Recently, we hosted a church yard sale fundraiser, which brought to mind the incredible amount of utter junk that some people hang onto…do we really need the one-armed doll, headless ceramic duck, or box of warped cassette tapes from 1983? Why is it so hard to let go of things that for all honesty’s sake we rarely use? This lesson emphasizes the value of Heavenly treasure and invites students to contemplate how we determine what is truly important.
Age Range: Upper elementary (adaptable for any age)
Materials Required: Small gift boxes or bags; magazines; scissors; paper and writing utensils
Opening: Begin the lesson with a scenario and contemplation question: if your house was on fire and you could rescue three items before escaping, what would you choose? Encourage students to think about their most prized possessions and to explain rationale behind which items they would pick. Explain that they will be exploring what Jesus says about priorities in our lives.
Lesson: How can we distinguish trash from treasure? It is no secret that “stuff” is very important to many people. Look around the modern world and material possessions certainly seem to take priority. As the saying goes, “he who dies with the most toys wins.” Is this true? As Christians, we openly declare it is not, but our actions do not always say the same. Listen to the advice of Christ:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. -Matthew 6:19-21
Obviously, things do not last. You can save up for a flashy new car only to have it destroyed in an accident. You can obtain vast sums in a bank account only to discover that you have a medical condition requiring treatment that drains the whole thing.
What do we collect? Have students share any sort of collections or cherished items they might have: stuffed toys, postcards, stamps, keychains? Do those things have lasting value? Why does it seem significant to keep them? Then talk about the meaning of “treasures in heaven.” What kinds of things would be lasting treasure? How can we gain that type of thing? Discuss things like relationships, love, impact for Christ, and prayer as methods and motivations that build a Heavenly bank account.
It is also worth noting that God can help us to remove clutter from our lives. When we know that we are made for Him and our hope is in heaven, the old material things don’t seem nearly as exciting. However, it’s not only material junk that needs to be gotten rid of. Sometimes we fill our minds and our lives with other things that need removal…think about old grudges, negative habits, or bad memories that we seem to grasp for some reason. Provide a persona example and have students do the same. How do we let these go? First, we fix our eyes on Heaven:
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. -Hebrews 12:1-2
Jesus is our example. He did not have wealth or even a permanent home in which to live. His goal was serving God and fulfilling His mission. Does this mean we cannot have nice things? Of course not! We just need to make sure that things do not replace God for top—and only priority.
For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. -Philippians 3:18-21
It seems like our example is in the world around us, which says that our pleasure and temporal gain is what we should focus on. Paul reminds his friends here that our true citizenship is not of this world. We don’t want to abandon heavenly pursuits because they are all that lasts.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. -Philippians 4:8
How do we ultimately purge our minds of “clutter”? By fixing our minds on what matters. The exhortation here invites us to think only of what is praiseworthy. With God’s help, we screen our thoughts and focuses to dwell on Him foremost.
Craft: Trash or treasure…provide students with paper and/or magazines, along with two boxes or bags. Encourage them to look for or think of two categories of things: in one box, they are to place images or descriptions of things they need to let go of, whether physical or abstract. In the other box, place things that need more attention or time. After separating these thoughts and images, ask children to take home and think about the box of positive thoughts. For the other, as a class take the boxes to a trash can or dumpster and get rid of them, purging the clutter in a tangible way.
Close with prayer, asking God to show students the things in life which ought to take the top priority, and to recognize opportunities to build and store Heavenly treasure.
For more ideas, check out our lessons from Matthew 13:44 about Treasure in Heaven and Matthew 6 about “Real Treasure.”