Lesson: Zacchaeus Changes His Ways

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Use this children’s Sunday School lesson to teach kids how to be a good influence on others.

Needed: Bibles, pennies or playing cards, something small to show children

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.


Bring something small to class. Hold it in the palm of your hand so that students can’t see what it is. Raise it up above their eye level and start talking about how wonderful your item is. When students can’t see it, suggest that they stand on their chairs to get a better view.

Once they’ve seen the object, tell students to sit back down and say, Sometimes it’s hard to see things when we’re short. Today, we’re going to read about a short man in the Bible.

(Read Luke 19:1-4.)

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see Him, since Jesus was coming that way.”

Why did Zacchaeus have to climb the tree? (Because he was so short, he couldn’t see Jesus. Everyone else was in his way.)

That’s kind of like when you had to stand on the chair to see what I had. Zacchaeus had to climb the tree so that he could see Jesus over everyone else’s heads.

And what was Zacchaeus’ job? (He was a tax collector.)

The Bible also tells us that Zacchaeus was very rich. In those days, people didn’t like tax collectors because they usually made people pay more money than they were supposed to. Zacchaeus probably got rich because he stole money from people by making them pay too much.

(Read Luke 19:5.)

“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’”

Why do you think Jesus wanted to go to Zacchaeus’ house? (Jesus wanted to spend time with Zacchaeus.)

Do you think Jesus wants to spend time with you too? (Yes.)

How can we spend time with Jesus? (We can pray, read our Bibles, go to church, etc.)

(Read Luke 19:6-7.)

“So he came down at once and welcomed Him gladly.

“All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’

Why did people call Zacchaeus a sinner? (Because Zacchaeus was doing wrong things. He stole money from people by making them pay too much money.)

(Read Luke 19:8-9.)

“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’

“Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.’”

Zacchaeus decided to use his money to help poor people and to stop stealing money from people. Why do you think Zacchaeus decided to change like that?

I think it’s because Jesus talked with Zacchaeus when Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ house, and Jesus helped Zacchaeus believe in God. Jesus was a good influence on Zacchaeus to help Zacchaeus change and want to do the right things that God wanted him to do.

Do you think you could be a good influence on your friends too? (Yes.)

You can be a good influence on your friends by telling them about God and helping them to believe in Him.

(Read Luke 19:10.)

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus said He came to seek and to save the lost. When people don’t believe in God, they’re lost from Him because they’re not with Him. Jesus came to find those people and bring them back to God. Jesus wants us to help bring people back to God too by being a good influence on them and telling them what we know about God.

Activity: Acting It Out 

Divide students into groups of two or three. Have each group decide on and act out a conversation in which someone tells another person about Jesus and invites them to come to church or a church event.

Game: Disciple Tag 

Choose one student to be It. When they tag someone, that person links hands with them and joins their team. They continue adding people to their team, linking hands with each one until all but one student is part of their chain. That remaining student becomes It for the next round.

Play two or three rounds and then, explain that when we tell people about Jesus, we want them to believe in Jesus too. If they do, they become a Christian and join our team. Then, they help us tell more people about Jesus.

Closing Prayer

Jesus, we thank You for coming to save those who were lost from God. We pray that You’ll help us to be like Zacchaeus and change the way You want us to. We also pray that You’ll help us tell others about You so that they can believe in God, too. Amen.

You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, The Parables and Teachings of Jesus Vol. 2.

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