Christmas, Mailbag, Parenting

The Mailbag: What should we tell our kids (and grandkids) about Santa Claus?

Originally published December 4, 2017

As Christian parents, is it OK for us to tell our children about Santa Claus?

Christmastime can be so much fun when you have children. Many of us remember the excitement of Santa, the Christmas tree, and presents from our own childhood. They’re happy memories, and we want to recreate those for our children.

But as Christian parents, our first priority isn’t fun, it’s obedience to Scripture. Yet is there a way to make Christmas merry for our children while still upholding God’s Word? Is Santa patently unbiblical?

No, he doesn’t have to be, as long as he keeps his sleigh parked inside the parameters of Scripture. Let’s take a look at some of the ways Santa can be unscripturally naughty, and how godly parents can keep him nice and biblical.

Santa Claus isn’t real. If you tell your children he is, or that he is the one who brings their presents, or that he knows whether they’ve been naughty or nice, you’re lying. The Bible says that lying is a sin, period. There’s no exception for jolly old elves who pass out toys (or for tooth fairies or Easter bunnies, either, for that matter). And not only is lying a sin, it is extraordinarily hypocritical to lie to your children about Santa Claus and then turn around later and punish them when they lie about something. Lying to your children about Santa Claus teaches them that it’s OK to lie (i.e. sin) when you want to or when it would be to your advantage.

Don’t lie to your children about Santa Claus. Tell them the truth: he’s a fun, fictional character that we can enjoy reading stories and singing songs about, just like Goldilocks or Superman or Old MacDonald. As for the presents, maybe you’d like to handle it similarly to the way my husband and I did with our children. When they were very small, my husband or I would don a Santa hat on Christmas Eve and say something like: “You know how you like to play pretend? Well, mommies and daddies like to play pretend, too, especially at Christmas! Now it’s time for you to go to bed so we can pretend to be Santa Claus.”

Santa Claus isn’t omniscient. 

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!¹

Uh uh. No way. Omniscience is an incommunicable attribute of God. He is the only One who has the power to see and know all things, and it is an insult and an affront to Him to even suggest that a mere mortal – let alone a fictional character – has the same power and knowledge that He has. In reverence and awe for God’s preeminence, we should never ascribe to others the things that belong to God alone.

Teach your children about the attributes of God. When you read your children stories about Santa Claus or hear Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town on the radio, it’s a perfect opportunity to teach them about God’s omniscience and power. “Did y’all just hear that? That song said Santa Claus can see you and knows how you’re behaving. Is that true? Who is the only One who always sees you, cares for you, and knows what you’re doing and thinking? Can anybody else besides God do that?”

Santa Claus teaches works righteousness. In St. Nick’s economy, good behavior earns a reward (presents). Bad behavior earns punishment (coal). If you’ve ever shared the gospel with anybody, that will probably sound familiar. Most lost people think that’s what Christianity is. If you’re a “good person” God is happy with you and you’ll go to Heaven. Hell is the punishment for “bad people”: Hitler, murderers, and rapists. This is not what the Bible teaches, either about salvation, or about why children should obey their parents.

Teach your children the gospel. Again, this whole “naughty or nice” part of the Santa Claus narrative is a perfect gospel-teaching opportunity. Take advantage of it! Ask your child to be “nice” for one whole day. At bed time, take a few minutes to talk about the times she messed up and was “naughty” when she was supposed to be trying to be “nice.” Nobody can be nice and obedient all the time, no matter how hard we try. We are all naughty, coal black sinners deserving the punishment of Hell. Jesus came and lived a life of perfect “niceness” (obedience), died on the cross to take the punishment for our naughtiness, was buried, and rose again. He did that, not because we earned it with good behavior, but because of His mercy and grace. And then He gave us the greatest gift ever. A gift we naughty people don’t deserve: salvation and eternal life in Heaven. And it is because of our love and gratitude to Christ for saving us that we obey Him, not so that He will give us what we want. Indeed, the Bible tells us that the more obedient to Christ we are, the more persecution we will face.

Santa Claus doesn’t automatically have to be on the Christian parent’s naughty list. There are lots of ways to enjoy the fun of Santa and even turn him into an opportunity to teach your child biblical truth, all while being obedient to Scripture. But if Santa makes you biblically uncomfortable in some way, then by all means, don’t go against your conscience. Whichever way you decide – after prayer, study of the Scriptures, and discussing it with your spouse – do not judge other Christian parents by your personal convictions about Santa Claus.

Any advice for grandparents about Santa? Our son wants our grandchildren to believe in Santa. How do we respond to a grandchild who asks of the reality of Santa? I will not lie, but I want to keep peace with my son.

