Preschool Bible Lesson: What Defiles a Person

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Preschool Lesson about JesusThis is lesson continues our curriculum for preschoolers about knowing Jesus. Each lesson is based on a passage in the Gospel of Mark. You can read the series introduction for more explanation and links to the other lessons.
This particular lesson is from Mark 7:1-20 where Jesus confronts a wrong idea about what makes a person sinful. Preschoolers will know nothing on the outside makes us unclean before God, but it is the evil within our hearts that makes us unclean, and only Christ can make us righteous before God. This lesson includes age-appropriate learning activities and a simple Bible memory verse.
This lesson is unique for preschoolers because it deals with the topic of indwelling sin. Some Christians are uncomfortable telling preschool aged children that they have sinful hearts. Click here to read a discussion about this topic on our website.

Bible Passage: Mark 7:1-20
Bible Lesson Title: That Which Defiles a Person
Target Age Group: 4-5 years old (preschool & Kindergarten)
Target Time Frame: 37 minutes
Original Teaching Context: Preschool Sunday School
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Knowing Jesus through the Book of Mark: Lesson Eighteen (37 minutes)
Scripture: Mark 7:1-20
Exegetical Idea: Nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean; it is from within, from the heart, that evil comes and makes a man unclean.
Pedagogical Idea: Disobeying the rules of man will not make us unclean before God. It is the evil within our hearts that makes us unclean.
Cognitive Aim: Preschoolers will know nothing on the outside makes us unclean before God, but it is the evil within our hearts that makes us unclean, and only Christ can make us righteous before God.
Affective Aim: Preschoolers will feel confident that through Christ alone they are made righteous.
Behavioral Aim: Preschoolers will memorize Mark 7:20-21a and pray together.
Memory Verse: Mark 7:20-21a, “And [Jesus] said to them, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts…’” (ESV)
Lesson Overview

  1. Kindle Curiosity (5 minutes) Description: Put on Bible outfits, learn something about the Pharisees through an object lesson. Supplies: Bible outfits, Bible, two clear glasses, and two coffee thermoses (one needs to be very pretty and appealing, the other one plain.) Fill the plain one with clean water and the pretty one with dirty water.
  2. God Revealed (15 minutes) Description: Experience the Bible story. Supplies: Bible, soft blanket
  3. Personal Pursuit (10 minutes) Description: Discuss what really makes us clean before God. Draw/color hearts to compare a non-believer’s heart with a believer. Supplies: White paper with two large hearts drawn on each paper, crayons, map pencils, or markers
  4. Daily Knowing (7-10 minutes) Description: Memorize Mark 7:20-21a. Pray together. Supplies: Notecards with Mark 7:20-21a written on them. On the back, ask the parents to discuss 1) the difference between man’s rules and God’s commands throughout the week and 2) what really makes us unclean before God.

**Before the children arrive, have the Bible outfits ready.
1. Kindle Curiosity (5 minutes)

  • Put on Bible outfits.
  • Hold up the two coffee thermoses. Ask: Which thermos would you like to drink out of? (allow them to choose.) Why did you choose this particular thermos? (hopefully some children chose because of its appearance.)
  • Now pour the water from the prettier thermos into a clear glass. Would you want to drink this now? (No!) Pour the water from the other thermos into a second glass. State: This water is clean and good. Though the outside of the other thermos looked very good, the inside was very bad. People can be the same way.
  • State: Today we are going to hear about men who had traditions (briefly explain traditions) that were bad because they believed these traditions were the same as the Word of God. God’s Word is our ultimate authority. We learn and obey it. But these men had added rules to the Word of God and when people did not follow these rules or traditions, they looked down on them and saw them as “unclean” or “un-holy.” These men may have looked very good on the outside because they always obeyed all of these rules (just like the coffee thermos), but on the inside their hearts were not clean; they were full of sin. Jesus is going to teach us a lesson today about our hearts and what really makes us “unclean” before Him.
  • State: The Bible is God’s Word. He wrote it, so we know everything in it is true. It is very important that we listen to what Jesus says today. Are you ready to follow and learn from Him?

