Where there are children, there is almost always a lot of stuff. There are toys and art materials and almost every toy has lots of little parts that go with it. When our family tries to reduce the amount of kid stuff we have, our children almost always protest, saying they absolutely love the things we are hoping to give or throw away — even when they haven’t touched said items for months! Children very rarely respond this way out of greed. Rather, they connect experiences and feelings to objects. And, unfortunately, this practice continues throughout our lives. It is difficult to not get caught up in the cycle of collecting “stuff.” But, as disciples of Christ, we are called to use our resources to honor God rather than ourselves. In this lesson, children will explore Jesus’ call to live a life focused on being “rich toward God” instead of one that aims to build up an “abundance of possessions.”
Begin your time with the children by asking them to imagine you gave each of them a million dollars. What would they do with it? Would they buy things? Would they give it away? Would they save it? What could they do with the money that would give them joy? What could they do with the money that would give God joy?
Exploring the passage
Prepare to read Luke 12:13-21 aloud. Provide some context for the reading. Tell the children the reading comes from Luke’s gospel. At this point in Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, Jesus is surrounded by a crowd of people. They all have questions for him and want to learn from him. Some have come because they believe he has something important to teach them. Others have come because they distrust Jesus. In the story we will hear today, someone in this crowd of people asks Jesus to deal with a situation in his family. Encourage the children to notice how Jesus responds to the person’s question.
Read aloud Luke 12:13-21. After reading, ask the children to recount what the “someone” in the crowd was asking Jesus to help him with. Note that the person wants Jesus to tell his brother to share the family inheritance with him. Explain what an inheritance is and note in Jesus’ lifetime, the brother referenced in this request is likely the oldest male child in the family. The oldest brother would have gotten half of his father’s inheritance and the remaining half would have been divided among the other siblings. The “someone” is likely asking for part of the half received by the oldest brother.
Then ask the children to share how Jesus responds. Share that Jesus doesn’t directly answer the person’s request. Rather, he reminds him (and the others listening) that wealth – money, property and belongings – aren’t what life is all about. Wanting more than what we have or what is given to us is greedy and an “abundance of possessions” does not give someone a good life. Jesus then tells a story about someone who saved up everything, all of his crops and all of his goods. This person spent his whole life focusing on protecting everything he had rather than living his life. He didn’t get to enjoy relationships with people, relaxation, or celebrations. Have the children wonder about these ideas. Do they believe what Jesus says is true? Is Jesus saying we shouldn’t have any possessions? What is the “right” amount of possessions to have? What does give someone a good life?
Relating the passage to our lives
Extend this conversation to the children’s lives. Ask them to think about a time when they really wanted to buy something or to receive something as a present. Have them share about this item. Why did they want it? How did they feel when they got it? Has that feeling lasted? Share that we often get excited when we discover something we would really like to have. And that thing may bring us happiness that may last a long time. But we also tend to buy or receive things that we do not need or that do not bring us joy. We think they will make us happy, but we discover they end up cluttering our homes.
Play the video “What Really Sparks Joy?” for the children. This video comes from The “Story of Stuff” Project, which encourages people to think about the effects consumption has on the environment and on other people. After watching the video, ask the children to reflect on what they heard. Then discuss what brings them true joy. How can we focus on the things that bring us true joy rather than collecting possessions like the man in the Bible story?
Conclude your time together by offering a prayer asking for God to help us choose and find true joy.