This is a simple Bible object lesson that includes an element of science. It can be used to illustrate how Christ makes us clean through salvation.
If you’re brave you can even introduce the term ‘sanctification’ as the process where Jesus changes our behaviors to match our new heart. Alternately, you could use it to talk about how God transforms our service/offerings into something pure by his grace.
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Bible Reference: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 ESV
Target Age: This object lesson will work for almost any age group. Older children may appreciate the symbolism better, but younger kids will certainly understand.
- 4 tablespoons of white vinegar
- 1 teaspoons of ionized salt
- several small mason jars or clear drinking glasses
- enough dirty old pennies for each child, on shiny new penny for explanation
- paper towels
- either wooden spoon, salad tongs, or latex gloves to keep the vinegar off your fingers
Procedure: As the children come to class hand them each a dirty old penny–the more discolored the better. Then display the shinny new penny. You can talk about how hard it would be to make those old coins as clean as the new penny. Explain that those old pennies are like us before Jesus changes our lives. He is able to transform us very quickly back into what he first made us to be.
Display the vinegar and salt solution. Have the children gently drop their coins into the liquid. Allow for about a minute for the solution to work. Carefully remove the pennies and dry with paper towels. Then restate the meaning of the object lesson.
Hints: If kids are worried about getting the same penny back, just have them remember the date that was on each coin. If possible, use a vented room to minimize the stinky vinegar smell.
If time allows, ask follow-up questions to make sure the children personalize the Bible point. Here are some examples:
- Why do you think it’s easier for God to change us than to do it on our own?
- What happens we keep sinning and get our lives dirty again?
- Is there any person too dirty for God to make clean?
You can close the object talk by escalating the meaning of the lesson. Say something like this. “This was a fun experiment, but it doesn’t tell the whole story about how God changes us. If we wanted to show what God really does we would need to change those old pennies into gold. Not only that, God would change them from the inside out. Wow, God’s love really is amazing. Let’s pray.”
Alternate: I’ve seen similar effects using lemon juice and salt in place of the vinegar. The chemistry is about the same as the new acidic solution dissolves the oxidized layer and other deposits from the coins surface. Here is a detailed instruction that focuses on the science of this activity.
Update: I just ran across a video on YouTube where using taco sauce can make pennies clean also. If you went that route you could play on the symbolism of the blood of Jesus. That’s just fyi…