The Earth is the Lord’s — Weekly Christian ed lesson

In today’s lesson, children will explore an exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees looking for the deeper truth behind his words.

Lesson background

Sometimes the direct route is not always the best one, especially when it comes to teaching. When we offer situations where children can discover meaning independently, they connect more deeply and personally with what they have learned. Jesus often planted the seeds of truth for his followers without directly telling them what he wanted them to learn. In today’s lesson, children will explore an exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees looking for the deeper truth behind his words.

You will need:

  • A Bible
  • A copy of It’s Mine by Leo Lionni or a video of the story being read aloud along with a computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector.
  • A sheet of chart or roll paper, old magazines, a marker, scissors, and glue (optional)

Starting out

Greet the children as they arrive.

Gather the children in a location where they can hear you read aloud It’s Mine or watch a video reading the story.

After sharing the book, ask:

  • How do the frogs behave at the beginning of the story?
  • How do they behave at the end?
  • What changes their minds?
  • What message do you think this story is trying to tell us?
  • How did you figure out that message since the book doesn’t say it?

Note that stories often contain messages or lessons that the author does not directly tell us. They rely on your experience of the story and “reading between the lines” to discover these lessons.

Exploring the passage

Say a prayer.

Provide context for the lectionary reading (Matthew 22:15-22):

  • This story comes from the New Testament Gospel of Matthew.
  • During Jesus’ lifetime, the people of God were living under the rule of the Roman Empire. The Romans conquered and took over their homeland. The Roman Emperor was the head of the empire. Even though he did not live in their homeland, there were reminders that he was in charge and made decisions about how their towns and villages were run.
  • The Roman Emperor at this time was named Caesar.
  • All of the people living in areas under the rule of the Roman Empire had to pay taxes to the emperor. A person could be arrested and punished for not paying taxes.
  • The Roman coins had a picture of the emperor, Caesar. One of the denominations of money was a denarius.
  • The people of God were allowed to continue to practice their faith as long as they followed Roman rules and laws, such as paying taxes to the emperor. Religious leaders knew the Temple and their religion were at risk if people didn’t do as the emperor expected.
  • One of the groups of religious leaders was the Pharisees. They did not like Jesus because he encouraged people to think about God’s word differently than they taught the people. They did not like Jesus challenging their teachings, and they often asked him questions or put him in situations where he might get in trouble for saying the wrong thing. This story describes one of those situations.

Read aloud Matthew 22:15-22. After reading, ask:

  • Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Give the emperor things that are the emperor’s.” What belongs to Emperor Caesar?
  • Jesus also tells the Pharisees, “Give God the things that are God’s.” What belongs to God?
  • What does it seem like Jesus is telling the Pharisees about possessions?
  • What is Jesus really saying about who money (and all else) belongs to?

Relating the passage to our lives

Help the children connect the scripture reading to their own lives through one or more of these activities.

  • Psalm 24:1 collage: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a sheet of chart or roll paper, old magazines, a marker, scissors, and glue. Before the activity begins, write Psalm 24:1 in the middle of the chart/roll paper (“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it”). Ask the children what this verse means to them. Then, have the children cut pictures out of old magazines that reflect all that belongs to God. Encourage them to select a diverse collection of images. Ask them to glue the magazine pictures around the verse on the chart/roll paper. Hang the collage on the wall as a reminder of the abundance of creation.
  • Spending God’s money: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: play money, chart paper, and marker. Ask the children to recount what Jesus means when he says, “’Give the emperor things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” Remind them that we believe all that exists belongs to God, including money. Give the children the play money. Tell them that it represents all the money that is in the world. Ask them to brainstorm how God would want to spend the money. Write their responses on the chart paper. After making a list, ask the children to compare the list to the ways that they see people spend money.

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