For the last 85 years, we've been singing along to "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town." And almost as long, parents have used this song to try to get their children to behave.
It has been drilled into our heads.
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
You better watch out, you better not cry
You better not pout, I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
It's a classic balance of teaching obedience using intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
But, what if this approach causes more doubt and guilt than anything else?
How many of us wondered if we'd been good enough?
How many of us cried when we approached Santa at the local mall and then wondered if we'd put our year full of good deeds in jeopardy because we had better not cry?
Even though God sees us and knows us, He doesn't want us to be good for goodness sake. Here are two reasons why:
First, we don't really know what is good or bad. In fact, several times the Bible says that people do what is right in their own eyes. Is goodness really left up for each individual to define?
Also, is a behavior considered good if the person doing it has a bad reason for doing good? Proverbs 21:2 says, "All of a person's ways seem right in his own opinion, but the LORD evaluates the motives."
Second, God wants us to do His good because of the good He has done for us. 1 John 4:19 says, "We love because He first loved us." Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
And the most clear motivation for doing good is found in Ephesians 2:8-10. "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."
We are to do good because we are saved, not to be saved.
May you do good this Christmas season because of all the ways God has been good to you.
Jeremy Walden is pastor of Mosaic Family Church, a nondenominational church in Auburn, and teaches Family Communication at Auburn University