True, young students may not yet experience the pressures of finance and the complete understanding of wealth’s lure, but they can certainly see the effects of money. They may have even encountered some opportunities to learn money wisdom…this lesson explains why it is important to value a relationship with God over temporary things.
Lesson focus: Jesus tells us that in order to follow Him, nothing else can come first. But when we commit to Him, anything is possible.
Passage: Mark 10:17-22
Target Audience: Older elementary (can be adapted for youngsters as well).
Materials Needed: Catalogs, paper, stickers/decorative materials, empty oatmeal or coffee canisters
Lesson Opening: What would you do with it all? Invite students to participate in an exciting potential activity…they get to “spend” a thousand dollars! Provide the students with calculators, pencils and paper, and catalogs (could be any type of product of interest, or even newspaper classified ads), and explain that they are to come as close to spending $1,000 as they can, without going over that amount. Allow a designated time for them to look through and select their items, subtracting as they go.
*Note: this activity obviously involves a bit of math, and is quite adjustable depending on student age and ability. You may choose to vary the amount of money, and for younger students you might want to provide a few simple visual choices: i.e. “build an ice cream sundae” with each scoop or topping a different price and a small amount to spend…assist as necessary. You might even increase the difficulty for older or more advanced students, inviting them to imagine a hypothetical living situation and pay for gas, rent, family expenses…
The point is to start whirling our minds around money…why do we have it? Why do we need it? It is of course important, but what does the Bible say about it?
Set the stage with one more illustrative challenge…provide students with a piece of yarn and a small (plastic) needle, and see if they can fit the former through the needle. Little tough, isn’t it? Explain that it seems pretty impossible on our own, but have them listen to the story to explain how it can happen.
To make this story interactive, provide each student with several coins (real or fake tokens). Tell them that every time they hear the name of “Jesus,” they are to give up one of their coins (you may want to provide a bowl to deposit them for limiting distractions). Set up the story as Jesus once again teaches people, and one man in particular had questions…
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[d]”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. -Mark 10:17-22
It sounded like this man wanted to earn, or perhaps even buy, his way into Heaven. He didn’t ask Jesus what to do to help others or live a better life. His main concern was “what do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” He wanted to find a ticket to God’s kingdom. He even bragged about all the great actions he had taken, but Jesus was not so impressed. He told the man that the last thing he needed to do was give away all of his stuff and follow Jesus. That did it. That was asking too much. The man just couldn’t bear to give away his possessions. Now, this doesn’t mean that it is a sin to be wealthy, or that we cannot follow God if we have money. Having some money is important (essential) for the basics of daily living. But what Jesus was addressing is a heart issue. He knew that the young man could not give His whole heart to Jesus because he still cared about his wealth just a bit more. It has to do with having idols. Anything that could take the place of God in our lives is a danger. The man speaking with Jesus did not pass the test. He went away full of money, but sad. So Jesus continued on…
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is[e] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” -Mark 10:23-31
Jesus compares great wealth with the hindrance of a hump on a camel. It was hard enough threading yarn on a needle…fitting a desert creature through it? Clearly, that would be quite impossible. The disciples couldn’t even comprehend what Jesus meant, and Peter even tried to pipe up and brag that they were not rich like the young questioner, but had abandoned their jobs for Christ. Surely nothing could top that, right? But Jesus insists on everything. Again, the point is not that we must give up our families or friends or things, but that we should be willing to let go of other things if necessary.
At this point, students will probably be out of pennies, and hopefully wondering how to continue handing them over at the name of Jesus. Remind them that with Jesus, all things are possible, and that sometimes when we give up one thing, we gain others…provide a small treat or treasure to reward students for listening and handing over the coins.
Have students create a “prayer bank…” provide decorative materials and containers (oatmeal, tissue box, etc.), and invite them to make what might be considered a coin collector or piggy bank. But explain that they are constructing a home for prayer requests, praises, or daily thoughts to lift up to God. Encourage students to use the prayer banks as a tool for thanks as well as request.
Close with prayer and thank God for all He has given. Ask for wisdom and obedience to flexible giving and letting go in our lives.