Hell. This common misconception among popular culture is not Biblical. The devil is cursed in hell just like everyone else who’s there (Matthew 25:41, 2 Peter 2:4, Revelation 20:10). It is eternal damnation which the devil does not control (Isaiah 66:24, Matthew 25:46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9). Hell is frightening, awful, and not a joke. We try to visualize hell and it is far, far worse than we can imagine. Satan is never in charge – he is not some evil counter-part to God. He is a created thing who is under the control of God.
The next part of the song, Paisley tries to talk about people who are worse than him. He sings, “Politicians taking pork barrel bribes / Crooked CEOs are getting off with no time / Christmas Eve burglers stealing good children’s toys, (can’t say Christmas) / Holiday burglers stealing good children’s toys.” While all of them are bad, are they not all sinful? What makes the one sinner worse than the other? All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory making us worthy of eternal punishment (Romans 3:23). It is only through Christ that we are washed clean.
Paisley continues after the second chorus saying, “Yeah there’s gonna be bonfire burning / An everlasting barbecue / But with all the bad stuff going on / There ain’t gonna be room for me and you.” He’s right, hell is everlasting. He’s wrong, there’s room for each of us. The path to Christ is narrow, but to hell is very, very wide and easy to follow (Matthew 7:13-14).
Go ahead and cuss, smoke, laugh at dirty jokes, get drunk, lust in the heart. They’re still all sin and the wages of sin are still death. All sin is an affront on our God (James 2:10). There are many fish who will fry, both the small and the large. Choose Jesus, don’t choose to be good by earthly standards.