Lesson Two: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
Main idea: We receive the gift of the kingdom of heaven when we realize how much we need God.
- Read Scripture references, James 4:6-10, Philippians 2:3-4, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Revelation 3:17-18
- Gather: Bible; dry erase markers or chart paper and markers; tennis balls decorated to look like bees, (or eggs, or water balloons, or whatever else you want your kids to throw, decorated like bees); fold top sandwich baggies; flour; measuring cups or spoons; yellow balloons; scissors; black permanent markers; tape; BEE-ATTITUDES poster (download here)
- Take time to meditate on this week’s Scripture and think about your own life. In what ways have you bought into the self-reliant, self-esteem, self-promotion mentality of our culture? What changes do you need to make to your life to be poorer in spirit?
- Matthew 5:1-12
- Ecclesiastes 7:20
- Isaiah 64:6
- Romans 3:23
- Romans 5:8
- John 3:16
Game: Bee Toss
Line up children in two rows, shoulder to shoulder, facing each other. Have a space of about three feet between the rows. Make sure every child has a partner. Give each child in one row a toy decorated like a bee. (Tennis ball, egg, water balloon, whatever you want.) The children will toss the toy to their partner, then both kids will take one step back, and then toss the toy again. They will then take another step back and toss again. The goal is to see how far apart they can get and still catch the toy. For variation, if they drop the toy they have to take a step closer and try again. You can also eliminate teams if they drop the toy until you have one team left. After playing the game, debrief by asking if it was easier or harder to catch when you were farther away from your partner. (Of course, it’s harder.) The point is, the further we get away from God, the harder it is to live a good life.
Open in prayer, then say last week we started a whole new series all about the Beatitudes. Let’s do a quick review. What does Beatitude mean? (Allow a child to answer. Write the correct answer on the board.) Beatitude means blessing. What does blessing mean? (Allow a child to respond and write “gifts/happiness/favor from God” on the board.) Blessing means the gift of God’s favor in our lives. God blesses us because he loves us. Sometimes blessings don’t look like what we think they will. We don’t always get the gifts we expect from God, but we always get what we need from him. This will become clearer as we study each of the eight Beatitudes one at a time over the next few weeks. Who remembers in what book of the Bible we find the Beatitudes? (Allow a child to answer.) That’s right, the Beatitudes are found in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 5. They kick off a group of chapters that teach us about the words and the works of Jesus. The Beatitudes do a good job summing up what the ATTITUDES of the Christian should BE. The BE ATTITUDES. Get it? That’s why we our activities and crafts will often be about bees. They remind us to have BEE ATTITUDES instead of ME ATTITUDES. Not having a ME ATTITUDE is one of the key points in today’s lesson. Let’s read Matthew 5:1-12 to remind us what all the Beatitudes say, and then we will focus on the main points of the first Beatitude. Open your Bibles and follow along as I read Matthew 5:1-12.
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’”
The first Beatitude, or special blessing from God, is in verse 3. Who wants to go back and read it to refresh our memories? (Allow a student to read) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Let’s work on translating this Beatitude. It can be a bit confusing at first glance. We know that blessed means gifted with God’s favor. When we are blessed, it means we are getting a special gift from God. So let’s look into what it means to be poor in spirit. What does it mean to be poor? (Allow students to answer.) To be poor means to not have enough, or not do well enough. Someone can be poor and not have enough money, or someone can do a poor job at cleaning their room. Poor means low quality or low standard. So to be poor in spirit means to not have enough or not be able to do enough to be in right standing with God.
What we will learn today is not a popular thing to teach. The world, and sometimes even Christian teachers, will try to teach you things that go against what I am about to tell you. It may not be an easy lesson to hear, but I love you and I always, always want to teach you the truth, no matter how hard it is. The truth is, you aren’t perfect. You mess up and you will never, ever be able to have enough or do enough to earn God’s love. You cannot live a good life all by yourself; you just don’t have what it takes. Sounds kind of depressing, doesn’t it? Stick with me for a little, because it’s about to get really, really good.
So many people want to believe that they are doing pretty good on their own. They have high self-esteems and don’t rely on anyone for anything. They may try to teach you that you can do anything all by yourself if you just try hard enough. You should believe in yourself, because you are awesome. Our culture is all about self-esteem, do-it-yourself, stand up for yourself, believe in yourself. But this isn’t the way God wants us to live. We’ll see why before the end of today’s lesson, but first let’s look at what the Bible has to say about who we are. I’m going to divide you into three groups and each group will look up one Bible verse. (Divide the class into thirds and have them look up the following verses. Once every group has found their assigned verse, have one volunteer from each group read it.) Group one, look up Ecclesiastes 7:20. Group two look up Isaiah 64:6. Group three, look up Romans 3:23.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.”
