Kids are naturally egotistical, and have no problem boasting or viewing the world as surrounding their needs. In today’s culture of self-esteem encouragement and “everyone’s a winner” mentality, it’s easy for this concept to solidify. There is nothing wrong with positive attitude boosting, of course…until it leads to pride and entitlement expectations. Throughout His ministry, Jesus emphasized the importance of putting others ahead of ourselves. He preached this idea and lived it out, as well, inviting us to do the same. The focus of this lesson is on such a message…Jesus was not afraid to ruffle feathers, defy authority, and promote the humble road.
Lesson focus: God wants us to work for His glory and not our own; when we live to make Him happy, He will reward our efforts.
Passage: Luke 14:1-14
Key Verse: For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” -Luke 14:11
Target Audience: Pre-k through sixth grade (adaptable)
Materials Needed: Papers and/or cards; decorative materials; Bibles.
Lesson Opening: Start with a tricky little illustration… Explain that you will start by giving each child a small treat (sticker, piece of candy, toy, etc.). Invite them to line up in order to receive first pick. For large groups, this may need to be monitored or adjusted (perhaps raise a hand instead of lining up). After the chaos of jostling for a good spot in line, deliberately walk to the last person in line for first pick at the treats. Explain that today we are going to talk about what it means to be humble, and what it means to do things that go against our usual expectations. Jesus sure did this a lot!
Explain that in the Bible, Jesus frequently did things that confused people and changed the way they typically thought or did things. When our lesson begins, we meet Jesus at the home of some Pharisees. If students are not familiar with this term, explain that a Pharisee was a legal teacher and church leader who was very grumpy and strict about following rules. These people tried to trick Jesus. They asked Him if He would heal someone on a Holy Day…
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. 2 There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.
5 Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child[a] or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” 6 And they had nothing to say. Luke 14:1-6
Describe the ancient lifestyle, elaborating on the fact that in Jesus’s time, people took a day of rest very seriously and wouldn’t even cook or clean on that day. The Pharisees wanted to make sure this was followed, and they asked Jesus if He could heal someone, since that was technically “work.” The Messiah didn’t think much of it and instantly healed the man. Why should that matter? To show that Jesus did not worry about what people thought of Him. His aim was to help people, no matter what.
Ask kids if they know what “humility” means. If they need help understanding, use puppets to demonstrate (or other appropriate method). “Proud Patty” could be boasting and taking the credit for things, while “Humble Holly” quietly completes her tasks. In addition (or for older groups already familiar with humility concept), have students perform skits that act out scenarios, showing one side that is pridefully bragging and another that acts humbly. Continue on with the lesson…
When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” -Luke 14:7-11
Remind students of the opening activity. Also think back to lessons on competition and pride…do we naturally want to be the best? Sure…and there’s nothing wrong with working hard and wanting to do a job well. But sometimes we get a little too eager. If we walk with a nose in the air, we might not see where we’re headed and trip! God doesn’t want us bragging or always trying to be first. We might want to impress, but when our fears of other people’s thoughts interrupt God’s work, that is a problem.
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
What is the difference between acting humble and acting out of pride or over-confidence? What is the difference between a movie star and a trash collector? Talk with children about seeing people and situations as God sees them. Brainstorm ways to demonstrate humility.
In closing, bring back the point of how Jesus lays it all out for us. The Pharisees who originally tried to throw Him off were trying so hard to match each tiny piece of the law…but they missed the bigger picture and neglected the value of individuals. Jesus confronted their pride and admonished them to live differently. Let’s act with humility before we are called out as well…
Thanks to the thankless…come up with someone who demonstrates humility by working hard, but does not always get the credit deserved (janitor, teacher, etc.). Create a thank-you card for them to show appreciation for what they do. If extra time allows, create fancy reminder cards to keep in mind ways of demonstrating a humble attitude.
Close with prayer and thank God for loving us and sending Jesus to live out an example of humility. Ask that we be kept from pride and live in His love.