As I was watching one of my lectures today I took a trip down memory lane. My theology professor made a reference to the Grinch while we were discussing the doctrine of sin and its pervasiveness. When I heard him mention the Grinch and particularly the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”, I sat back in my chair at my desk and thought back to elementary and middle school. I attended East Bernstadt Independent School for elementary and middle school and from third grade through seventh grade, I was a member of the choir. Yeah, yeah go ahead and laugh. But let me tell you, I was a regular Frank Sinatra when I was in the third grade. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. Come to think of it, I am pretty sure I was only allowed to sing in the choir because I was tall and gave some balance to the group when we lined up on those old risers. And since I didn’t sing loud, or at all at times, my wonderful choir instructor was just fine with me moving my lips to the lyrics and standing tall with my best friend who was probably in choir for the same reasons I was. And the cool thing about being in the choir at EBIS was that once you were in the choir, you couldn’t get out, barring misbehavior. Ha! My buddy and I were locked in to miss study hall for three full years!
My Favorite Christmas Song
Although I wasn’t the star voice in our humble choir, I did have a lot of fun times with my friends. I enjoyed the music and still do to this day. I just can’t sing! However, practicing the many different songs was always so fun for me. And Christmas was my favorite time of year to be in the choir. Not only did we have our first big concert of the year, we also sang nothing but, you guessed it, Christmas songs! Now that I am older and more cultured, I guess you could say, certain Christmas songs are like knives piercing my eardrums. But when I was nine, ten, eleven, and twelve, these songs were awesome! I mean, I liked them all. Winter Wonderland, Sleigh Bells, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer were some of my favorites just to name a few. However, my all-time favorite song that we sang was You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch. Man I loved that song! And out of all of those songs I just mentioned, I still like the Grinch Song the best. It cracks me up! And if you have ever watched the movie or read the story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, you would understand that the song accurately represents the Grinch. Its true! Oh, these lyrics are timeless! “You’re as cuddly as a cactus / You’re as charming as an eel.” Classic! “You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch / You’re a nasty, wasty skunk!” Ha! It is just burn after burn after burn of nasty ole Mr. Grinch. The truth is, you almost start feeling sorry for him by the end of the song. But the lyrics ring true. Mr. Grinch is foul, a monster, a rotter, and a mean, mean , mean one!
Small Role, Big Memories
I remember my role in singing this song. The small group of guys in the group (the one’s lacking vocal skills) had speaking roles in this song! After all of the vile and disgusting language concerning Mr. Grinch there was always one line that summed up what was just sung. In all there are five of these lines. And boy we were proud of our big contribution. Not only did we have a chance to contribute significantly, but the lines were funny and all elementary and middle school boys want nothing more than to be funny. The crowd would murmur in laughter when we would shout “I wouldn’t touch you, with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!” And then the kicker which would leave the audience in an uproar of laughter, “The three words that describe you, are as follows, and I quote: Stink, Stank, Stunk!” We would say our lines into microphones and proudly smile and watch the effect we had on the audience. All of these memories just swept over my mind and soul like a tidal wave and it was good. I took a break from my studies just to saturate my mind with all of the good times I had with my close friends at EB.
In Need of Grace: Man’s Desperate Inability
After taking time to think and smile and laugh, I got back into John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, which is his greatest work. I went to the place where my professor had referenced the Grinch. When he mentioned this song that sparked this trip down memory lane, he said that the writer of that song must have read a particular portion of Calvin’s Institutes. It sounds kind of silly at first, comparing the Grinch Song with John Calvin’s writing, but after reading what my professor was referring to, I understood what he meant. The way John Calvin describes humanity outside the grace of God is similar to the way the writer of You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, describes the Grinch. Without God regenerating us, we are all like the Grinch–vile, foul, nasty, and mean monsters. Granted, God has showered common grace aplenty upon man since the beginning of time. As my pastor, Norm Brock, and I were discussing just the other day, without God’s common grace that all creatures on earth experience, it is un-telling what our world would be like. Pastor Norm said that there would probably be no real chance for stable societies since governments are established by God, and I agree. It would be sheer anarchy. Every now and again, we are reminded of just how bad man can be–Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Osama Bin Laden, etc. However, this common grace is not saving grace. Saving grace in the form of regeneration turns the will toward God and causes a dead sinner to come to life and be able to have faith in Jesus. The gift of faith is a result of the Spirit’s regenerating work. Jesus said that no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again (John 3:3). He continued by saying that the Holy Spirit moves here and then there, wherever he wishes, but we are unaware of where he goes (John 3:8). Simply stated, as dead and unregenerate sinners, we must be born again and it is the Spirit that brings about this work. This regeneration convicts a sinner of his deadly condition and gives him or her the ability to cry out to the Savior, “Son of David, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13; cf. Mark 10:47-48)!