Thank you for being a godly grandma!

I think the solution to this dilemma is going to start with being a godly mom. Is your son a Believer? If so, you might want to show him all of the information above and talk to him about any Scriptures he’s violating. Let’s pray that will be convicting to him and he’ll decide to handle Santa in a godly way with your grandchildren.

But if he’s not convinced, or if he’s not a Believer, talk to him about your convictions about not lying to his children. Explain the difficult position he’s putting you in. He’s essentially asking you to choose between pleasing him by sinning (lying) or pleasing God by not sinning.

If he still won’t relent, the only solution I can see that keeps you from sinning yet doesn’t go against your son’s wishes is to put it back on him. When your grandchild comes to you and asks, “Grandma, is Santa Claus real?” you reply, “That’s a great question, but I think you should ask your mom and dad about that. How about some hot chocolate?”.

Your son made this bed. You shouldn’t have to lie in it.

Additional Resources:

Santa Pause with Justin Peters at A Word Fitly Spoken


¹Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie, 1934.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Parenting, Poetry

The Prodigal’s Mom

There’s an empty chair at the table
Where my child once used to sit
When we all broke bread together
A family whole and fit

There’s an empty place in the photo
As his siblings celebrate
Without him again, missing him in
The memories they create

There’s an empty stocking at Christmas
Another year far from home
Joy with tarnished edges
As the wayward one still roams

There’s an empty place in my heart
That longs to be peaceful, content
Praying my child heeds the call of Christ
But fearing he’ll never repent

And so goes the song - it goes on and on -
Of a godly mother’s heart
Life’s full of empty moments
Her prodigal’s sin imparts

Until our knees and hearts are raw
We pray and pray again
A thousand tears we offer up
“How long, O Lord?” and “When?”

And the Father who once welcomed us home 
- For we were His prodigals too -
Says, “Come and rest, and stand the test,
My grace is sufficient for you.”

Holidays (Other), Old Testament, Parenting

Throwback Thursday ~ Bad Dad David?

Originally published June 16, 2019

I recently finished reading through the life of David during my quiet time. When we think of David, the first thing to jump to mind is probably “and Goliath” or “and Bathsheba” or maybe that he was a king or a psalmist. But have you ever thought of David and the first thing to come to mind was “lousy father”? I haven’t. And the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us that he was a bad dad. And, let’s face it, even the most godly parents in the world can have a kid or two who turn out to be prodigals. But if you look at how some of David’s children turned out, you have to at least wonder about his parenting skills.

First you’ve got Amnon – as disgusting a specimen of a human being as ever walked the planet. He makes himself physically ill lusting day after day for his half sisterTamar. That’s a lot of lust. But at least – at least – he keeps it to himself. For a while, that is.

Amnon’s got an equally disgusting cousin, Jonadab – who, instead of smacking him senseless when Amnon shamelessly confesses his dastardly daydreams – devises a scheme to help Amnon indulge his foul and festering flesh by tricking David into making Tamar available to him. David sends Tamar to Amnon’s house, and Tamar pleads with him not to force himself on her.

(While Tamar is pleading with her pustule of a brother, she says something interesting: “Please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” Now, arguably, it’s likely she was just saying whatever she could think of in the moment to get away from Amnon and didn’t really believe David would allow Amnon to marry her. But if she did believe that to be true, that definitely says something about David. Because, by that time in Israel’s history, intermarriage between two people who shared a parent was big-time illegal with severe consequences for the offenders. And David and everybody else in the kingdom knew that. Did David’s children think he would break the law for them and excuse them from punishment? And for such a nauseating reason?)

But Amnon ignores Tamar’s heartbreaking pleas and forcibly rapes her. He rapes his sister. David finds out what happened and is understandably angry. But does he follow the law and have Amnon executed? Nope. (So we at least have our answer to the question of whether or not David would break the law for his children.) If David did anything about the situation, the Bible doesn’t record it.

Fast forward two whole years. David has still not made his rapist son face the music, so Absalom, Tamar’s full brother, metes out his own brand of justice, putting Amnon to death.

Fast forward a few more years and Absalom thinks, “I believe I’d make a better king than dear old Dad.” So he sets about manipulating and stealing the hearts of his countrymen away from David and stages a bloodless coup. David ends up having to flee for his life from his own son. Meanwhile, Absalom moves into the palace, sets up a love nest on the roof where everybody can see, and sleeps with David’s concubines. Then, Absalom gathers up an army to hunt David – his father – down in order to kill him and secure his throne.

