In a world where you can be anything, be kind. Choose kindness. Make kindness great again. We’ve all seen the GIFs, memes, t-shirts and bumper stickers encouraging us to make the world a kinder place. Kindness may seem like it is simply one of life’s nice “add-ons,” like ice cream on a hot day or finding a $20 bill in your pocket when you’re short on cash. However, several Bible stories show us God delights in our kindness, especially when it leads to caring for others. In this lesson, children will explore the impact of Rebekah’s kindness and will consider how they might extend kindness to those around them.
You will need:
- A Bible (preferably Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible)
- Whiteboard or chart paper and a marker
- A computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector, “The Science of Kindness” video, chart paper or a whiteboard, and a marker (optional)
- Several sheets of legal-sized paper (11”x14”), markers, scissors and masking tape (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Have the children sit so they are facing a whiteboard or a sheet of chart paper posted on an easel or the wall. Write the words kind and unkind on the whiteboard/chart paper.
Tell the children you are going to share a series of situations with them. They should indicate whether they think the people in the situation are being kind or unkind. If the people are kind, they should give a thumbs up. If they are unkind, they should give a thumbs down.
Share each of these scenarios, giving the children time to respond with a thumbs up or a thumbs down. After they share their responses using their hands, ask them to explain why they feel this way. (Feel free to modify any of these scenarios or to add your own):
- There are three cookies on a plate that Livia and Marco must share. Livia grabs two of the cookies and begins eating them.
- Stu is jogging when he sees 10-year-old Alex sitting on the ground next to a bike. Alex has fallen off the bike and has scraped knees. Stu stops to check on Alex and to walk the child and his bike home.
- Jasper arrives at Vacation Bible School wearing a new shirt. He excitedly tells his friend Wally that he got the shirt while he was on vacation. Jasper asks Wally, “How do I look?” Wally notices that Jasper has spilled his breakfast on the shirt. He replies, “I love your shirt, but you have some food on it.”
- Tariq and Mina are in the school lunch line together. When Mina gets to the cashier, she realizes she doesn’t have money to pay for her lunch. The cashier tells her she cannot eat the lunch unless she pays for it. Tariq checks his pocket to see if he has enough money to pay for Mina’s lunch and his own. He only has enough to pay for his lunch, so he does not offer to pay for her food.
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67:
- This reading comes from the Old Testament book of Genesis.
- An important character in this story (who we only meet at the end) is Isaac. Isaac is the son of Abraham and Sarah. If the group has previously read stories about Abraham and Sarah, ask them to share what they remember about them and their connection to God. Be sure to highlight the covenant God makes with Abraham and Sarah to make a great nation of their descendants that will bless the world.
- This passage describes the events leading up to Rebekah and Isaac’s marriage. The process is much different than what many children see today. Share how marriages in the time and place where the story is set were not often grounded in love the way that we think of marriages today. People would not “date” and their families had a great deal of influence on whether they would be married. It would not have been unusual for someone like Isaac to have a servant or a parent “select” someone for him to offer to marry. And sometimes a father would plan for his daughter to marry someone she hadn’t met or didn’t know well. While this may seem unusual to the children, assure them that this was customary and appropriate for the time and culture. You may even want to give them a bit of time to process their feelings and reactions to the situation so they are able to focus on the narrative.
- The first part of the story takes place at a well. Share that houses didn’t have indoor plumbing in the time and place where this story takes place. There would be a well in each town where people could collect water in large containers. They would carry these containers to and from their homes. Because everyone needed water, the well became a place where people would meet new people and would socialize with people they knew. Abraham’s servant would have known this, so the well is the perfect spot for him to see the young women living in the town.
Read aloud Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67. Growing in God: A Story Bible by Carol Wehrheim and Elizabeth Caldwell includes a retelling of this story (“God Tugs at Rebekah’s Heart”) that provides a bit more context for Rebekah’s character. It is an excellent alternative to the original text, especially if you’re working with younger children.
After reading, ask:
- Abraham’s servant prays to God at the start of the reading. He asks God to help him know which woman might be a good partner for Isaac. What does he ask God for the woman to say so he will know and notice her?
- Why do you think it is important that the woman the servant meets is willing to give him water to drink and to provide for his camels?
- How would you describe Rebekah’s actions at the well? What kind of person is she?
- What does Rebekah say when she is asked if she would like to marry Isaac? Why is it important that she agrees to the marriage?
- How does Rebekah show Isaac kindness after their marriage?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children connect the scripture reading to their own lives through one or more of these activities.
- The science of kindness: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector, “The Science of Kindness” video, chart paper or a whiteboard, and a marker. Ask the children to share what human beings need to live healthy lives. Write down their responses on the whiteboard or chart paper. If they do not list kindness, add it to the list. Ask them if kindness is necessary for our health. Why or why not? Show the video. After watching it, ask the children to share what they learned. Encourage them to wonder about why kindness positively affects our health. Have them share stories from their own lives about the impacts of kindness.
- Words of kindness: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: several sheets of legal-sized paper (11”x14”), markers, scissors, and masking tape. Divide the group into pairs. Have the children in each pair sit facing one another. Ask one person in each pair to sit quietly while the other person says kind words to them for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, have them switch roles. Bring the whole group back together. Ask the children to share what it felt like to offer and receive kind words. Provide each child with a sheet of paper. Have them fold the sheet in half. On the top half of the paper, ask them to use the markers to write Take Words of Kindness and draw pictures that remind them of kindness. Provide each child with scissors. Ask them to make 1 ½’ wide cuts from the bottom of the page up to the fold line. Then have them write kind words and phrases on each of the paper strips. Ask the children to hang these in the church, in their homes, or in community locations so that people can rip off “kindness strips” to take with them.
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