Is God like Santa Claus?

He’s making a list,
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who’s naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

J. Fred Coots, Henry Gillespie, 1934

Watching you, watching you,
Ev’ry day mind the course you pursue,
Watching you, watching you,
There’s an all seeing Eye watching you.

John M. Henson

One of the things Laura and I are trying to decide is whether or not to introduce Cayden to the Santa Claus tradition. There’s lots of fun involved, but there is also some danger. For example, when I was two, I was so conscience of “stranger danger” that I made Santa put all the presents on the porch, which was very convenient for my mom! But there’s a greater problem with the Santa Claus tradition, and that is the idea that there is someone out there who is conscience of every decision that you make and is just waiting for you to slip up so he can cross your name off the “nice” list.

Parents use Santa Claus as a way to threaten their kids with the fear of losing presents.

This isn’t much different than how preachers use God.

The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string; and justice directs the bow to your heart, and strains at the bow: and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.

Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

“At any moment, God could strike you down and be totally justified in doing so because you are wretched, sinful, corrupt scum that is weighing the earth down with your depravity!”

Of course, this is not how Santa Claus really is, and it is definitely not how God is.

Think about it.

How many children do you know who were threatened with a loss of presents, but every year they received the same amount of gifts?

Why did they get those gifts? Because they earned them?

Not according to their parents.

They probably were told that their parents would be surprised if Santa Claus even visited the area because of them!

So why do they still get gifts?

Because of their parents’ love.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:6

We do not love God or obey God to win His love. We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

When we were little, we made mistakes, disobeyed our parents, forgot to clean up after ourselves, but that old Santy Claus kept on bringing the gifts. He made his list, checked it twice, and decided that even though we may have been naughty, he was a whole lot more nice.

And, so, I’m reminded of Jesus on the Cross.

He was beaten, spit upon, and cursed. But when He hung on the Cross, He wasn’t worried about lists of who was naughty and who was nice. He wasn’t concerned with revenge or what was fair. He said, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

When we are in Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1).

We don’t pretend that we are perfect, we freely confess that we make mistakes (1 John 1:8-10).

But being born again isn’t about being perfect; it’s about understanding that eternal life is a gift.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

Is God like Santa Claus? Well, not the way kids are taught Santa Claus, but the parents who play the role well end up being more like God than they might think, despite the threats.

For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

Romans 11:32–33

This does not mean we have no consequences or that our actions don’t matter; what it does mean is that we don’t have to live in a constant state of fear or anxiety. We understand our imperfection, but we walk in the light as He is in the light understanding His perfection.

4 Replies to “Is God like Santa Claus?

  1. Regarding parenting, we teach our children exactly what Santa Claus is. We teach them that he is a pretend man, and that it’s fun to talk about Santa bringing gifts, but of course, it’s not actually him. We teach that it’s fun to sit on his lap and pretend, etc. We contrast it with Jesus, who is real, and who is the real meaning of Christmas.

  2. Daniel, this is an excellent lesson for each of us to learn. It is not uncommon for Christians to live in total fear. Why? They all realize that they have many short comings. Will God forgive? Several years ago, J. B. Philips wrote a book entitled Your God Is Too Small. In this book he described the traditional skewed concept of God. The traditional concept of God is like a motorcycle cop riding around just waiting for the least infraction of the law to zap the violator. The scenario is that many believe God is just waiting to send one to a torture chamber to suffer eternal torment in a flame of fire in which there is no cessation from pain. How do we picture God? Is our God too small? If so, we do not understand the heart of God’s Gospel. I encourage everyone to reread Daniel’s brief essay.

    1. I lived in fear that I couldn’t be good enough. I don’t feel that anymore. It’s a dreadful life to live.

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