David’s men fight valiantly for him, risking their own lives. Joab, the commander of David’s army – perhaps considering David’s command to “deal gently” with Absalom as ludicrous after all Absalom has done – seizes an opportune moment, and kills Absalom. David flips out in grief, so much so that Joab has to rebuke him: all these men risked their lives to save you, David, and you’re crying and moaning over this wretch who was trying to kill you! Snap out of it or they’re going to turn on you! Fortunately, David has the sense to listen to him.

After some more wars, some famine, and a “sin-sus,” Adonijah decides he can pull off the coup his brother Absalom so spectacularly failed at. David is old and sickly, and it should be easy for Adonijah to make a grab for the throne. And in the description of Adonijah, here’s what was said that initially got me thinking David wasn’t Dad of the year:

His [Adonijah’s] father [David] had never at any time displeased him [Adonijah] by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” 

Are you picking up what the author of 1 Kings is laying down? David was an indulgent father. He had never at any time questioned his son’s actions or intervened in a way that upset him. He let Adonijah run wild and do what he wanted to do. And the way Amnon and Absalom acted, it’s reasonable to surmise that David raised them the same way, along with all the rest of his children. It’s a miracle Solomon turned out as well as he did (at least until his wives drew him away from the Lord into idol worship). Reading the first nine chapters of Proverbs, I can’t help but wonder if Solomon observed David’s parenting and was determined not to follow his poor example. Listen to my instructions, son. Get wisdom. Don’t be a fool.

Sometimes Bible characters set a great example for us. David, a man after God’s own heart, set many. But sometimes God lets us see their poor and sinful behavior so we can learn not to follow their example. Moms and Dads, let’s make sure we are men and women after God’s own heart when it comes to parenting our kids.

Happy Father’s Day, y’all.

Holidays (Other), Parenting

Beautiful Motherhood: A Mother’s Day Bible Study

As we look ahead to Mother’s Day,
let’s check out what the Bible has to say about mothering.
This is lesson 12 of my topical Bible study:

Imperishable Beauty- A Study of Biblical Womanhood.

Read These Selected Scriptures

Questions to Consider

1. What are some attributes or character traits of a godly mother from Proverbs 31 that we can emulate? In today’s lesson, rather than attributes to emulate, we’ll be focusing on God’s instructions to obey for mothers. We’ll examine how we’re to regard motherhood and our children, how we’re to train our children in godliness, how we’re to discipline our children out of ungodliness, and the example we’re to set for our children. Some of these instructions can also apply to childless women in their relationships with their spiritual children (i.e. younger women or children they disciple) and others. As you read over today’s passages, explain how childless women might apply some of these Scriptures.

2. Examine the first three passages (Psalm 127-Titus 2) together. What do these passages say about how we are to regard motherhood and our children? What should the attitude of our hearts be? In what sense are children a reward? How do we know that Psalm 127:3 does not mean that if you act in a way that pleases the Lord He will reward your good behavior with children? What does this verse mean? Is loving your children (Titus 2:4) simply a feeling of affection toward them? If so, why would young women need to be trained to love their children? When you finish today’s lesson, come back to Titus 2:4 and give a fully-orbed biblical definition of what it means to love your children.

3. Examine the next five passages (Proverbs 22-Ephesians 6) together. Why does God want us to train our children in godliness? Explain the phrase “in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). How does the gospel figure in to training your child? Look carefully at the three Old Testament passages. At what age should we begin training our children in godliness and the Scriptures and how long should this training continue? Is Proverbs 22:6 an iron-clad guarantee or promise from God that if we raise our children in a godly home they will definitely get saved and turn out to be godly adults? Why not? (Scroll down to the Deuteronomy 21 passage if you need help.)

To whom are the Colossians and Ephesians verses addressed? Does this mean they don’t apply to mothers or that it’s OK for mothers to provoke their children, but not fathers? If they apply to both parents, why are they addressed to fathers? How are we not to deal with our children according to these verses? What does it mean to provoke your children? Why are we not to provoke them (Colossians), and how are we to deal with them instead (Ephesians)? Compare Ephesians 6:4b to the Old Testament verses in this section. How are they similar?

3. Examine the next three passages (Proverbs 29-Deuteronomy 21) together. What is the purpose of godly discipline? What are the biblical definitions of the words “discipline” and “reproof”? Are discipline, reproof, and training the same as punishment? Why or why not? What are some of the consequences of disciplining your child? The consequences of refusing to discipline your child? According to Proverbs 13:24, what motivates someone to discipline her child? What motivates someone to refuse to discipline her child? Are “love” and “hate” simply emotional feelings in this verse or an attitude, posture, or orientation of mindset toward the child? Look closely at Deuteronomy 21:20. Is this passage most likely talking about a very young child or an older child/teenager? According to the Deuteronomy 21 passage, does godly discipline always result in an obedient son or daughter, or can there be exceptions to the rule?