In Need of Grace: Man’s Horrid Condition
What a terrible condition man must be in to warrant such needed divine aid! If we cannot even have faith in Jesus without being enabled by Him, how awful is our condition? Answer: It is as deadly as Adam’s first sin. Really. Actually, the reality is that because of Adam’s first sin against God, we all have inherited a sinful nature. Adam is our representative head and we inherited the guilt and corruption of his sin ending in death, but praise God that for believers, Christ, the second Adam, is our representative head through faith and in him we inherit eternal life (Rom. 5:12-21)! The condition of humanity is one of corruption and pollution, one of depravity and fallenness, and one of inability and guilt before God. Outside of God’s saving grace and regenerating work in the heart of a man or woman, the horrid effects of the fall remain in his or her heart. It is vile. It is disgusting. It is mean. Seem harsh? Its kind of like ole Mr. Grinch. You almost begin to feel sorry for him until you realize just how true the description is. Man has rebelled against a holy God. We use our God-given, God-imaging characteristics and abilities to sin against our Maker. What a slap in the face! Anthony Hoekema once wrote, “the very greatness of man’s sin consists in the fact that he is still an image-bearer of God. What makes sin so heinous is that man is prostituting such splendid gifts. Coruptio optimi pessima: the corruption of the best is the worst” (Hoekema, Created in God’s Image, 85). Sin is serious. Sin is ugly. Sin is destructive. And we do it because we are sinners. We are not sinners because we sin. Oh no, it is the total opposite–we sin because we are sinners. We are corrupt because of the Fall. While this is a nasty picture to paint, it is through painting such a vile picture of man’s sin that one can see the beauty of the masterpiece of God’s grace. The description of man given in Scripture is harsh, but it is true–just take a minute and consider your own thoughts over the past couple of hours.
The Grinch Meets Man in John Calvin
In all of my reading on sin, I have yet to come across a line that conveys the seriousness of sin and man’s pervasive depravity than one short line in Calvin’s Institutes. This may change shortly, but for now I am satisfied with his description of man. It is an ugly description. Calvin held nothing back. And he didn’t know it, but he greatly influenced a classic Christmas story (or at least the song), the story of how ole nasty and vile Mr. Grinch stole Christmas (not actually, but the similarities are eerie). The truth is, to borrow from R.C. Sproul, “apart from God’s saving grace, we are more like [the Grinch] than we are Jesus Christ” (I replaced Sproul’s usage of Hitler with the Grinch. Okay, so his version has more weight, but mine works with the context of my post. You get the point). While the Grinch is vile and mean and foul and “the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable”, you and I outside of God’s grace are worse. We have sinned against a perfectly holy God. We are due his wrath. Praise God that his wrath is appeased and his justice vindicated in his justification of sinners through the God-man, Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:23-26).
Check out Calvin’s biblical view of man and see just how similar it is to the description of the Grinch. I hope you get a kick out of this as well as a humbling experience of worship that followed my realization of just how costly and undeserved God’s grace is.
Therefore, let us hold this as an undoubted truth which no siege engines can shake: the mind of man has been so completely estranged from God’s righteousness that it conceives, desires, and undertakes, only that which is impious, perverted, foul, impure, and infamous. The heart is so steeped in the poison of sin, that it can breathe out nothing but a loathsome stench. But if some men occasionally make a show of good, their minds nevertheless ever remain enveloped in hypocrisy and deceitful craft, and their hearts bound by inner perversity (John Calvin, Institutes II.V.19)