Are you weary, are you heavy-hearted?
Tell it to Jesus, Tell it to Jesus;
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Tell it to Jesus alone.
Tell it to Jesus, Tell it to Jesus,
He is a friend that’s well known;
You’ve no other such a friend or brother
Tell it to Jesus alone.
–Tell it to Jesus, words by Jeremiah E. Rankin
Having grown up with the Baptist Hymnal (various editions), I remember singing this song a lot. And I remember liking it too—after all, it has an upbeat tune that’s catchy.
Yet, now as a pastor who has come to consider words more important than catchy tunes, this has become a song that I refuse to have our church sing as a part of our worship. Most of it is rather biblical—certainly we are to cast our cares upon the Lord because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:6-7, Philippians 4:6-7).
But there is one little word sung eight times (or 6 if you skip the third verse) that makes this a decidedly unbiblical song, despite everything else in it: alone.
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, I do not know, by invoking us to “tell it to Jesus alone” the author encourages a keep-it-to-yourself Christianity. If you’re struggling, if you’ve failed, if you’re weary, if you’re anxious, if you’re whatever—tell it to Jesus alone, and thus cut out the family God has put around you to help you grow.
In our culture we already treat our salvation as individualistic. When we see someone in church, it’s like passing someone on the street: “How’s it going?” “Fine, how are you?” “Doing great.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we’re either the most well-adjusted people ever or we’re a bunch of liars.
The embarrassment that we feel about our sins and struggles doesn’t help either. We tend to have this perception we want others to maintain about us: we are better people better off than we actually are. And when it comes to our temptations, surely Paul didn’t mean all the temptations we face are common to mankind (1 Corinthians 10:13). My temptations feel so uncommon.
It’s all part of Satan’s lie to keep us from getting the help we need.
Other than death and taxes, there is at least one thing we can be certain of for our lives: we cannot do this on our own. After all, what does the Holy Spirit inspired wisdom of Solomon say? “Two are better than one…for if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
We must have accountability in our lives. But it’s not easy because we must fight against ourselves, especially our pride.
Yet this is a fight worth having. After all, the goal in life is not to exalt ourselves but to exalt the glory of God by becoming more like Jesus. And Jesus has given us plenty in his word to remind us of the need for accountability…
Matthew 18:15-17 If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Romans 15:14 And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.
Galatians 6:1-2 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Hebrews 3:12-13 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Let those verses sink in. Go, tell him his fault…admonish one another…restore…bear one another’s burdens…exhort one another…confess your sins to one another and pray…
These are the marks of accountability, opening up our burdens, struggles, and failures to others, and helping them with theirs.