Can A Gift Be Earned?

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. I suppose that’s
one way to strike fear into the hearts of their kids.

Consider the results of this message. If a child does something wrong they would be inclined to
sweep it under the rug or downplay it rather than be truthful and come clean. 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 stocking, 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?
The Bible paints a completely different picture. It 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 (Romans 6:23).

That’s why we needed Jesus. He came as our substitute. He wasn’t just good, he was perfect!
And 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! 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. In fact, trying to earn
it would be an insult to the giver.

Imagine your parents gave you an all-expense paid trip to your favorite destination. They did it
because they love you and wanted to spend time together. If you quickly re-gifted an old fruitcake
under compulsion it not only wouldn’t compare, it would actually diminish the beauty of their gift.

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 then 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 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.


Next Step

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