Why is it important to both train your child in godly ways and discipline him out of ungodly ways? Explain how this fits into the “put off the ungodly, put on the godlymodel of biblical sanctification.

4. Examine the last five passages (Deuteronomy 21-Matthew 10) together. What do these passages teach us about the godly example we need to set for our children?

Sometimes we see implicit instructions to parents in passages that explicitly teach children how to treat and regard their parents. For example, if there were a verse that said, “Children, love your parents,” we could learn from that verse that we need to act in a way (lovable) that makes it easier for our children to obey that Scripture. Considering this concept, look at the Exodus 20 and Proverbs 1 passages. If your children are to honor you, in what manner should you behave? What should your teaching be like if your children are not to forsake it and to consider it a “graceful garland” and a “pendant”?

What is the context of Ezekiel 16? To whom is the parent/child metaphor in this  passage addressed? Explain the phrase “like mother, like daughter”. Why is it important to set a good example for our children with our own behavior, and why was this a good metaphor for God to use in addressing Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him?

Examine the Deuteronomy 21 and Matthew 10 passages together. What is to be a mother’s highest priority – her relationship with her child, even the life of her child, or her love for, obedience to, and loyalty to Christ? Do you love Christ more than your child? If you had to choose between your child and Christ, whom would you choose? What message does it send to our children when we show and tell them that we love Christ more than we love them? How can you demonstrate to your child that your highest love and loyalty is reserved for Christ?


Homework

Examine each of the instructions in Deuteronomy 6:6-9. Make a list of practical ways your family could put each of these instructions into practice and discuss it with your husband. Together, pick one of these practices and implement it with your children this week.


Suggested Memory Verse

Holidays (Other), Mailbag, Parenting

The Mailbag: Mother’s Day Potpourri

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


This week on the blog, in anticipation of Mother’s Day, it’s all about the mamas. Here’s a roundup of Mailbag articles and other resources on motherhood and parenting…

How can I raise my daughters to be godly women?

Avoiding the Creepers: Six Ways to Raise a Biblically Strong Woman


How can I raise my sons to be godly men?

Six Ways to Raise a Godly Man


Am I violating Scripture’s prohibition on women teaching men by teaching my sons the Bible at home?

Rock Your Role FAQs (#12)


Can you recommend a good Bible study for teen girls? / Can you recommend a devotional I can do with my kids? / How can I teach my kids the Bible?

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Kids’ devotionals, The Chosen- Season 2, Methodist apostasy) (section 1)

The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?

The Mailbag: Potpourri (NBCS, Homeschool resources, Piper…) (section 3)

12 Techniques for Raising Bible-Saturated Kids

Homemade Catechism: 11 Scriptures for Real Life Parenting Situations


Which children’s Bible do you recommend?

The Mailbag: Children’s Bible Recommendations


How can I know if my disabled (or very young) child is saved?

The Mailbag: Salvation and the Mentally Challenged


As a stay-at-home / homeschooling mom of boys, how can I make sure they’re getting the male leadership and influence they need during the day while my husband is at work?

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Christian romance novelist, home schooling sons, Spanish resources…) (section 2)


What is your position on birth control or having a planned family size? 

The Mailbag: Christian Women Working, Using Birth Control, and Limiting Family Size

The Mailbag: Should I Risk Another Pregnancy?


Should I cover myself and my baby while breastfeeding for the sake of modesty?

The Mailbag: Should Christian women cover up while breastfeeding?


How can I teach my children about modesty?

Modesty- Part 3 at A Word Fitly Spoken (We suggest you listen to all three parts in order as they build on one another)


Is spanking biblical or abusive?

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Spanking, Women teaching men, Working a homosexual “wedding”…) (section 1)


Can I get some guidance on training my children to behave in church?

Churchmanship 101: Training Your Child to Behave in Church 

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Joni’s testimony, “Messy”, Female seminary profs…) (section 4)

Yes Sir! That’s My Baby!


How do I deal with my unsaved parents who are an ungodly influence on my children?

The Mailbag: Grandparents an Ungodly Influence on My Kids


Biblical advice / information on parenting in general?

Do You Trust God with Your Kids?: 8 Ways to Parent Your Children Like God “Parents” You

Parenting: What a Child Wants, What a Child Needs

Parenting Without Shame

The 10 Commandments of Parenting


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.