Use this children’s Sunday School lesson on the calling of Matthew to show kids that Jesus is always ready to give us second chances and that He can change any of us for the better.
Needed: Bibles, pennies or playing cards, some type of game cards or soft balls or paper wads, construction paper, scissors, and decorating materials
Intro Game: Tax Collector Tag
Give each student two pennies or two playing cards. Then, choose 2-4 students to be Collectors. The Collectors are It. Their goal is to collect as many of the pennies or playing cards as they can. When they tag someone, they have to bring you one of that person’s pennies or playing cards. If they want to keep one of the pennies or playing cards, they have to ask for both of the person’s pennies and playing cards. The winner is the Collector who has the most pennies or playing cards at the end of the game.
When a student has no more pennies or playing cards, they’re out of the game.
Play a few rounds until everyone has had a chance to be a Collector. Then, explain that the tax collectors in Jesus’ time worked for the Roman government. They had to take some of the money they collected to the Roman governor. But to be able to keep some money for themselves and get rich, they made the people they were collecting money from pay them extra. That was a mean thing to do, and most of the people hated the tax collectors for charging them extra money.
(Read Matthew 9:9.)
“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ He told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
Matthew was doing his job, but when Jesus said, “Follow Me,” Matthew got right up and followed Him.
Why do you think Matthew didn’t wait to follow Jesus until he got off work? (Matthew knew that nothing is as important as following Jesus. Jesus is the most important thing, no matter what we’re doing.)
Game: Fast Reflexes
Lay out a deck of game cards on a table, face up. The cards could be regular playing cards, UNO cards, Go Fish! cards, etc.
Students gather around the table. You’ll call out a type of card (a number, color, shape, etc.). The last student to reach out and touch that type of card is out.
The last student in the game wins and becomes the caller for the next round.
Remind students that we can’t wait to follow Jesus. We can’t make excuses. We have to obey Him immediately, just like Matthew did and just like they need to be quick to play this game.
Game Alternative: Rotating Firsts
Divide the students into two teams and play dodgeball with soft play balls or wads of waste paper. After 30 seconds, name one of the balls as the 1st ball. That is the only ball that can get someone out. If anyone picks up any of the other balls, they’re out. After 30 seconds, go back to normal play. Then, 30 seconds later, choose another ball as the 1st ball.
After the game, explain that we have to learn to put God first in our lives, just like we had to name one of the balls to be first and just like Matthew had to put Jesus first – before his job as a tax collector.
What was Matthew’s job? (He was a tax collector.)
In those days, people hated tax collectors. The tax collectors’ job was to take some of your money and give it to the king. But the tax collectors would always charge you too much money, more than the king said you had to give him, and then, they would keep the extras for themselves. So, most people probably didn’t like Matthew because he stole from them and wasn’t a very good person.
But then, Jesus asked Matthew to follow Him and to believe in Him. Why do you think Jesus asked Matthew to follow Him when He knew that Matthew was stealing from people? (Jesus wanted to give Matthew a chance to change.)
(Read Matthew 9:10-11.)
“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’”
The Pharisees saw Jesus eating with tax collectors, those people who stole money, and all kinds of other bad people, and they asked why Jesus was eating with them. They didn’t think Matthew and his friends were good enough to hang out with Jesus because they did wrong things. They didn’t think Matthew could change and be better. But Jesus knew that Matthew and his friends could change and be better.
Everyone, stand up… Now, everyone raise your hand.
Raise it up as high as it will go… Is it up as high as you can make it?
Now, everyone raise your hands a little more… It went up a little further, didn’t it?
Jesus knows that we can always do more than we think we can, and we can always do more than other people think we can.
People didn’t think that Matthew could change and be better, but he did. He believed in Jesus and stopped stealing and became one of Jesus’s twelve disciples.
That was a very important job. And Matthew even got to write one of the books of the Bible. That’s a really important job.
What I want you to think about today is that Jesus can change your life too. Even if you do bad things sometimes, like Matthew did when he stole from people, if you believe in Jesus, He will forgive you for those things and change you so that you don’t do those bad things anymore. And He can use to do great and important things for Him, just like He used Matthew to do important things, like being one of His disciples and writing a book of the Bible.
Jesus can change you and make you be great for Him, no matter what other people think about you.
Craft: Change of Heart
Students will cut out two hearts from construction paper, tissue paper, or wrapping paper. Tell them that the first heart represents a heart that is sinful. This is how our heart is before Jesus changes us. It could be black with the “dirt” of sin, crumpled up or torn to show that it’s not in the best shape, or have words written on it that name sinful attitudes: greedy, hate, jealousy, anger, selfish, etc.
The second heart represents a heart that changes to be like God wants us to be. Jesus is always ready to give us another chance to and to change our heart if we ask Him to. This second heart can be new or shiny or list pure attitudes (love, kindness, peaceful, giving, etc.) to show the change.
Jesus, we thank You that You are always ready to forgive us and give us another chance, just like You gave Matthew another chance. We ask that You will change our hearts and help us to put You first in everything that we do. Amen.
You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, The Parables and Teachings of Jesus Vol. 1.