Did Santa Claus Screw Up Your Psychology?



Santa Claus is a pretty messed up dude.

Morbidly obese. Unrepentant home invader. Does he even pay all those elves for their overtime?

Santa’s worst crime just might be how he’s forever screwed up our psychology.

Santa Claus operates on the code of the Naughty or Nice list. If kids behave all year they end up on the Nice list and are promised presents. If they end up on the Naughty list their stocking will be filled with coal.

This is a pretty genius tactic parents have used for generations to encourage their kids to behave well throughout the year.

As children we grow up with this psychology of getting rewarded for our good deeds. “Being Good = Presents” in our brains.

The problem comes when we confuse God with Santa Claus.

I think sometimes God gets a bad reputation as this nitpicking taskmaster who holds all our mistakes against us, putting our names on a Naughty or Nice list that decides whether we get into Heaven or Hell.

The Santa Claus Psychology has a way of seeping into the Christian life. There’s a lot of people who think living a good life will land you on God’s nice list and into Heaven.

The Bible does tell us we will have to give an account at the end of our lives. But I don’t know where it says God’s going to go through the script of our lives making us explain every misdeed. I don’t think God is holding our eternal reward over us like Santa Claus promising us presents.

I don’t think God has a Naughty or Nice list. I don’t think being a good person is enough to get a full stocking at the end of this life.

If you want a look at the Santa Claus Psychology in full effect, check out this incredible piece from Peter King of Sports Illustrated on a week in the life of an NFL Officiating Crew. You might think these guys have one of the best jobs in the world, getting paid to travel and make the calls of a different NFL game every single week.

But the amazing thing is just how much this job rules over their lives and thoughts. The men must not only immerse themselves in the a long day of procedures on gameday but nearly every hour of the week.

They must study game tape. They must watch and rewatch the game they just officiated looking for mistakes. They must be graded by another officiating crew every week.

The officials go through this arduous process each week in the hopes of a reward at the end of the season – getting to officiate NFL playoff games.

Yes, just as NFL players spend all season working to get a playoff job, so too do NFL officials. The head official profiled on Sports Illustrated is crestfallen when he realizes his dream of officiating a Super Bowl will probably be put off at least another year.

Having as few as 4 blown calls during the year can mean missing a playoff berth. Missing a handful of holding calls can cost a referee their reward. The referees live in constant fear of getting downgraded and losing a valuable postseason position.

This is no way to live, obsessing over the tiniest of mistakes afraid of not getting the prize at the end.

God is not Santa Claus. He is not making a list and checking it twice.

We must not let our mistakes manipulate our mind thinking one tiny screw up will prevent us from God’s glory.

The reward at the end of your life is not dependent on whether you were naughty or nice in this life. It’s not dependent on your job performance or how many blown calls you had.

Only God’s grace can bring you into His good graces.

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 a new in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:8-10)


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