Help! – The Theology of The Beatles

When I’m writing a sermon, I get lots of ideas that end up in the trashcan.  Maybe one day I’ll be ambitious and do a “director’s cut” of a sermon.  But one of the ideas I didn’t get a chance to flesh out was about the song “Help!” by The Beatles.  In fact, the title of the sermon was originally inspired by that song.  The song itself made me think of our need to cry out for God.  I know that wasn’t The Beatles intent, but I was thinking how much the words of this song reflect our Christian theology.  And why can’t modern Psalms be reflections of modern music?  Perhaps it will be included in a future church hymnal.  I would certainly want to go to THAT church! Here’s how I broke the song down in my head:

Swedish singles cover
Swedish singles cover

Help, I need somebody
Help, not just anybody
Help, you know I need someone, help

I’ll be honest and tell you I’m not lyrically fluent so I believe this would be a called a pre-verse since it bridges the opening music and the 1st verse.  For me, these words echo our cry to God when we realize we are in over our head or when we finally realize we need God in our lives.  I like how the writer says he needs help from “not just anybody” implying someone far more capable (like God) than the writer.  And the line “you know I need someone” could refer to God knowing us so deeply that God already knows we need the help before we cry out (what Methodist’s call prevenient grace).

Help! - Original Album Cover
Help! – Original Album Cover

When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors

So this first verse talks about how many of us feel when we are young – strong, invulnerable, without a need for God as far as we know.  But as we grow older, we realize that there is so much more going on in us, through us, and around us.  And at this point in the lyricists life, he realizes he can’t do it alone and opens up his life to the possibility of something more.

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me

The chorus then is the writer’s plea to God to give him aid “if he can.” This reflects for me Mark 9 and the story about Jesus and the father who asks Jesus to help his child “if he can.”  Jesus replies in v. 23, “‘”If you can”?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’” The writer is making a plea to Christ for assistance.

Help! - US album contains different tracks than the original album
Help! – US album contains different tracks than the original album

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before

This verse seems to say that there are times when we realize how interdependent the world is and how much we need to rely on God.  So much so that our “independence seems to vanish in the haze.”  But the lyricist doesn’t see this as a bad thing and in fact still has doubt in his life from time to time which again echoes the story in Mark 9 where the father says to Jesus in v.24, “‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'”  And in the end, the lyricist realizes that he needs God more than ever before.

The rest of the song repeats the chorus and the 1st verse so no need to repeat it.  But it just goes to show you the power of The Beatles work!  I would seriously love a Beatles hymnal.

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