Sixteen Tons or Nothing!


Some people say a man is made outta mud

A poor man’s made outta muscle and blood

Muscle and blood and skin and bones

A mind that’s a-weak and a back that’s strong


You load sixteen tons, what do you get

Another day older and deeper in debt

Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go

I owe my soul to the company store…

When Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded Sixteen Tons in 1955, I was three years old. But by the time I remember this song playing on Radio Ceylon, I was about five. My Dad would sing it aloud at times, and I always wondered what this song was all about…till I grew up!

This was a song about the life of coal miners in the 40s and 50s in the USA. Each team of miners had to load sixteen tons of coal daily per shift…deep down in the coalmines. Over the years gone by more than 40 artists from Elvis to Johnny Cash have sung this song.

This is what I desire to say.

There are some songs or movies that hit the charts as it were, and these become prophetic pictures for us to take heed on how to live our lives. These actually reflect the signs of the times.

The lines “Another day older and deeper in debt”, and “I owe my soul to the company store”, is a reference to the ‘truck system’ and to debt bondage. Workers were not paid cash; rather they were paid with non-transferable credit vouchers which could be exchanged only for goods sold at the company store. This made it impossible for workers to store up cash savings. Workers also usually lived in company-owned dormitories or houses, the rent for which was automatically deducted from their pay. (Wikipedia)

Sixteen Tons is a simple song reflecting the hearts of people who just could not be free. There was the rich elite who lived in comfort, and the pitiful poor who had nothing…and this continues even today.

We live in an egocentric and avaricious world that still has great divides, discriminations and the exploitations of every dimension you can imagine. Is there a way out then?

Jesus came to destroy the divide of sin and degradation. Jesus came to give all men true dignity, the freedom of forgiven sin, and peace with God, with a reason to live.

Debt is an exterminator. It devastates generations. Debt has bondages of horror and destroys God-given destiny forever. Get out of this ghastly vice as fast as you can, otherwise it will swallow you into its deathly depths. Ask God to help you with His wisdom, timing and Presence.

Don’t owe your soul to men! Surrender to the Cross of Jesus, and live life to the full.

After all it’s fully paid for!

Deut 8:18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

Willie Soans