The idea for this article came to me one day while at work. I realized that I have had a misconception about God. For me, it always seemed that when I thought of God, I thought of Him kind of like how kids think of Santa - far away, remote, only checking up on you a few times a year to see if you've been good. But suddenly I realized that God is more like the computer game "The Sims", and this fits much better with how Christianity is described and how we should really try to relate to God. This article will discuss my comparisons and reasons for believing God is more like "The Sims" and less like Santa.
The Santa Model
For a long time, it seems whenever I thought of God I would always think of Him almost as a kid would think of Santa. Here is a list of some of the erroneous Santa-like characteristics I had previously thought that God had:
- Physically remote - Santa lives up at the North Pole, an inhospitable place where only elves and himself and his wife live. God lives way up there in heaven, with the angels, which is inaccessible to humans.
- Very busy - Santa works hard all year managing the elves, making sure the stockpiles of toys are ready, and checking up on all the kids in the world. He could never have time to sit and pay attention to a single kid for much more than a few minutes - this is why the kid sits on his lap for maybe a minute, then the next one has to have a turn. God is also very busy - He's got to run and manage the whole world, answer everyone's prayers, organize the angels, prevent/send natural disasters, and everything else. He couldn't possibly have time to spend much more than a few minutes with me personally.
- Making a list - Santa checks up on the kids a few times a year and makes a list of all the kids who were good or bad. God also checks up on people once or twice a year to see if they've been "good", and if not then they are at risk of being erased from His Book of Life. If I'm not being "good" when God happens to check up on me, then I'm in His "bad" list for that year.
- Judgemental - Santa judges who is good and who is bad, and gives presents accordingly. God also judges who is good and who is bad. If you're good, then you'll get some good reward in heaven, but if you're bad, even if you're not bad enough to send to hell and you repent afterwards, then you'll get less rewards in heaven.
- Unresponsive - kids send letters to Santa at the north pole, but they never hear back from him unless they happen to get a present they wanted. God never responds directly and you can only tell if He answered prayer by if what you asked for happens.
- Only good for the presents - kids would never think of spending time with Santa just because he's Santa. They only want to be around him when he'll give them toys and cookies and candy canes. Christians sometimes treat God the same and only think about Him when they want something. The rest of the time they don't want to be bothered.
- Easily appeased - as long as you leave cookies and milk for Santa, he'll be happy. As long as you tithe, pray before meals, and occasionally give to charity, God is happy with you.
This list of characteristics doesn't really sound all that appealing. It's understandable that if this is how non-Christians view God, then no wonder they're turned off of Him! And as Christians, having these views of God does not make you want to spend time with God and will not lead to a deeper or more meaningful relationship. Instead, you'll just focus on being "good", praying for things you want, and doing the token amount of effort to please God. Because He's so far away and busy, He won't really notice anyways, right?. However, a much more loving and appealing God is found when you think of Him more in terms of "The Sims" model.
"The Sims" Model
I call it "The Sims" model based off the computer game of the same name made by EA Games. In this game, the player can create a character (called a "Sim"), make them look like whatever the player wants, and give them personality traits. The player then moves their Sim into a house, gets them a job, makes friends, and helps the Sim go about his/her daily activities. The Sim has some limited free will, but usually the player will guide their daily tasks, decide who they will be friends with, try to help them get promotions at work, etc. The perspective in the game is as if the player is hovering a few meters above the Sim's house, and can watch the Sim as they go through all their daily activities (even going to the toilet). I found that if I compare God to the player in the Sims, some interesting conclusions can be found, which I believe lead to the "Sims" model being more representative of real Christianity than of the Santa model.
- Physically close - the player's perspective is relatively close to the Sim, although the Sim is unaware. The Holy Spirit is everywhere, and as Christians the Holy Spirit lives inside us, and so God is much much closer than we sometimes think. God is not way up in heaven looking down on earth from thousands of miles - he's right there next to you in your room or at your work, even when you don't think He is.
- Not busy at all - the player's time and energy is completely focused on the Sim and the Sim's life (even to the point of neglecting the player's homework). God is omnipotent, and so He can manage to run the universe as well as devote 100% of His effort to caring about every minute of our lives. God knows and cares about everything that is going on in everyone's lives 100% of the time on Earth, and still has free time left over!
