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BIBLE PASSAGE: Matthew 6:1-4
BACKGROUND: This is our third session exploring what we call Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We might imagine that Jesus taught all this in a ‘oner’, as it’s put together that way in the Bible.
However, it’s more likely that Matthew carefully curated this selection of teachings to enable the early followers of Jesus to remember (and memorise) what Jesus had taught in a structured way.
In the last session we thought about salt and light. Jesus then goes on to talk about some of the ‘big-ticket questions’ – murder, adultery, divorce and revenge – before challenging the disciples to love their enemies and to give to the needy, as we’ll explore today. It’s worth noting that Jesus says when you give. It’s not an optional activity to earn us extra points!
As you begin the session, invite the children to sit together in a circle and pass around a simple object. When a child has the object they can share their response to the question. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a sand timer so you have time for each person to share if they want to. If anyone doesn’t want to say anything they can just pass the object on. Ask the children to share what it feels like to keep a good secret.
You will need: a variety of small objects; similar-sized small boxes; wrapping paper; sticky tape
Before the session, wrap up a selection of objects so that they all look the same.
You could use individual cupcake boxes or empty matchboxes to ensure uniformity. The objects can be sweets, novelties or totally random things such as a ping-pong ball, a pebble or an odd cufflink. It doesn’t really matter.
Give each child a box and ask them to swap it with someone else. Then ask them to swap again. Repeat several times before allowing the children to open their boxes and find their ‘treasure’. Explain that in today’s story Jesus tells the people to give in such a secret way that they almost don’t know what they’re giving.
You will need: a leader to act like a ‘great’ Christian
Before the session, ask a leader to prepare a short monologue about how amazing they are at being a Christian. They should talk about all the incredibly helpful and sacrificial things they’ve done. They should make it as ridiculously over the top as they can.
Invite your volunteer to deliver their speech. Then ask the children how they think God would feel about this person doing all this stuff. Ask them what they think of the person and the way they told the story.
Read (or ask someone to read) Matthew 6:1. Ask the group what they think about this person now.
Continue to read the rest of the passage up to verse 4. What does Jesus say we should do? How does he say we should do it? Who might a needy person be? As people suggest ideas, ask them to strike a pose that captures the sort of person they’re describing.
Ask the children these questions, encourag- ing everyone to take turns to contribute:
- Why did Jesus tell us not to make a big deal out of giving?
- How old do you think you have to be to start giving to people in need?
- How rich do you have to be before you start giving to people in need?
- Do you think Jesus asks all of us to give to those in need?
- How could you give as secretly as possible?
You will need: small pieces of card (credit card size would be fine); pens
Give out the pieces of card and pens, then encourage the children to make ‘challenge cards’ for the week ahead. Talk about things they could do to give to those in need, such as:
- Take unwanted items to the charity shop
- Put some change in a charity pot
- Buy pairs of socks and give them to homeless people
- Put food in the food bank baskets at the supermarket
- Buy a homeless person a sandwich
They could come up with a range of ideas that would be appropriate for their own situation. Encourage them to choose an idea or two they think they could do this week and write these on a card.
Explain that in order to keep ourselves safe we need to ask an adult to help us with this. They can be in on our giving secret.
Make sure you let parents and carers know what you’re doing so they can support their children in this activity.
You will need: pictures of people in need; a world map or globe
Display some pictures of people in need. These could be local or international examples of need. Stick your world map up on a wall or display the globe. Let the children reflect on how they might give to the people in these pictures. Use the map or globe to explore what the children know about areas of need around the world, but be careful not to stereotype areas of the world as needy and be specific about the need in certain places. For example, people might be in immediate need because of natural disasters or war.
Pray and ask God to soften our hearts toward those in need so that we give naturally in the course of everyday life without even realising what we’re doing.
JENNY CHEUNG is a mum, church planter and choir nut! She pioneers The Voice Project Scotland: a missional expression inviting children and their families to find their voices
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