Our young students are likely not quite concerned just now with existential purpose, but there are still important lessons to be learned from discussing the wisdom of Ecclesiastes. Kids often have a hard time grasping broad meaning to things outside of immediate concerns. In these activities, they will be exposed to the importance of putting God first in all things.
Lesson focus: The most important thing we can do in life is work hard to serve and love God. All that we have comes from Him.
Passage: Ecclesiastes 5:10-20
Target Audience: Pre-k through fifth grade (adaptable)
Materials Needed: Pictures of (or genuine) antique items and small toys; cotton candy; small candy pieces; cardboard squares or rectangles; decorative material (stickers, markers, glitter); pipe cleaners.
Lesson Opening: What is it really worth? Start by discussing value in things. Ask students what their most prized possessions are, or if there are certain things they feel they cannot live without. Then present kids with several pictures of items, or items themselves if available. Some of these should be antiques that look like old junk, but are actually worth a great amount. Have students guess how much the items cost and weigh which are most valuable. Then reveal the real price tags attached, and explain that things are often not what we initially think. There is a lot more in the world than just stuff.
Start the lesson off with a bit of an illustration reflecting Solomon’s frustration with pursuit of earthly happiness. Use as many of the following as time and interest allow:
- Blow some bubbles in the room and challenge students to catch them– without popping!
- Pass out cotton candy and invite students to eat it, trying to hold it in their mouths as long as possible without letting it dissolve.
- Hand out small candies (like M&M’s) or crackers…can you be satisfied with just one? Why do you want more than one?
- Provide an empty candy wrapper and one with candy inside for students to choose from. Which would they rather have?
Explain to students that we are going to be peeking at a book of the Bible written by Solomon. Invite them to see if they can remember another book with him (Proverbs). Solomon was known for being very wise, and one of the things he wrote was a book called Ecclesiastes. This was all about how empty life can be without God, and how only He can make life worth living. Solomon tried to find satisfaction in lots of different ways, but nothing would please him. He looked around and started making observations. In the middle of the book, Solomon noted some
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless. -Ecclesiastes 5:10
Trying to feel happy because of things will never satisfy. Just like with the candies, it is hard to ever have enough. The passage continues
The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether they eat little or much,
but as for the rich, their abundance
permits them no sleep. (Ecc. 5:12)
This verse describes that it is better to work hard than be lazy. Rich people, even with all they have, just cannot be satisfied no matter what.
This too is a grievous evil:
As everyone comes, so they depart,
and what do they gain,
since they toil for the wind?
17 All their days they eat in darkness,
with great frustration, affliction and anger.
18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot.19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. (Ecc 5:16-20)
When you go on a trip, you pack a suitcase and make sure you’re prepared for whatever comes along. But do you know what you can take when you go to Heaven? Nothing! God sent us all into the world with just our bodies, and even those don’t come with us after life. It is important to live life well on earth, but this is not all there is. One day we will be with Jesus in Heaven. For now, our job is to work hard and enjoy what God has given us.
“Check your attitude at the door…” Kids will make special signs to hang up in a prominent place at home. Provide cardboard cut-out pieces and decorative materials (coloring utensils, stickers, glitter, pipe cleaner), along with the key verse (5:18) and caption “What are you thankful for today?” Help the kids decorate in a way that will be able to hang. Encourage children to place it somewhere that will remind them daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Maybe they hang it near the front door to consider thankfulness as they head out and come in. Or perhaps it’s in the kitchen, to remember to appreciate all that we have. Whatever the case, remind students to give thanks when they see it.
Close with prayer and thank God for all He has given. Ask for wisdom and priority to diligently serve Him and thank Him every day.