Turning God into Santa

Post by Rob Mayer - Lead Pastor of Gospel Life Church

Post by Rob Mayer - Lead Pastor of Gospel Life Church

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. The decorations, the food, the parties and especially the time with friends and family are amazing, but the reality that the God of the universe loved us so much, that He came, just simply blows my mind. Think about it… God came on a rescue mission to pursue lost sinners like you and me - WOW - this truth is the heart and beauty of Christmas. As a result, all things, including Christmas are “All About Jesus” and He is the reason we are able to celebrate and enjoy all of the other fun stuff that comes along with it.

From this perspective, my family and I love to enjoy all that Christmas has to offer. We love driving around looking at the lights, watching Christmas movies, giving gifts, sipping hot chocolate and even seeing Santa. I see nothing wrong with any of these things, but I am concerned that parents have unwittingly turned God into Santa for their kids. I was struck with this thought while we were decorating our Christmas tree and the classic song “Santa Claus is Comin to Town” came on and my kids began to sing it together. Check out these verses:

You better watch out

You better not cry

You better not pout

I'm telling you why

Santa Claus is coming to town 

He's making a list,

Checking it twice;

Gonna find out who's naughty or 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


Many children in the church have come to a incorrect theology that God is happy if they’re “good for goodness’ sake". Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson aciculate in their book, Give Them Grace, that this is a result of a wide-spread gospel-distortion, called moralism. They explain,  

“We've transformed the holy, terrifying, magnificent, and loving God of the Bible into Santa and his elves. And instead of transmitting the gloriously liberating and life-changing truths of the gospel, we have taught our children that what God wants from them is morality. We have told them that being good (at least outwardly) is the be-all and end-all of their faith” (p. 19).  

The sad reality is that the majority of kids who grew up in church over the past two decades are leaving the faith at an alarming rate. Even worse, many that claim to be “Christian” don't love the church and are living or approving of lifestyles that are in complete opposition to Biblical truths.  This is a direct result of the church losing sight of her first love, Jesus Christ. The consequence is parenting styles that are not rooted in the fullness and power of the gospel, which has produced a generation of parents whose goal is behavior modification or moralism, not heart transformation in their children.

Teaching Good Manners Instead of Salvation

Fitzpatrick and Thompson explain that “Good manners have been elevated to the level of Christian righteousness” and as a result parents are unwittingly disciplining their children in an attempt to attain evidence of contrition, teaching only worldly sorrow, and others work hard at keeping their children from the wickedness in the world, assuming that the wickedness within their children has been handled because they prayed a prayer one time at Bible club (p. 20).

The Bible Isn’t a Book of Fairy Tales

Fitzpatrick and Thompson believe that “Moralistic parenting occurs because so many have a wrong view of the Bible. The story of the Bible isn’t a story about making good little boys and girls better” (p. 20). As Sally Lloyd-Jones writes in The Jesus Storybook Bible:

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life. 

This is the gospel and this is the story that our children need to hear and, like us, they need to hear it over and over again.

At Gospel Life Church, we love kids and we desperately want them to encounter the greatest hero of all time, Jesus! So we are committed to do much more than baby-sitting and believe that they will not be transformed by being dazzled or entertained for a few years with fun activities. Therefore, we teach children the Bible and lovingly communicate the gospel in all aspects of our kids' ministry. We use the The Jesus Storybook Bible  and make sure our kids, teachers and volunteers are equipped with gospel truths and are able to love and serve kids and families.  We also want to love and serve parents, therefore we carry, Give Them Grace in our bookstore and encourage all parents to pick up a copy and allow the gospel of grace to infiltrate their home and every heart that is within it.