Sometimes as teachers we tend to struggle with the gospel of productive work activity…we instruct our students that God cares about us no matter what, and teach that our works do not save us, but God does. Yet we also read passages that indicate that we do need works to prove we are truly Christians. So which is it? We need to emphasize to kids that acting right is a direct and natural result of loving God. We want our focus to be living in a way that pleases Him. This lesson aims to encourage cheerful work and concentrated effort on the things that matter most.
Lesson focus: When we want to do what God desires, our lives will reflect that. Whether in church or out and about in society, we want to make sure to be productive and compassionate, rather than stirring up trouble or acting lazy…
Passage: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Target Audience: Pre-k through fifth grade (adaptable)
Materials Needed: Bread, fruit, markers, decorative supplies, foam or cardboard hand cut-outs
Lesson Opening: What happens if it sits around? Provide students with a little object example to emphasize the dangers of idleness…have a few pieces of food prepped ahead of time, and offer students a sample of one. This should be two types of a simple food: pieces of bread, fruit, cheese, etc…the catch is that one sample will be normal (fresh), while the other option is purposely moldy or stale. Ask kids which they would choose. It probably will be fairly obvious– the non-moldy one! But what creates that staleness in things? Mold develops when things sit around without being useful. Explain that today we’ll be taking a peek at how people can develop the same “mold” when we grow lazy or apathetic.
Define “work…” What do students think it means to do work, and why is it important? Does work mean things that we do for pay, or things that we “must” do to fulfill obligation? Invite some sharing of ideas about what work is…
-Additionally, how does this relate to the topic of “works”? (Note: this may need to be adjusted with younger audiences). Some people seem to think that as Christians, we have to somehow prove our faith through living or acting appropriately. Is this true? We know that the Bible says we are saved by our faith, so why should we have to do anything? Have students turn to the passage for the day, found in 2 Thessalonians…
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching[a] you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10
What is Paul saying here? He is addressing the issue of laziness. See if students can come up with some good examples of people who might be considered lazy. Why is it important to earn things instead of just being given a “free ride” handout? Paul wants to emphasize here that whether it relates to work in witnessing and teaching or just earning a meal, as Christians we want to be productive.
Offer another example of what might happen when we are lazy…give students a dry and a “fresh” marker, and ask them to write or draw with them. Explain that the dry markers were left out with the caps off, and no longer function properly. That’s another danger of laziness. When we just sit around and let things lie, we lose our effectiveness.
Going back to our Christian obligation to productivity, bring up again the concept of working to earn respect, but not working to earn salvation…God loves us and saves us no matter what we do. However, sometimes it’s good for us to demonstrate that we are grateful for that. Imagine getting a present from someone, perhaps a nice new coat from Grandma. We don’t have to earn that gift or earn her love. But if we appreciate it, it’s only natural to wear the coat and show that. It is the same with God’s gifts, in a way. If we are glad He loves us, we live it out and demonstrate to others what that love is like. When we do that, we remain watered and rooted in His love instead of moldy or idle.
Point students back to the passage for a look at a couple more verses about how we should act and treat others:
We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
-2 Thessalonians 3:12-13
Talk about what gossip means. A “busybody” as mentioned here is someone who is “all up in the business” of someone else…do we know anyone like that? More than likely. But when we are busy talking with other people about behavior, it certainly distracts and detracts from helping out. Remind students that God wants us to love and care for others, and to talk with them instead of with someone else about them.
Game/activity: (If time allows) Idle or industrious? Invite one or two students up to act out a charade of sorts. Whisper or write down whether they will be acting lazy or productive. Then give a scenario and have the student(s) act how they think they would in that situation. For example, “Mom says to clean your room” could be met with obedience or obstinacy. Have other students guess which way is being demonstrated.
Helping hands…have students decorate a foam or cardboard cut-out of a hand, and label with the verse (2 Thessalonians 3:13). Encourage them to hang it somewhere prominent to remember that we want to live out our faith and help others.
Close with prayer and thank God for all He has given. Ask for guidance as we seek to live out our faith and guide others to do likewise.