2. God Revealed (15 minutes)

  • State: We are in Mark chapter 7 today (show them in your Bible.) Try to imagine in your mind what you would see if you were part of this story. Everywhere that Jesus went, people were coming to Him. They begged Him to heal their sick and even tried as hard as they could to just touch the edge of His robe. All who touched Him were healed! Now the Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law came around Jesus. They saw some of His disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, they had not washed their hands. Who would like to pretend to be the disciples? (Have them sit down and pretend to eat. You are playing the role of the Pharisees. Approach the children and say, condemningly, “Your hands are not washed! You are unclean! I never eat with unclean hands. I am clean; you are not!”)
  • Ask: How would this make you feel? (Allow time to discuss.)
  • State: These Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?” Jesus responds to the Pharisees and calls them hypocrites. A hypocrite is someone who is fake. The Pharisees called themselves holy and righteous (clean before God), but they were dirty and sinful on the inside. Jesus quotes God’s Word, describing who they are: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is useless; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding to the traditions of men.”
  • State: You see, the Pharisees knew what God’s commands were, but they had made up many more rules to follow in order for people to be righteous (clean before God). These were not God’s commands, but their own, and this is why Jesus says they are holding on to the traditions of men.  They were just rules that had been passed down from father to son for a long time. They had been doing these things for so long that they had just become rules that had no true meaning!
  • State: Jesus calls all of the crowd to Him, so let’s gather around! Jesus is going to teach us something very important. He says, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that make him ‘unclean.’” After He left the crowd, the disciples asked Him to explain exactly what He meant when He said this.
  • State: Jesus said to them, “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach. What comes out of a man is what make him ‘unclean’. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, stealing, greed, lying, jealousy, and many others sins. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”

3. Personal Pursuit (10 minutes)

  • State: The Pharisees made many people feel bad about themselves because they taught that God did not accept them if they did not keep all of their rules. Is this true? No! Eating food with unclean hands did not make the disciples unclean before God, but what does make us unclean before God is our hearts. Our hearts are naturally evil, dirty, and stained with sin. It is from our hearts that we lie or steal or hate. Without God, our hearts will always stay this way. It is impossible for them to be clean without Him! But when we believe and trust in Jesus Christ, He gives us clean, new hearts.
  • State: Now God does give us commands in His Word to follow. After we believe and trust in Jesus, it is out of our love for Him that we obey His commands. But obeying these commands will never make us clean or righteous before God! It is only Jesus who makes us clean and righteous.
  • Activity: Have the children come to a table. Each child should receive a piece of paper with two hearts. State: I want you to draw or color what a heart would look like before a person believes and trusts in Jesus. This is a heart that trusts in rules to make themselves righteous before God.  On the other heart, I want to you to draw or color what a heart would look like that has been cleansed by Jesus. This person trusts in Jesus alone to make them righteous before God. (If any child is stumped, prompt them with things that were taught from the lesson. As they are coloring, talk to them about the character of God in this story. Though there is nothing we can do on our own to make our hearts clean, in His great love, He provided us with Jesus.)

4. Daily Knowing (7-10 minutes)

  • State: Today we are going to memorize Mark chapter 7 verses 20-21a, “And [Jesus] said to them, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts…’” Let’s work together to memorize this verse using hand motions!
  • Pray together with the children.
  • Make sure you review with them the next week or when you have encounters during the week one-on-one. Remind the parents how important it is for them to help their children review their verses all throughout the week. Provide each parent with a notecard that has Mark 7:20-21a written on it. On the back, ask each parent to discuss with their children throughout the week the difference between man’s rules (wearing dress clothes to church) and God’s commands (obeying your parents) along with what really makes us clean before God.

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