Use this children’s Sunday School lesson about not swearing to teach kids to keep their word.
Needed: Bibles, cookies or other small prizes in paper bags or boxes
Game: Promises, Promises
Set a cookie or small prize in individual paper bags or under individual boxes. In this game show type activity, call one student contestant forward. They are the Prize Giver for the round. That student (the Prize Giver) can then choose two more student contestants to come forward. They are the Promisers.
The Prize Giver chooses one of the bags and, without opening it, asks what the Promisers will do for them if they will give one of them the prize inside the bag. The Promisers can make up anything they want, but they can only promise one thing. The Prize Giver then chooses their favorite promise and gives that student the bag with the prize inside.
Play until every student has had a chance to play both roles and every student has won a prize.
Ask students, Can any of you think of a time when someone promised you something or told you that they were going to do something but then didn’t do it? (Allow students to share. If you can think of an appropriate example when this happened to you, you should also share.)
How did it make you feel when that person broke their promise to you?
Have you ever broken a promise you made to someone?
(Read Matthew 5:33-37.)
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
Jesus says not to swear. What does it mean to swear?
Sometimes, swearing means saying bad words. But swearing also means making promises. Someone might make a promise by saying, “I swear on my mother’s grave” or “I swear that if I don’t do something, you can have my favorite toy.”
When Jesus lived, people swore by things like Heaven and Earth and their cities and their own heads. They would say things like, “I swear I’ll do this, and if I don’t, then Heaven will come down, or the Earth will crack, or our city will be destroyed, or my head will fall off.” Do you think those things would really happen if someone didn’t do what they said they would?
Can you make Heaven come down or make the Earth crack, or make our city get destroyed, or make your head fall off just by breaking a promise? (Of course not!)
Take a piece of your hair. Pull out just one piece. Now, hold that piece of hair out in front of you and think real hard. Try to make that piece of hair change to a different color.
You can’t do it. Jesus says that we shouldn’t swear because we can’t make things happen. We can’t make Heaven come down, or the Earth crack or our city be destroyed, or our head fall off. We can’t even change the color of our own hair. Only God can do those things! So, for us to swear about them is just silly. And it’s also disrespectful to God because we’re making it sound like we can do something that only He can do.
So, if we shouldn’t swear, what should we do?
(Read Matthew 5:37 again.)
Jesus says that we should let our “Yes” be yes and our “No” no. That means that if we say we will do something, we should do it. We don’t have to swear about it. We don’t have to make promises about it. We should simply say if we will do something or not and then, make sure we do or don’t do what we said.
If we always do what we say we’re going to do, then people will know that they can trust us, and we won’t have to make promises or swear for people to believe us.
Remember: Don’t swear; simply answer honestly and then, do what you said you would. Then, people will trust you.
Game: Truth or Dare
To emphasize the need to tell the truth, call one student up at a time and give them a choice of whether to answer a question or do a silly action. Here are a few ideas for each. Mark out the ones that won’t work in your situation and feel free to replace them with their own. To start, read one truth and one dare and let the students decide which one you do.
Jesus, help us always to keep our word and do what we said we would so that other people will know that they can trust us. Amen.
You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, Jesus Teaches on the Mountain.