This free Bible lesson is based on Matthew 23:1-12 where Jesus teaches about hypocrisy. It is designed for children’s church or Sunday School. Please modify as best fits your ministry.
If your church follows the Revised Common Lectionary, this teaching plan would correspond to Year A – 21s Sunday After Pentecost, Gospel Reading – Matthew 23:1-12.
Opening Activity – Do as He Says – Not as I do
In this variation of Simon Says, the kids will have to pay extra special attention to Simon’s instructions.
Have all of the kids stand up, staying a full arms length away from each other. Make sure everyone in the room can both see and hear you, and instruct them to listen carefully for each move.
Simon will give a simple instruction verbally (ex. pat your head), but act out something completely different (ex. touch your nose). After each instruction, any kids who followed the visual demonstration must sit down, while the kids that followed the verbal instructions stay standing for the next round. Mix it up after a few rounds, making your instructions and demonstration match to see if there is hesitation. Continue until there is only one child left standing.
Lesson – Do as He Says
I am so glad that game is done! I was so confused the whole time! Was anyone else in here confused?
Well, it seems I’m not the only one who had a little trouble. It can be really difficult to follow instructions when there are too many to follow.
Do you know what I noticed in that game? That it was easier for you to follow what you saw, instead of what you heard. I wonder why that is? I think we might actually need to play that again to figure this out, but this time you can stay in your seat.
Ok, remember to LISTEN carefully.
(while patting you head) – Grab your ears
Great job! You all did so much better with that one! Let’s try a few more and see how you do.
(while holding your nose closed tight) – Bob your head
(while sticking out your tongue) – Stick out your tongue
(while waving) – *whisper* Cover your eyes with your hands
(while making a heart shape with your hands) – Maneuver your upper appendages in an alternating north – south motion in the fashion of poultry (ie. flap your arms like a chicken)
Wow, that got really really hard at the end. (while clapping high above your head) Give yourselves a pat on the back and have a seat. Ok, last one, I promise.
It was already a difficult game, but that made it so much harder. Even when you could remind yourself to listen, it didn’t help. Especially when I started using those strange words. The only thing you could really do at that point was copy my motions, and just hope that was the right answer. Not the best way to do things. Rules would be a lot easier to follow if they were easy, but they aren’t always like that.
Jesus talks a lot about this in the New Testament. Back when He was on earth they didn’t have the New Testament yet, but they did have the Old Testament. And do you know what the Old Testament is full of. Rules.
We normally just think about the 10 Commandments when we think of the rules of the Old Testament. Rules like, “Do not murder.” It’s short, easy to understand, and easy to remember, isn’t it?
But did you know there are even more rules than just those 10? How many rules do you think there are? Raise your hand if you think there were 50 more? 82 more? 115 more? 203 more? 250 more? 278 more? 360 more? 400 more? That is a lot! But wait, that’s still not all. 445 more? 558 more? 603 more?
Wow! There are 603 MORE rules than just the 10 Commandments, and a total of 613 rules!
There were so many rules, and many of them were very confusing. The Jewish people needed someone to help them understand and remember it all, so they had teachers called Pharisees.
The Pharisees studied the Old Testament, and they knew each and every one of those 613 rules. The Jewish people could ask them about anything, and the Pharisees could tell them the answer. Like, how many steps can you take on the Sabbath? What sacrifice is needed before Passover? How many days must someone wait before they are no longer considered unclean? What food can I eat? What things can I touch?
So many rules to follow. So many rules to remember! So many rules to understand!!
But there was a problem. The Pharisees knew the rules, but that doesn’t mean they followed them. They would often tell the Jews to do one thing while doing the exact opposite. And as we learned earlier, it’s a lot easier to follow what you see instead of what you hear.
But Jesus warned them not to do this anymore. It doesn’t make something right just because the Pharisees are doing it. The Jews needed to learn to listen more carefully so they could follow the rules like they were supposed to.
You know what? Sometimes I am just like those Pharisees. I tell you the Bible says to forgive, but sometime I hold a grudge. And I tell you that the Bible says to love your neighbor while I’m gossiping with my friends. I make those mistakes because I’m human, just like the Pharisees, and as humans we sin, even when we don’t want to. Everyone makes mistakes, even your parents, your teachers, and your best friends. But we need to remember that instead of just doing what we see other people do, we need to listen to God and do what He says is right. We will still make some of those mistakes, but we will be doing what God says WAY more often.
Activity A – Do as I Say – Bible Verse Challenge
Supplies – Bibles
Verse – Matthew 23:1-4
Pass out Bibles to students. Bibles should be closed and sitting on the table face up in front of each child. When you say go, have the kids look up this week’s Bible verse. As each child finds the verse, have them stick one finger on the verse and quietly raise their other hand. The first one to find the verse gets to read it to the rest of the class.
Help younger kids and new kids find the verse by following these steps.
- Look in the Table of Contents for the book you are looking for. Make an effort to show them if it is found in the Old Testament or New Testament to help them in the future. Then open the Bible to the page number listed in the Table of Contents.
- Show them the large numbers in the text, known as the chapters. Flip through pages until you find the large chapter number you are looking for.
- Then scan through the text with them pointing out the smaller verse numbers until the correct number is found.
Activity B – Do as He Says – Listen Bracelets
Supplies: thin elastic cording, scissors, alphabet beads, decorative beads, tape
Before class pre-cut the 8 inch lengths of elastic. Wrap a small piece of tape around one end, then another just below it. This will act as a marker for the kids to stop so you have the length you need to knot the finished bracelet. Then tie a knot in the other end. If you are using large beads that could slide past the knot, tie the knot around a bead to act as a stopper.
Give each child a piece of elastic and instruct them to stop beading when they reach the tape. Give them the letters needed to spell out ‘Listen’, as well as any decorative beads they like. Encourage them to wear their bracelets to remind them to listen to God instead of following others.
Closing Prayer – Do as He Says
Ask for a volunteer to pray for the class before leaving, and encourage them to ask God for help to what is right.
For even more lesson ideas, don’t miss these other free resources from our website:
- “All About Love” Lectionary Lesson from Matthew 22:34-46
- “No Right Answer?” Lectionary Lesson Frrom Matthew 22:15-22
- “Producing Fruit” Lectionary Lesson from Matthew 21:33-46
- “You’re Invited!” Lectionary Lesson from Matthew 22:1-14
- “Real Treasure” Bible Lesson on Matthew 6:16-24