Lesson: Needs or Wants? Celebrating God's Provisions (Exodus 16)

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The words wants vs needs written on sticky colored paper over cork board
Let’s face it: kids tend to at times be dramatic. Things are easily blown out of proportion, from paper cuts to milk spills. As such, young children often whine and act as though they urgently need things (TV time, juice, candy…) that perhaps are not as essential to life as they imagine. In this lesson, students will experience God’s care for the Israelites in the desert, and through that will discuss the difference between wants and needs.
Lesson focus: Sometimes we have to be patient and be satisfied with less than we might want, but we can trust and know that God will take care of all our true needs.
Passage: Exodus 16
Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th Grade (adaptable older or younger)
Materials Needed: Bubbles, props or pictures of various things (food, water, etc.), wants and needs worksheet, scissors and glue, magazines
Lesson Opening: Waiting is not easy…start out by telling students that you need to grab one special thing to tell the story. Walk out the door but stay quite close by. Wait a minute or two before coming back in. Ask if anyone was wondering where you went or how long you’d be gone. Did anyone worry about what would happen to story time or wonder what was coming? Explain that in the story today, people were wondering, wandering, worried, and whiny!
Bible Lesson:
Set the stage for the story: After God’s people ran away from the wicked Pharaoh in Egypt (provide additional Moses backdrop if needed), they had a hard time trusting that God was truly going to take care of their needs. God was upset and told them they would have to wait in the desert for FORTY YEARS wandering around before they got to enter the Promised Land. This was not happy news. Imagine waiting for something you want. What are things we wait for? The Israelites had to wait, and wait and wait…they grew impatient and didn’t want to wait anymore.
The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” -Exodus 16:1-4
They started to wine about how bored and hungry they were. Then one morning, there appeared on the ground some special food! The people didn’t know exactly what it was, so they called it “whatisit.” Well, actually they called it “Manna,” which means “what is it.”They ate the Manna, but then they got a little tired of that and asked God for more. So God let some yummy chicken nuggets fall from the sky. Well, actually they were quail birds, but it was like chicken.

The Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’” That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer[a] for each person you have in your tent.’”

Between the quail and the Manna you’d think everyone was satisfied, but they were worried it would run out. Blow some bubbles into the group and see if the kids can hold onto them. When they pop, explain how the Israelites tried to gather up and horde it away. Guess what…it disappeared! They couldn’t hold onto it, just like we couldn’t hold onto the bubbles. God gave them just what they needed for each day. It wasn’t too much and it wasn’t a lot, but it was what they needed.

The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them. -Exodus 16:17-20

God always gives us what we need. Hold up pictures of various things, and ask the kids if they are items we truly need or just want to have. What is the difference between something you might like and something you really have to have to survive? Go through pictures or props (water, bike, food, shelter, candy, etc.) and discuss the difference between wants and needs. Remind students that God does not always grant us all that we might want. But He will give us all we need. He will get us through each day, one at a time.
Craft:  Want or need? Provide students with magazines to browse through, and have them snip pictures of things that interest them. Then instruct kids to create a paper with columns of “want” or “need.” Students can paste their pictures in either column according to whether they decide it is what they need for survival or just something they might want. Alternatively, provide younger students with a paper that already has the pictures and words.
Close with prayer and reminder of God’s work in our lives. Thank God for providing all that we need and ask Him to help us be patient with what we don’t need.

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