Is God Like Santa Claus?

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Last week, I received some material in the mail from a church. As I sifted through what they sent me, I came across a large paper “prayer rug” with a picture of the crucified Christ on it. The letter states:

Let us ask you: Would you like to have God’s blessings upon your home, your family and your finances? Say, “Yes, Lord Jesus, I do need Your financial blessings upon me and my family’s finances” (Deuteronomy 28:6). Just put a mark by your needs below, telling us that you want prayer. Pray about sowing a seed gift to the Lord’s work. Give God your best seed, sealing it inside this church envelope, and believe Him for His best blessing (St. Luke 6:38).
Here is a partial list of things you can ask them to pray for you to receive: a better job, a new car, a money blessing (you can even specify the amount!), and a home.

If you send the “blessed” prayer rug back with your prayer requests they will send you a “free blessed Deuteronomy 8:18 Prosperity Cross.”

Notice though the catch: you need to send the church a “seed gift” (money). And if you give them your “best seed,” then God will give you “His best blessing.” Wow! What a twisted, perverted view of God and Scripture. To this church, God is Santa Claus. The only difference is that to get gifts from Santa Claus you just need good behavior and not money.

Interestingly, salvation was mentioned several times throughout the material. It was listed as something you could ask for. But I never read anything in the literature about what a person needs to be saved from. This reminded me of a quote from Dr. Peter Enns book, Telling God’s Story on what parents should relate to their children about Jesus,

Jesus is described in full color in the Gospels. He weeps, laughs, becomes angry, has compassion, loves, has determination, prefers times of isolation, grows tired. In the early grades, we should focus on bringing out this full portrait of Jesus. What should not be emphasized is the child’s miserable state of sin and the need for a savior.[1] (italics original)
But what is the point of Jesus if you don’t talk about sin? Dr. Enns shares a page later in his book that parents should tell their children that “Jesus loves you so much he died for you.”[2] But why did Jesus need to die? It’s inescapable—sin and salvation cannot be separated.

It’s also important to remember that the salvation Christ offers us through His death and resurrection is not something we can buy or earn. No “seed gift” is necessary. It’s not about what we do but about what Christ already did for us. Salvation is free to all who will receive it (Romans 5:18). Let’s be discerning Christians and plead with our brothers and sisters in Christ to return to the authority of God’s Word. Let’s recognize that we are all wretched sinners saved by grace and say as Paul did, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

[1] Peter Enns, Telling God’s Story: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching the Bible (Charles City, VA: Olive Branch Books, 2010), p. 33.

[2] Ibid, p. 34.

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