“Not According To Our Works”: How Cultural Santa And Biblical Jesus Look At “Earning” Gifts.


Titus 3:4-7

English Standard Version (ESV)

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

 

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! – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

 

Earlier today I was with my Dad in a local store when I overheard a Mother telling her teenage son that she was not going to buy him a $200 present because he was not taking responsibility for something in his life; I could relate to the situation because I am a 19 year old guy who has delayed a few things in his life by a year or two (College, for example) and although I am beginning to get these things in motion, I felt guilty in asking for Christmas gifts (since I’m 19 and shouldn’t ask for expensive gifts, right?). My sense of guilt was connected with how I felt about my own works, and that guilt resulted in me believing the lie that Christmas was all about my works. So the question remains, are Christmas gifts and their emotional weight determined or given according to works, and if so, would that still be considered a “gift”?

 

The modern societal interpretation of Santa Claus is sadly far from what characterized the original Saint Nicholas during the Third Century. Nicholas was known for giving gifts freely out of a heart moved by the Spirit of God out of the abundance given to him; the word “free” is a word very misunderstood in our culture of entitlement; in the 21st century we are slaves to our possessions, we direct all the furniture toward the TV and spend money according to our whims and what will bring us more comfort. Ironically, what we feel entitled to is not what we feel others are entitled to as well, they have to earn the same respect in our eyes as we have earned for ourselves.

 

It seems that our modern idea of Christmas, from the Christmas songs to the Christmas gifts, is just a shadow of the Christmas that is focused on Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe me then re-read the song lyrics at the top of the page: we’re not singing “joy to the world the Lord has come” but instead we’re singing moralistic songs that base gift-giving on our own standard of righteousness. Yet that is not what Scripture points out: fundamentally, there is nothing good in us, we did nothing to earn the righteousness we now have before God. The gift was not only free, it was so great that we could never repay it; that is how great the gift was, the gift was rooted in grace. That’s what is missing this holiday season.

 

God’s saving of us unconditionally and our giving of gifts at Christmas come from the same principal: it is not according to works, but according to what God has already done for us in Christ. Your good works toward others should reflect not a moralistic lifestyle but a heart changed by God’s grace with good works that flow from it to people who do not deserve God’s grace, and in a smaller sense, to family members who irritate you and fellow employees you feel don’t deserve a good Christmas. However you process it, you never deserved any good thing, yet God poured out His grace and saved you from sin, hell, and the grave; will you show that same mercy toward other people?

 

Ephesians 2:4-10

 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

Therefore, remember during this holiday season the greatest gift of God: His Son Jesus Christ, who became fully man so that we might become partakers of a grace that is fully effectual, that saves us completely with hope of eternal life. The reason why kids should ask for gifts for Christmas is not because they feel they’re entitled to or deserve those gifts, and neither should the parents have that same response in buying those gifts for their children; rather, love, grace, forgiveness and cheerfulness should be the attitude and focus in this season of grace and undeserved gifts. Let what you do be done in worship, and that worship will result in changed lives and hearts.

 

2 Corinthians 9:15

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

 

Until next time, Be blessed!

 

Austin Thompson

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