One of my favorite comic strips is Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson, following the adventures of a bright but mischievous six year-old boy named Calvin and his stuffed tiger, a.k.a. imaginary friend Hobbes. (Both named for – of all things – famous theologians!)
Every Christmas, poor Calvin is a tortured soul, torn between his desire to be “good” so that Santa will bring him lots of presents – and the (at least for a little boy) overwhelming temptation to smack the little girl next door with a perfectly formed snowball. Often the strip shows Calvin weighing the pros and cons – the “pleasure of sin for a short time” against the possibility of future but unknown rewards. He debates with his friend Hobbes about how good is “good enough” for Santa – if there are any technicalities or loopholes available to him – just how far it may be possible to stick his toe over the line and still get everything he wants for Christmas.
It’s a hilarious debate for a little boy in a comic strip, but kind of sad when you run across it in real life. I’m thinking of Christians I know who have God confused with Santa Claus. They’re always trying to figure out how much they can get away with, what technically constitutes a sin, how far they can push it and still stay on God’s good side. But you know what, we don’t obey God because if we don’t, He’ll take away our presents!
Of course, in His mercy and grace, He’s made it so that obedience is in our best interest. All of His laws are meant to protect us or provide for us. And He does promise to bless us above and beyond for faithfully keeping His commandments.
But ultimately, we obey Him because we want to, because we love Him, because we want to please Him, because we want to bring Him glory. Because we’re so grateful for all He’s done for us… our loving obedience is the least we can offer Him in return. (John 14:15)