Earlier this year I came across an Elf on the Shelf in a kid’s toy store. I had heard of them before, but never quite knew what the deal was. It turns out that you purchase the elf, place it on a shelf in your house, and tell the children that it is keeping an eye on you for Santa, reporting back if you’ve been naughty or nice. Each night the elf reports back to Santa and hides in a new place the next morning
Not only is it advertised as a ‘fun new tradition,’ the packaging notes an added benefit for parents. Behaviour modification! Children’s conduct is reported to get better because they have a constant elf eye on them!
What are Christians to make of this? This is one example of where the world operates via rules to change people from the outside in.
But in Colossians 2:16-23 Paul writes about how elemental spiritual forces and the rules of the world ‘lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.’ In other words, changed behaviour from rules is not true change.
What we need is a changed heart. And Paul teaches that it comes from being connected to Christ. For it is in Christ that we are truly transformed,
[He is] the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. (Colossians 2:19)
– Sam Pursell