How the Grinch stole Christmas: a retelling of an Old Testament tale?

I watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas this week, and suddenly it occurred to me:  it is the story of Job, redux.

The GrinchThe residents of Whoville correspond to Job. They are blameless, even pure in heart. On Christmas morning, they gather in the village square to hold hands and sing, as an expression of gratitude. (To whom, Dr. Seuss doesn’t presume to tell us.)

The Grinch corresponds to Satan, of course.

And the Lord said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?

Then Satan answered the Lord and said, Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face. (Job 1:8-11, English Standard Version)

This is precisely the Grinch’s analysis. Those obnoxious villagers only celebrate Christmas because of all the presents they get. If I steal their goodies, they’ll cease to be grateful! But things didn’t turn out as the Grinch smugly assumed.

Then [Job’s] wife said to him, Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.

But he said to her … Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil? (Job 2:9-10, ESV)

Of course, Job’s journey is more turbulent than the prologue of the book implies. He is plunged into despair; he is overwhelmed with (justified) self-pity; he questions God’s justice. But in the end, Job stops short of cursing God, just as the prologue foreshadows.

Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small
Were singing without any presents at all!
He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming — it came
Somehow or other, it came just the same.

At the end of the Old Testament tale, God restores the fortunes of Job (42:10). Likewise, Cindy Lou Who and all the other villagers receive back what the Grinch had stolen from them. But that point is not at the heart of either story.

The deeper message is, We aren’t grateful because of all our possessions; we’re grateful for life itself, for loving relationships, for truth, beauty, “spirit” —. These are more valuable than the things money can buy.

In the words of Jesus, “Life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions” (Luke 12:15 — one of my favourite New Testament texts).

Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp …
Christmas day will always be
Just so long as we have we

It came without ribbons; it came without tags
It came without packages, boxes or bags! …

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store
Maybe Christmas — perhaps — means a little bit more.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jamie
    Dec 20, 2006 @ 14:51:02

    Very nice! I had never thought of the connection, but I like your linking of the grinch with the story of Job.


  2. aaron
    Dec 20, 2006 @ 17:46:31

    Delightful observation that seems completely legitimate. Too bad Ted is no longer with us, as I’d love to hear his thoughts on the subject (assuming he’d be willing to share them).


  3. Cole
    Dec 23, 2006 @ 13:50:09

    Very cool parallel… thanks for making us think.


  4. 49erDweet
    Dec 23, 2006 @ 17:08:36

    Well done, stephen.

    ¡Feliz Navidad!


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