“God’s Gonna Cut You Down” Lyrics Meaning

“God’s Gonna Cut You Down” dates back to a moment in time when the likes of folk songs dominated the American music scene. And folk songs, as they are, tend to be more substantial, as in spiritually-grounded, than conventional pop music. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Johnny Cash's God's Gonna Cut You Down at Lyrics.org.

Or stated otherwise even though this song has been covered by some of the most-famous mainstream musicians ever, it reads more like a gospel. And the concept it is based on is the vengeance of God though in a personal, individual kind of way.

God’s Vengeance on Sinners

More precisely, the lyrics serve as a warning against those whom the singer perceives as wrongdoers. And fundamentally what he is telling such individuals is that whereas they may be chillin’ now, “sooner or later God will cut you down”. 

Indeed they can “run on for a long time”, evading His judgment as much as humanly possible. But inevitably they will be forced to account for their misdeeds. And amongst the unsavory characters mentioned are as follows:

  • “long-tongue” (i.e. persistent) liars
  • “the rambler”
  • “the gambler”
  • “the back biter”

A “rambler” is basically somebody who talks too much in an unconstructive, harmful sort a way. A “back biter” would be a deceitful person, i.e. someone who turns against those who put their trust in him. 

All of these, as well as being a persistent liar, are in fact sinful characteristics. But as for gambling, there doesn’t really seem to be anything canonical against the practice, unless perhaps one takes it to the extreme. 

But remember that, once again, this song comes from a puritan era in history (i.e. the early-20th century America, perhaps even earlier). Indeed if someone were to write a song like “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” in the modern era, the likes gamblers and ramblers would probably be the least types of individuals whom they would be compelled to turn their attention on.

Lyrics of "God's Gonna Cut You Down"

Verse 1

Meanwhile the first verse of this song takes on a completely different tone. It doesn’t focus on any addressee but rather the narrator. And basically he presents himself as someone who has a personal connection with God. 

Moreover he implies that dropping a song like this, calling on listeners to repent if you will, is something which the Most High actually instructed him to do. 

So it’s sort of like the singer considers himself to be an evangelist, i.e. someone who has been divinely called to preach to the sinful masses. In addition to that, he presents himself as some who is personally cool with God.

Verse 2

In the second verse, he turns his focus back onto the sinners. And he is once again assuring them that attempting to hide from divine judgment is an act of futility. In fact no matter how well they may be able to conceal their actions, as it is no one can actually hide from God. 

And eventually all of their wrongdoing which they ‘work in the dark… will be brought to the light’.


So conclusively, we can say that the narrator is actually looking forward to the judgement of the wicked. He comes off as someone who is a seeker of justice himself. He can be defined as an individual who is frustrated witnessing certain people do wrong against their fellow man yet continually get away with it. 

Furthermore we can even postulate that he’s sort of a conspiracy theorist. He appears to be an individual who believes that certain figures who are too powerful to be judged by man practice evil behind closed doors. 

But either way at the end of the day, he is able to rest assured that sooner or later their time is coming.

Release Date of “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”

This track was originally recorded by a group known as the Heavenly Gospel Singers.  They were a quartet of vocalists who traced their origin back to Detroit and prior to that a part of South Carolina known as Spartanburg. They are credited as being the actual pioneers of modern gospel music. 

Moreover their style of music, as well as that of their contemporaries, eventually evolved into a genre known as doo-wop, which itself is one of the foundations of present-day R&B. And their rendition of “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” dates back to 1937.

An Iconic Song

This is one of those types of songs that have become a staple in the American music industry. That is to say that it has been continually recorded throughout the generations by a variety of popular artists encompassing a number of musical genres. 

In fact as of 2020, the two most-notable versions of the song were both recorded after the year 2000.

“God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Johnny Cash

The first would be that of the late Johnny Cash (1932-2003). His cover, as produced by Rick Rubin, appeared on a posthumous album entitled “American V: A Hundred Highways” (2006) which topped the Billboard 200. 

In terms of the song itself, it also charted on the UK Singles Chart. But even more importantly it has enjoyed a widespread pop-media presence. For instance, it has been utilized by the MLB and featured on a number of TV shows, movies and advertisements.

Johnny Cash

“God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Marilyn Manson

The second would be that of Marilyn Manson, which the band released in 2019 under Loma Vista Recordings. This rendition actually topped Billboard’s Rock Digital Songs chart, as well as peaking at number eight on their Hot Rock & Alternative Songs listing. 

And oddly enough for a musical act that is known to embrace the dark side of spirituality so to speak, both of those achievements marked the highest Marilyn Manson has peaked on either chart.

Other Notable Covers

In 1949, a group known as Bill Landford and the Landfordairs recorded this song under a different name, “Run On for a Long Time”. That version has been covered by the likes of

  • Elvis Presley (1966-1968)
  • Moby (1999)
  • Tom Jones (2010)

And another notable musician who covered “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” itself was Odetta (1930-2008), who did so in 1956.

3 Responses

  1. Guardian of the narrow road through the woods says:

    He’s addressing the devil and all partakers in his wares.
    the long tongue liar, rambler, gambler and back biter all refer to the devil and the mirrored deeds of his disciples. In other words Jesus told johnny to do this song so all the sold soul stars and evildoers everywhere would hear it- and they did.
    Johnny doesn’t put himself as an evangelist, or ‘cool’ with the Lord, but as someone who has seen Jesus and been told to do his will. That Jesus himself had to come down and tell him what to do is no reference to a good character or pride, but of the terrible mercy and longsuffering care of Jesus.
    Besides that, if ever Jesus himself comes to you and tells you to do something… you’d better.

  2. ThéoPhille says:

    Le thème et la question fondamentale de cette chanson est déjà présente dans plusieurs Psaumes écrits il y a plus de 2800 ans. La question est pourquoi est ce que le ‘méchant’ prospère alors que le juste souffre ? (Voir aussi le livre de JOB) la réponse ce trouve à la fin du Psaume 73 ou le ‘Juste’ qui souffre injustement attend le jugement du ‘Méchant’. Actuellement, c’est le cri de centaines de millions de personnes qui sont injustement victimes de puissants qui les exploitent, les dominent et abusent de leur pouvoir au détriment d’une justice équitable et objective. Ils ne peuvent que s’en remettre à une autre Justice ( celle de Dieu) que celle terrestre, humaine, faible, qui par nature, est corrompue et soumise aux puissants de ce monde. L’espérance des victimes c’est qu’il y aura enfin une vraie Justice, qui malheureusement ne sera peut- être pas exercée de leur vivant mais qui s’exercera dans l’au-delà, lors du Jugement de Dieu. La Vraie Justice sera exercée avec certitude (Foi) à la fin, elle sera vraiment juste et équitable pour toutes le parties incriminées. Voilà le sens de cette chanson, c’est une question que chaque homme et femme se pose au moins une fois dans sa vie Pourquoi moi et pas lui/elle ? je vous encourage à lire l’évangile de Jean qui va mieux vous expliquer en quoi Jésus à payé le prix pour nos injustices vis à vis de Dieu, de nous même et des autres, car nous sommes tous concernés, tôt ou tard…..

  3. 8 says:

    Let a narcissist hear this song and watch his/her reactions .Their panic mode will trigger.

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