Although both are known for giving good gifts and spreading a message of peace, I doubt (and I hope) most Christians would ever say Santa is just like God. But in Derwin L. Gray’s trending post, God is Not Santa Claus, we are reminded we often approach God as if he were Santa, reaching out with a list of wants we hope he will give us.
“If you and I were to record our prayers, what would they sound like?” Derwin asks. “Would they be an ongoing monologue of us asking God for things, like a seven-year-old in Target? Would it be a long list of “God give me” over and over?”
I think we all do this more than we’d care to admit. If it’s not outright demands for God to bestow good things on us, then it’s bargaining or negotiating with him to get what we want. We’re a culture with a bad case of the “gimmes,” and this time of year the disease is especially prevalent.
Sadly, Christians aren't not immune from the culture of excess around us. Why is that? Well, as Derwin notes, “many people find themselves disappointed in a false interpretation of Christianity because Jesus said, ‘Ask and you shall receive.’ They asked Jesus, but they did not receive what they wanted so now they are disillusioned and angry.”
Not sure if this describes you? Derwin shares four symptoms of consumerism, which we all need to be on the lookout for in our own lives:
1. Individualism – a person with this symptom cares more about how her needs can be met than meeting the needs of others. In the church, this can look like members who care more about how their church can help them out, rather than giving their time, treasure and talent for the good of the church.
2. Infantilism – Much like a baby, crying loudly until it is soothed, this person needs his desires satisfied immediately. The idea of waiting on God and developing patience is lost on him.
3. Narcissism – This person tends to manipulate others to get what she wants, obsessed with her own personal fulfillment. She also tries manipulating God to meet her own needs.
4. Passivism – This person would rather do nothing and rely on God and others to give and serve him, rather than actively engaging in his life and faith.
Do any of these sound familiar? If you struggle with any of these traits, Derwin offers this encouragement and hope: “The gospel truth is that the empty self is a label that Jesus will gladly strip away in order to give you a new label and a new life: All of God lives fully in Christ (even when Christ was on earth), and you have a full and true life in Christ, who is ruler over all rulers and powers (Col. 2:9–10, NCV).”
“This full and true life we receive from Jesus will change us from consumers to contributors.”
For more ideas on how to break free from a consumerist mentality this holiday season, Crosswalk contributor Michael Craven has several helpful thoughts in his post, Spending this Christmas or Spending it Well: Resisting Consumerism.” In it, he reminds us that replacing consumerist thoughts with meditation on Jesus is one powerful way to combat these well-ingrained habits. “If you find yourself swept up in the rush of consumerism, stop! Remember that Christmas is about the arrival of the Messiah, the beginning of Christ’s kingdom coming to earth in order to set right all that sin has set wrong. Revel in these days in the way that God has designed us to enjoy the many gifts of life such as family, friends, food, music, and worship.”
So, what do you think? How can we keep from seeing God as Santa Claus? What symptoms of consumerism do you see most in society? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.