First off, have you really listened to it? It's not really about a little kid who wants his mama to look pretty when she dies. It's about some pompous jerk who sees this kid, all filthy and broke, and gives him money. Then apparently he goes home and writes a song about it so everyone knows just how darn generous he is.
I don't know about you, but if I see a little kid covered in dirt, saying his daddy sent him to the store all by himself because his mama is going to die and she needs new shoes, I'm gonna be on the phone to the authorities before you can say "Praise Jesus, are those Blahniks on her feet?" I mean, seriously, how's that for bad parenting? "Your mama's dying, son. Get on down to the Kmart and find her some shoes, and hurry or she'll be dead before you get back."
Yeah, this kid won't end up with an Oedipus complex…
And does Jesus really care what poor old Mama is wearing when she gets to the receiving line, or whatever it is you go through to meet the big guy? I mean, it's not like you're meeting the queen. I've looked at lots of pictures of Jesus and as far as I can tell, he didn't even wear shoes.
What is it everyone likes to quote from that big book? "Judge not…"? Is Jesus really going to keep someone out because they don't have the right shoes? "Sorry, lady, you're gonna have to head downstairs… I hear Satan has a foot fetish."
So. It's a song about an arrogant, self-serving procrastinator; a mean, judgemental, closet-gay Jesus; and a neglectful and emotionally abusive father. Somewhere in there is a kid whose shabbiness is reminiscent of the little match girl, only not quite so tragic… rather than dying on the street, he just has to go home, shove his mother's germ-infested feet into these shoes, and wait for her to die on Christmas Eve.
Warms my heart just to think about it, it does…