“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The rich ruler in this story came to Jesus with the wrong question. He thought that somehow if he had enough or did enough or tried enough, he could earn his way into Heaven. Yet he was not willing to do the only thing necessary in putting Christ first. Sometimes we tend to use this story as a sort of warning against the evils of riches, but that’s not entirely the point. Jesus does not say we cannot have nice things. We just don’t want to rely on them for our salvation or happiness. It’s impossible to do anything on our own, but with God anything is possible.
Lesson focus: Sometimes in our lives we become sidetracked and lose sight of the most essential thing we need: a relationship with Jesus. We cannot save ourselves or make ourselves better by what we have or do. We rely on God to provide us with all that we have and need. Anything is possible with Him, and we recognize that following Christ should come first and foremost before all else.
Passage: Mark 10:17-31
Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th grade (Might be better geared toward older crowd)
Materials Needed: Construction paper; container; hole punch; aluminum foil; glitter; glue; markers or crayons; tape; scissors; decorative supplies; Bibles.
More Teaching Ideas:
- Watch the video demonstration of this children’s sermon and related Bible craft ideas
- Download another complete Sunday School lesson on Mark 10:17-31
- Compare the Mark 10:17-31 children’s sermon from rfour.org
- Compare The Rich Young Ruler lesson from Sunday School Works!
Games and Lesson Introduction
Lesson Opening: This lesson focuses on conversations Jesus had with the rich ruler and with the disciples. Jesus described the difficulty of a camel traveling through a needle, and the dangers of putting good works or good wealth ahead of God. Consider opening activities that touch on the “impossible” or the camel! Have fun and choose how you’d like to kick things off! Some possible ideas include:
- Needle-threading relay: Use large plastic craft needles and string, and have students practice getting the string through the needle. Then make a race out of it, dividing the group into teams and having a relay to thread several needles one at a time.
- Commandments Pictionary: Have students take turns drawing (or acting out, for a charades version) one of the ten commandments, and have others guess which one is represented. Discuss how the commandments are good to follow, but not the way to eternal life.
- Play a game of “Simon Says” or “follow the leader.” Remind students of the importance of following Jesus above all else.
- What would you get? What would you give? Discuss with children what they might want to buy with unlimited resources. You may wish to look through catalogues or magazines for examples of items, and pretend to “spend” money on things. Then talk about what kids would give away in order to help someone, or in order to get something greater. What would it take to give up everything??
- Camel race: Have students team up in twos or threes, forming “camels” by placing a sheet or blanket over them so that one student is the “head” and another the “hump” or “tail.” Carefully race around the room with the camel teams.
Explain to students that today’s lesson is about putting Jesus first and recognizing that He is the source of strength and salvation. We might thing we can achieve great things, but without God, there’s nothing we can do!
Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-31) Sunday School Lesson
Bible Lesson: This could be a good passage to assign “roles” to students and have them act out the various speaking parts. You could merely take turns reading, as well. Or as a teacher, you might read the story out loud and invite students to “mime act” it out as you go. Choose the preferred reading method for your group ages and size.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” -Mark 10:17
People often came to Jesus with life questions and inquiries, which was only natural as word had spread that He was a great teacher and healer. This man was begging to know how he could be assured of his place in Heaven, but his question had a couple of flaw. For one thing, He seemed to be under the impression that he could gain himself a ticket to God’s kingdom. He is also asking how he might “inherit” eternal life, although inheritance is not something to earn, but to receive.
Ask: What would you tell someone who asked this question?
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” -Mark 10:18-20
Ironically, Jesus turns away the claim that He is “good,” saying that no one is good but God (even though He actually was God….). Jesus first reminds this man of the Law and Commandments. The ruler probably thought he was in pretty good shape, since he claims to have kept them all since childhood. If that’s all it takes to gain eternal life, maybe he’s got it in the bag! However, Jesus then drops another weight of responsibility…
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. -Mark 10:21-22
Jesus wanted to challenge the ruler’s priorities. He knew that this young man was dependent on his own good works and his own wealth for satisfaction. He thought he could earn or buy his way into Heaven, and he loved his possessions. Jesus wanted him to be willing to lay that aside for a greater treasure, but it was just too much. This verse says that he gave up and went away, rather than consider letting go of his riches.
Ask: What would be hard for you to give up? What does it mean to have treasure in heaven?
Jesus continued to discuss this matter, turning to His disciples to discuss what had happened with the rich man. It’s important to note that being rich and having nice things does not prevent us from entering God’s kingdom. It’s okay to have money, but that’s not the most important thing. We don’t want to depend on our wealth or stuff to make us satisfied.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” -Mark 10:23-25
If students might not be familiar, hold up a sewing needle to demonstrate the size of its “eye.” Explain the difficulty that a hump-backed camel might have in getting through such a thing. It seems impossible! Jesus communicated here that a rich man would be more likely to depend on riches for happiness, not recognizing that everything comes from God alone.
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” -Mark 10:26-31
This idea of humble service appears a lot in the Gospels. The disciples followed Jesus and depended on Him, laying aside jobs and money in the process. Jesus reminds them that this world will be challenging, but the “last shall be first” at the end of the day. We are not to expect ease and luxury in this life. We do not do things on our own power, but with God all things are possible. We look to Him for salvation, strength, and hope.
Close with prayer, thanking God for Jesus and asking for help in trusting and relying on Him alone for joy and salvation.
Craft: Consider crafts that emphasize the importance of putting Jesus first and serving others. You could also incorporate a “sewing” element to coincide with the concept of going through a needle’s eye. Ideas include:
- Cut two paper hearts, and “sew” them together with yarn along hole punched lines. Decorate the heart and add ideas for serving others.
- Decorate a container as a “coin bank” to save funds for those in need.
- Cut a camel shape out of felt or foam. Decorate it and glue onto another piece of paper. Add a plastic needle and caption to remember the story.
- Create a camel puppet with a paper bag or paper plate.