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John Piper: Santa Doesn’t Hold a Candle to Jesus

Have you ever wondered if you should encourage your kids to believe in Santa Claus? Should you tell them he doesn’t exist, even though many of their friends think he does? Is it worth telling your kids he’s real in the interest of preserving the magic of the season, even though you’ll eventually have to tell them it was all a lie?

In an interview with Desiring God, John Piper states, “If Christ cannot compete with Santa in the hearts of our kids, we don’t know the real Christ or there is no real Christ.”

A Mom’s Dilemma

Piper made this statement in response to a listener who was wondering what she and her husband should tell their kids about Santa. While her husband wants to let their kids believe in him, the mom feels torn between wanting to keep Christmas “mythical and special” and also not wanting to disobey the Bible’s commands not to lie. She also doesn’t want to focus on Santa Claus so much that they end up overshadowing Jesus.

Piper sees several layers to the mom’s question. On the surface, she simply wants to know if people can preserve the myth of Santa and not lie to their kids. To that he says, “No you can’t. That is, you can’t teach your children that Santa Claus is real if your intention is to teach them the truth.”

Deeper Issue

However, Piper believes there is an issue deeper than whether or not parents can ethically encourage their kids to believe in the story of Santa Claus. The real issue is that if Jesus is the greatest treasure in the world, why do we feel like we need Santa’s help to make Christmas a magical, awe-inspiring experience? Piper questions how a Christian who truly understands who Christ is could “ever dream of replacing or obscuring or supplementing this coming true of every story worth telling.”

Piper believes that if parents grasp the beauty of the Christian story, they ought to be able to tell it in a way that is compelling enough to be magical for their kids. The bottom line, he says, is that the truth of Christmas is far more thrilling and wonderful than any fiction ever could be.