Isaiah 64:6 “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
What do all these verses have in common? (Allow a student to answer.) They all say that we are sinners. We are mean, rotten, unkind people and we are not good enough to be in the presence of the perfectly perfect God of the universe. Believing that we will NEVER measure up to God’s standards on our own is depressing. No wonder the world tries to say that we are awesome, that we are okay on our own and all we have to do is work a little harder to have a good life.
But that is what it means to be poor in spirit. To be poor in spirit it to know that we have nothing to offer to God and we can never do enough to earn his grace. (On the board, write “poor in spirit=not good enough.”)
If this were the end of the lesson, it would be very, very sad. I would cry. But you clever children know that this is not the end. There is some Good News to lift our spirits and to make us presentable to God. Does anyone know what this Good News is? (Allow children to respond.) The Good News, the Gospel, is that God loves us. Period. He loves us NO MATTER WHAT. He loves us even though we are rotten people, even though we are sinners. Let’s have a sword drill. Take your fingers and bookmarks out of your Bibles and hold them above your heads. When I say go, look up Romans 5:8. Go! (Read, or have a student read Romans 5:8). “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He died in our place. We should have to die for our sins, for the bad things we do. We don’t deserve a life with God because we have too much self-esteem, are too do-it-yourself, stand up for yourself, and believe in yourself. But “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Who knows where that is in the Bible? (Have a student answer, John 3:16.)
Isn’t the Good News so much better when you realize that you don’t deserve God’s goodness? When we think we are pretty okay on our own, we don’t care so much for the good things God gives us. When we keep in mind that we are sinners, that EVERY DAY we do things that hurt God’s heart and our relationship with him, then it makes it even more amazing that he loves us. God loves us. God loves us and gives us grace and mercy and the kingdom of heaven. When we are poor in spirit, we get the kingdom of heaven. (On the board, draw an arrow pointing down under “poor in spirit,” and write “kingdom of heaven” under the arrow.) When we realize how poor we are and how much we need God, he comes and lives in our hearts and gives us the whole kingdom of heaven! This means that we will get to spend all of forever in heaven with Jesus! Can I get a quick WOO-HOO! (Allow the children to shout out a quick “woo-hoo” about getting to go to heaven when they believe in Jesus.)
God loves you so, so much. He loves you and makes you clean and makes you right with him. But before he can fix his relationship with you, you have to realize that you are not good enough on your own. The problem with self-esteem is that it makes us think we are good enough on our own, without God. When we realized that God made us special, we have every reason to feel good about ourselves! But not because we are awesome on our own, but because God makes us awesome and gives us the ability to do amazing things for him. God created you in his image. He made you to be like him, but we choose to sin and do wrong instead of being humble and following God. And still, God loves you. God loves you.
Being poor in spirit is the opposite of a ME ATTITUDE. It is definitely a BEE ATTITUDE. Starting today and through the rest of our lessons on the Beatitudes, we will be adding a bee to this beehive. (Display the beehive poster with the blessings on it, and the bees with the characteristics on them.) Today I will tape the bee that says “poor in spirit” to the part of the beehive that says “kingdom of heaven.” (Tape it to the top part of the hive.) We will use this poster to help us remember the Beatitudes.
Here’s a word picture that sums up today’s lesson pretty well. Imagine that you, your whole life, is a car. Me, I’m picturing that I’m a 67 Corvette Stingray, cherry red. So cars are a great way to get places. But they don’t go very far without the keys, do they? Sure, you can push the car and maybe make it a few feet, but if you have the keys, anything is possible! Without Jesus, the key to our lives, we can’t make it very far. But when we are poor in spirit, when we realize we need Jesus and when we let him drive our lives, we can go anywhere!
End in prayer.
Craft: Bumblebee Squishy Toy
Have each child pour about 1/3 a cup of flour into the corner of a fold top sandwich baggie. (Can use a little more or less, depending on the size of the child’s hands and the size of the balloons.) Twist the bag and fold it over itself to make sure the flour is completely contained. Make sure there is no air in the baggie. Cut the neck off two yellow balloons. Have one friend hold open the balloon and while another friend puts the flour bag in the balloon. Hold open another balloon and shove the balloon with the flour bag in it into the second balloon so that the flour bag goes in first and is not exposed. Now you have a squishy, stress ball type toy! Use black permanent markers to make the squishy toy look like a bumblebee. Tell the children that this toy can help them remember to have BEE ATTITUDES instead of ME ATTITUDES.