Your Arms Too Short to Box with God

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Your Arms Too Short
to Box with God
A Soaring Celebration in Song and Dance
Your Arms Too Short to Box with God.jpg
1976 Broadway Playbill
MusicAlex Bradford
Micki Grant
LyricsAlex Bradford
Micki Grant
BookVinnette Carroll
BasisThe Book of Matthew
Productions1976 Broadway
1980 Broadway revival
1982 Broadway revival

Your Arms Too Short to Box with God: A Soaring Celebration in Song and Dance is a Broadway musical based on the Biblical Book of Matthew, with music and lyrics by Alex Bradford and a book by Vinnette Carroll, who also directed. Micki Grant was credited for "additional music and lyrics."

A 1980 revival was the Broadway debut of star Jennifer Holliday, then billed as Jennifer-Yvette Holliday.[1]

Original production[edit]

Produced by Frankie Hewitt and the Shubert Organization, it opened December 22, 1976, at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre in New York City. It moved to the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on November 16, 1977, and closed January 1, 1978, after 429 performances.[1]


Your Arms Too Short to Box with God was revived twice on Broadway, first at the Ambassador Theatre and the Belasco Theatre (June 2–October 12, 1980), then at the Alvin Theatre (September 9–November 7, 1982). During the 1982 run, Al Green appeared with Patti Labelle in the show.[1]


The phrase first appeared in James Weldon Johnson's novel, "The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man," which he attributed to a preacher named John Brown. Describing this powerful preacher, he wrote, "He struck the attitude of a pugilist and thundered out, 'Young man, yo’ arm's too short to box wid God!'”[2]

Later James Weldon Johnson used it in his poem "The Prodigal Son," which was published in his 1927 book of poems God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse.[3] The passage — which likewise refers to an arm (singular) rather than arms (plural) — reads:

Young man—
Young man—
Your arm's too short to box with God.

But Jesus spake in a parable, and he said:
A certain man had two sons.
Jesus didn't give this man a name,
But his name is God Almighty.
And Jesus didn't call these sons by name,
But ev'ry young man,

Is one of these two sons.[4]

The title phrase has been used in other contexts. "Your lungs is too small to hotbox with God" is a line used by rapper Xzibit in Eminem's "Bitch Please 2". Xzibit later used a variation of the line ("Your little lungs is too weak to hotbox with God") on "Down for the Count" by Reflection Eternal. The phrase also appears in the Black Star song "Thieves in the Night", in the line "Your firearms are too short to box with God". GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan also used a variation ("Rhymes too short to box with God") on his track "Paper Plates" from Pro Tools. Killah Priest, an associate of Wu-Tang Clan, opened his debut album Heavy Mental with the phrase.[5] It is in "It's All Real" by Pitch Black and "Mortal Combat" by Big Daddy Kane. Nas used the line in his song "You're Da Man" from his 2001 album Stillmatic. The line also appears in "Drunk Daddy" by the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, and in "F.I.F.A." by Pusha T. This line is also used in Dumbfoundead's song, "Korean Jesus" with the lyrics "Buddha blessed, with Muhammad, trying to hotbox with Gods." Ralph Ellison uses the phrase in Invisible Man: "Your arms are too short to box with me, son." Former professional wrestler CM Punk quoted the title word-for-word in a promotional clip on Monday Night Raw on January 7, 2013. In the 1990 album "Let the Rhythm Hit ’Em" by Eric B and Rakim, the line "Your arms too short to box with God so quit it" appears in the song "Untouchable".

Awards and nominations[edit]

Delores Hall won the 1977 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Carroll earned Tony nominations for Best Book of a Musical and Best Direction of a Musical, with Talley Beatty nominated for Best Choreography.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Your Arms Too Short to Box with God at the Internet Broadway Database (The Broadway League) Archived from the original November 23, 2011.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Wilson, Dr. Sondra Kathryn. An Introduction to Along This Way: The Autobiography of James Weldon Johnson. Grace and James Weldon Johnson (official site). Archived from the original on February 28, 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  4. ^ Johnson, James Weldon. "The Prodigal Son". God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse: Electronic Edition. Documenting the American South, University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. p. 21. Retrieved January 24, 2014.
  5. ^

External links[edit]