Can a Gift be Earned?

Do the messages of Santa and Jesus have anything in common? Why do you give gifts to people you love?

A popular song about Santa Claus warns kids not to pout or cry because:

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!

I’ve even heard parents tease that they would wrap empty boxes and throw them into the fireplace in the days leading up to Christmas when their children misbehaved. By using fear, parents motivate their children to behave.

Consider the results of this message, though. If a child does something wrong, they would be inclined to hide it or downplay it rather than be truthful and come clean. Instead, they would try to highlight any possible good they’ve done in a desperate attempt to earn gifts. Since very few children actually receive coal in their stockings, they would eventually assume that everyone must be good enough to deserve gifts.

Has this corrupt mindset impacted the way people view God and his gifts?

Scripture Paints a Different Picture

The Bible says we’re all on God’s ‘naughty’ list (Romans 3:23). Try as we might, our best efforts are still tainted with sin (Isaiah 64:6). This results in something far, far worse than a lump of coal. It says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). It doesn’t matter how much good you’ve done. Any sin results in eternal separation from God.

That’s why we needed Jesus. He came as our substitute. He wasn’t just good; he was perfect! He lived that perfect life for you. His righteousness is credited to you (Romans 4:3f). This doesn’t just put you on a ‘nice’ list; through faith in Jesus, you’re on God’s ‘perfect’ list!

“The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). You can know with confidence that you will live with Heavenly Father. It gives God great pleasure to give you this gift without any conditions (Ephesians 1:5b-6). One of the greatest joys of being a parent comes from what you do for your child. That little baby can’t earn your love, and they don’t have to because they already have it.

Add Anything to Grace and You End Up with Nothing

Listen to the way the Bible describes the gift of God’s undeserved love. “If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace” (Romans 11:6).

Either it’s truly a gift without any strings attached, or you’ll spend your whole life enslaved trying to earn it and still fall far short. Either Jesus did it all when he said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), or we insist he didn’t do enough, toss away his gift, and try to earn God’s favor on our own. Add anything to grace, and you end up with nothing.

Friends, the messages of Santa and Jesus couldn’t be more different. Santa claims to be a jolly ol’ fellow, yet a closer look reveals that he’s always looking over your shoulder. His message makes you a slave trying to earn favor, and yet you can never be sure if you’ve done enough good.

By contrast, Jesus knows us broken as we are, yet it was his joy to be our substitute (Hebrews 12:2). We could never earn his love, and we don’t have to because we already have it. His gift is all that we need.


Scripture Study Tools

Free Access

Enter your email below for immediate access to our entire library of Scripture Study Tools, including printables, phone wallpapers and guided Scripture studies.

Additional Questions You Might Have


How Did Christ Fulfill the Law?

Does Jesus mean that all of God’s laws are abolished, or do we still have to obey the ones we’ve determined still apply? The answer may surprise you.


Can I really be perfect now?

3 ways God sees us as perfect right now.


How do I listen to the Holy Spirit?

The only way you can be certain is to go straight to the source.