From a parenting perspective, Christmas is a pretty easy time to get kids to behave. After all, they are keenly aware of Santa’s naughty-or-nice list. So kids work extra hard to be good this time of year because they want presents.
That’s not a good reason to be good, and we all know it.
Adults do it too—just on a grander scale and not only at Christmas. We think God is keeping a naughty-or-nice list, so we work extra hard to do good things, hoping he will eventually let us into heaven.
That’s not a good reason to do good either.
At a time of year when we’re all focusing on lists and being “good,” I think we need an important reminder:
“God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. It’s not the result of anything you’ve done, so no one can brag about it. God has made us what we are. He has created us in Christ Jesus to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10 GW).
Once you remember that you don’t have to do good things to get presents or earn points with God, you can focus on a different kind of list: the list of good works God has prepared for you to do.
Now, we all have different good deeds prepared by God, but we at Time of Grace want to give you a few ideas just to get you started. That’s why this month we’re doing a Christmas challenge. Each day leading up to Christmas, we have simple ways for you to be a blessing to the people around you.
Then, when you bless people the way God has prepared for you, he blesses you too.
- Studies show when people donate to charity it triggers the portion of the brain responsible for feelings of reward. The brain releases feel-good chemicals and leads you to do more acts of kindness.
- People who volunteer have a higher self-esteem and overall well-being. As you feel more socially connected, your self-esteem increases and you become more confident.
- Performing acts of kindness makes you more optimistic and positive.
- People who volunteer say it enriches their sense of purpose and lowers their stress.
- When you help others, it lowers rates of depression, puts you in a better mood, and lowers your risk of dying by at least 22 percent.
Finally, as you focus on the list of blessing others this Christmas, remember that ultimately you are serving Jesus, who said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40 NIV).
Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who loves making lists.