- Constantly watching - The player sees everything the Sim does, whether it's as important as getting married or as simple as making toast in the morning. Because God can devote 100% of his time to watching us, he is not like Santa who checks up on kids once a year. God is watching you even as you work, sit on toilet, brush your teeth, or sleep. And not just watching, but watching with care and love. When a player makes a Sim, often the player will care for the Sim and enjoy seeing them do boring things like go to the toilet, because it is part of their life. It's fun to watch a little Sim do the dishes, and to care if they've eaten enough for breakfast, and to make sure they get a good sleep at night. And if a human player can care about a little digital character made of meshes and textures, then how much more does God enjoy watching us go about our lives and care about us!
- All-knowing - Often, the Sims are quite stupid. They don't know how to run their lives, will miss work, will not do their dishes, will pull pranks on other Sims instead of being friendly, etc. It's quite frustrating trying to manage a Sim that seems to never want to do what should or needs to be done. The player has a much better understanding of what must be done, and when, to make the Sim's life a success, because the player understands the functions of the game and what the consequences of certain actions will be. This is like how God knows what is best for us, and if we are willing to follow His plan we will have a much more successful and fulfilling life than trying to do it on our own. Similarly, God knows what the consequences will be if we don't follow Him, and how we will mess up our lives. It is always a better idea to follow God's plan than our own, because He's the only one who can see the big picture.
- Very responsive - the player can respond quickly to a Sim's needs, sometimes before the Sim knows it themselves. If the Sim is complaining about being hungry, the player has the ability to buy them a new fridge with more food. The player can even cheat (create money or food out of nowhere, cure a Sim's disease, etc.) if it suits the player's will. However, providing everything without making the Sim do anything gets boring quickly. It is much more rewarding to help the Sim succeed at work by working hard, learning new skills, and developing friendships in order to succeed and be able to provide for the Sim. God knows what we need before we ask. He will help us do what we are meant to do, and does not want us to be lazy and will give us what we need to provide for ourselves. However, He can help with a "cheat" or two if He wants - healing, provision in hard times, a friend, or whatever is needed.
- Creator - the player creates the Sim, and chooses things such as skin tone, facial features, hairstyle, and clothing. The player also chooses personality traits for the Sim. God created each one of us just the way He wanted to. Our looks, abilities, and personalities are given by God, and God loves us because He made us just how He wants. Although a Sim never complains about the shape of their nose or the color of their hair, people do it all the time. We should accept that God has made us this way and put special care into making our nose or whatever we dislike about ourselves, and loves us just the way we are. Also, it is quickly discovered that variety is what makes a Sim neighbourhood interesting. We should value the diversity in our world, because otherwise we would all be the same and it would be boring. God makes all sorts of people and loves them all, and we should try to see what God sees when we look at people, even people we may not like or understand.
- Constantly listening - Although in "The Sims", the player does not actually form a relationship with the created Sim, in our world God does desire a personal relationship with each of us. God isn't like Santa and doesn't want just one prayer a year. Instead, God is always hovering nearby, just waiting and hoping for us to acknowledge His presence and to talk to Him. Because He is nearby and watching everything we do, we can pray at any time, for any length of time, and He will always be thrilled that we chose to talk to Him and will always listen to every single word. He will never say "Ok... your 10 minutes are up, time for me to go listen to Nancy.", and He is never too busy or to disinterested to listen. It's as if you're the only person in the world to Him, and God spends His whole day just hoping you'll remember to talk to Him.
As you compare the God described by the Santa model and that of "The Sims" model, it is clear which God is more desirable. I find I often slip back into thinking of God as Santa, and forget that He is hovering nearby just waiting for me to have a relationship with Him. I forget that God cares about when I miss the bus, or when I get frustrated with a problem at work. I think that He only cares about "religious" stuff, like how often I go to church or how much money I give to charity. But these are minor things when we realize that God is a God of Love, not of religiosity. Love is all about relationships, not about doing the right things. The relationship with God is what Jesus came to teach us. By dying for our sins he made it possible for us to once again have a restored open relationship with God, with no barriers of sin in the way. We no longer need a High Priest to intercede once a year on our behalf - we can talk to God whenever, even when you're on the bus or in the washroom.
If you don't have a relationship with God, it's really easy. All you have to do is talk to Him like He's your best friend. Just ask Him to be your saviour and accept the gift of Jesus' death as payment for your sins, and that's it! If you want to learn more about God, about how he wants us to live, you can pick up a Bible and read it. Start with the New Testament, as it describes how Jesus came to live here and die for us, and his practical teachings on how we should live. It will show you that God loves you more than you can imagine, and has an amazing future planned for you if you will trust Him with your daily activities. We all need to remember that God is not Santa. Once we can learn to replace the idea of Santa with one of a personal, caring God, it will vastly improve our relationships with Him, reduce our doubts and fears, and be much more comforting to know God is always there with us.