Grace and gratitude are key concepts in the Reformed Tradition. Regardless of what we do (or don’t do), God generously offers us grace. In response to this amazing gift, we are grateful. And our gratitude moves us to generously extend God’s grace to one another. In other words, God’s generosity inspires and begets our generosity. You could say God’s generosity is contagious. But what do these abstract concepts look like in reality? The story of Jesus curing the sick and then feeding more than 5,000 people is a demonstration of God’s generosity in action. In this lesson, children will explore Matthew 14:13-21 noticing examples of generosity and then they will wonder about how they might extend and enact this same generosity in their own lives.
You will need:
- A Bible
- A clear bowl or glass filled with water and food coloring
- Smooth rocks and paint pens, acrylic paints and brushes, and/or permanent markers (optional)
- A computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector and the video “Virtual Reality Proves Bored People are Less Generous: The Science of Generosity” (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Have the children gather around a table. Place the bowl or glass of water in the center of the table. Ask the children to watch what happens when you add food coloring to the water.
Add one drop of food coloring to the water and wait a moment for it to dissipate. Then add another drop. Repeat this until you’ve added 4 or 5 drops.
Ask the children:
- What happened when I added the first drop of food coloring?
- What did you notice as I added additional drops of coloring? How did the water change?
- As we added more and more food coloring to the water, the color spread and deepened. Feelings and actions can spread within a group of people just like the color spread in the water. When have you seen one person do something or say something and it spread throughout a group of people?
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading Matthew 14:13-21:
- This story comes from the New Testament Gospel of Matthew.
- Prior to this story, Jesus and his disciples had been traveling around the area teaching and healing people.
- At the beginning of the story, the text says, “Jesus heard this.” The “this” Jesus (and his disciples) heard was news that their good friend John the Baptist had died. He had been arrested and killed by someone in power who did not like what he said.
- In the story, you’ll hear about the amount of food that the people had available to eat: five loaves of bread and two fish. This is amount of food that a poor traveler would pack for a long journey.
- You’ll also hear about the number of people who gathered to hear Jesus. The text says, there “were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” At that time, only men were counted. This means there were 5,000 men present AND there was an additional uncounted number of women and children. So the crowd was much larger than 5,000.
Read aloud Matthew 14:13-21.
After reading, ask:
- At the start of the story Jesus and the disciples learn about the death of their friend John the Baptist. How would you react if you lost a friend? What would comfort you during this difficult time?
- What does Jesus do when he discovers the people following him? Why does he do this?
- How much food is available for the people to eat before Jesus blesses it?
- Where do you think the original amount of food (five loaves and two fish) came from?
- How much is left after each person has eaten?
- Where do you see Jesus show generosity in this story?
- How do the people respond to Jesus’ generosity?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children connect the Scripture reading to their own lives through one or more of these activities.
- Generosity rocks!: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: smooth rocks and paint pens, acrylic paints and brushes, and/or permanent markers. Ask the children what generosity means to them. Encourage them to share examples of generosity. Hand each child a rock. Ask them to decorate one side of the rock with a message about generosity. On the other side of the rock, have them write a message indicating that the person finding the rock should pick it up and move it to another location so someone else can find it. After the children have decorated their rocks, have them place them around the church grounds or ask them to take them out in the community to put them in locations where others might find them.
- The science of generosity: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector and the video “Virtual Reality Proves Bored People are Less Generous: The Science of Generosity.” Ask the children to name people they consider generous. How do these people show generosity? What else do they like about these people? Show the video. Discuss the big ideas in it. Have the children brainstorm how they can use what they learned in their own lives.
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