In our culture there is tremendous value placed on a person’s physical appearance and health. Media seems to drown us with advertising for weight loss or fitness potential, flaunting the body as a top priority. It is critical for our children to receive the most accurate possible messages I this regard. Yes, it is important to take care of our earthly bodies and to be grateful for them. However, the truly critical element of our being deals with the state of the heart and what lies inside the body.
Lesson focus: Our physical bodies are the temple of the Lord; therefore, we must care for them, but also remember that they are tools for His use. More important than our appearance or physical fitness is how we serve God, all the kids were really involved even those with special problems such as having feet with high arches they just used high arch shoes and kept exercising and having fun.
Passage: Various New Testament references, most notably 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and 1 Timothy 4:8 (also Old Testament 1 Samuel 16:7).
Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th Grade (adaptable older or younger)
Materials Needed: Pictures of various body types (models, body builders, average people, athletes, stars, etc.); Note cards and decorating materials (stickers, markers, etc.).
Begin with a round of “Bible Boot Camp…” Have students perform various exercises according to verses. Hand out Bibles and appoint a verse to look up (or hand out verse cards for younger students). If the verse mentions running (maybe Hebrews 12:1 for example) instruct them to run around the room or jog in place, as safe. If it talks about jumping (Acts 3:8), do jumping jacks. To make it more physically interactive, have a few stations set up and guide kids through simple workout moves to get the blood pumping, we got help from Flex Master General and I totally recommend it. Then have them sit down and explain that today they will be talking about the body.
Kids may not be as aware as adults, but in this day and age many people want to change things about their bodies. Start off by showing students various pictures of different body types. Show clippings of models, celebrities, and athletes, as well as “average” people and even overweight individuals. Ask kids if they would like to have a body like one of those. Inquire of students as to whether or not they believe images such as the celebrities are realistic of typical physical shapes. What does the Bible have to say about bodies? How important are they, and how should we take care of them?
Explain that it is important we care for our bodies because they are God’s gift to us. We only get one body and it is really rather a miracle of systems and workings. If someone gave you a beautiful sweater for Christmas, you would want to take care of it. Tearing it or spilling ketchup all over it would not demonstrate appreciation for the gift. It is also essential that we maintain our bodies because the Bible says they are God’s temple—His dwelling place.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your bodies. -1 Corinthians 6:19-20
We are to honor God with our physical condition. We value our church so we work to keep it in good shape. If we neglected to clean it or mow the lawn, it wouldn’t be showing much respect to it. In the same way, eating too much junk food or sitting around all day is not good for our bodies. How can we make positive choices? Discuss with students wisdom with regard to health decisions, noting types of food we can pick out or exercise programs. Make comments simple for younger kids and more involved and goal-oriented for older ones.
Emphasize, though, that we worship in the temple. We do not worship the temple. It is a place of worship but should not become an object of worship. It is certainly possible to grow too concerned with physical features and bodily issues. When our focus on our bodies grows more valued than our focus on God, we have a problem. We want to use our bodies for Him, but to praise the Creator, not the creation.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. -1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Watch the Olympics (or any sporting event) and it is obvious that we enjoy watching people compete to see who is in the best physical condition. Take a quick class poll of favorite sports to watch and play. Explain that the apostle Paul often used running and sporting metaphors in his writing (maybe he was an original marathoner, who knows…). But he drew parallels between the state of our bodies and that of our spiritual being. Athletes compete for bragging rights. They work hard to have pristine bodies. We must be disciplined spiritually to serve God and be connected to Him. What are ways we can do this? We pray, we read our Bibles, we do all things with devotion and purpose.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. -Hebrews 12:1-3
We are running a great race called life. Life is a journey and our faith is a race, with Jesus as our mentor and coach. Just as we maintain our earthly bodies so that we can better serve God and live with health and joy, we must keep up our souls, since they never pass away. Bodies change. We can easily get out of (and not so easily into) “good shape,” and sickness or injury can quickly influence things. But we must remember that what lies inside our hearts is most critical.
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. -1 Samuel 16:7
And consider most essentially:
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. -1 Timothy 4:8
Trophies grow tarnished and ribbons fade. Skin wrinkles and muscles weaken; but those who hope in the Lord will not be disappointed.
Craft: “God’s gym cards…” have students create Bible bookmarks to use as their “swipe cards” for spiritual training. Decorate note cards or card stock with verses and other desired décor; if you like, string a ribbon through or laminate to be extra fancy.
Close with prayer and reminder of God’s work in our lives. Thank Him for giving us physical bodies and ask for help in keeping both physical and spiritual lives in shape.
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