Scripture: Matthew 20:1-16
- Students will learn God wants us to come “work for Him” as soon as He asks us to do so.
- Students will learn we need to do what God asks us to do and be grateful for any blessings or rewards He gives us (especially Salvation.)
- Students will learn God does not want us to be jealous of people who become Christians late in life and still get to go to Heaven. He also does not want us to pretend we were not asked to “work for Him” in hopes of only obeying and worshipping Him for the shortest possible time and still being able to go to Heaven.
- Students will participate in an activity helping them learn how to “focus on their own page” in life.
Guiding Question: How can we learn to “focus on our own page” spiritually, while still loving and serving others while sharing our faith?
Materials: printable puzzle or coloring sheet, markers, pens, candy or other treat, Band-Aids,
Procedure: (Note: This is an extremely difficult concept that even most adults don’t understand properly. Unfortunately an inaccurate understanding of how God views fairness can create a huge stumbling block for some of your students in the future. Don’t worry if they are still a bit confused after the lesson – this will take time for some to totally grasp.) As students enter the class, give them a puzzle/coloring sheet. Tell them if they work on it quietly until class starts, you will give them a treat. Continue to do that for each student no matter what time he/she enters the classroom. If you normally have a student that enters class about five minutes late, delay the start of the lesson so the latecomer can arrive.
When class starts give each child a piece of candy – even if the child just walked into the room and hasn’t even started the sheet you gave the other students. If possible, make sure to hand out the candy before everyone has completed the sheet you gave him or her.
If students complain, that’s great, but it’s also fine if they say nothing about the “fairness” of each child getting candy. Ask students if this had been a hard job to do like cleaning a garage or raking leaves and they had been doing it for hours before the last person arrived…would they be upset if the person that arrived when the job was finished got paid the same amount as they did – when they had been working hard for several hours. Allow students to express their opinions and explain why they feel the way they do about the situation.
Explain that the idea of fairness is a difficult one for even adults to understand. Often people will get mad at God because they don’t think He is being fair to them or someone they know.
Read students the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Explain that once again, this story has another meaning beyond the one that is obvious. Have older students share what they think it is. Explain that God never promised us life would be fair.
In fact, God said just the opposite. Read them Matthew 5:45. Call five students up to the front of the room. Tell them you are going to pretend you are a doctor and they are your patients, when you ask them what is wrong they are to tell you they have the ailment you whispered in their ears. Have one student with a stomachache, the other has a sore throat, another has a headache, another has a broken arm and the last child has a scraped knee.
As you ask each child what is wrong. Regardless of what they respond, hand them a Band-Aid as a cure. After you have “cured” each child, ask the students if they think you were a good, fair doctor. Have them justify their answers.
Explain that most people believe that being fair means everyone gets the same thing. In many cases though, just like in your “doctor’s office” that kind of fairness really isn’t fair at all. Only one of your “patients” actually got the treatment that would help them get better.
Explain that true fairness is giving people what they need to be successful. Tell students that when we talk about God though, even that gets confusing for a lot of people.
Ask students how they think God would describe “successful”. Have them list things they think God might give someone to help him/her be successful. Explain that to God the definition of a successful life is that we are able to go to Heaven when we die.
God doesn’t really care about whether we are rich or famous. In fact, for some people, they may need to be poor for at least a time to be able to achieve God’s definition of success for their lives. God wants everyone to go to Heaven. In the true meaning of fairness, God is fair. He doesn’t care what a person looks like, where he or she lives, how much money anyone has – He wants every person on earth to eventually be in Heaven. He has given us the Bible so everyone will have the same fair chance to get there, but He will also give each person perhaps something else to help them make the choices they need to make to go to Heaven.
Read Isaiah 55:9 to students. Explain that even knowing what fair really means and knowing God defines success differently than most people, this verse gives us another important piece of the puzzle. Sometimes we just have to trust God that He is wiser than any person and knows what He is doing. Often are brains aren’t capable of understanding totally why God chooses to do the things He does. We do need to remember though that God loves us and will do what is best for us in the end.
Go back to the original parable of the workers in the vineyard. Remind students God wants everyone to spend eternity in Heaven. There may be some people in Heaven who were faithful Christians for 70 years and some people who are baptized a few minutes before Jesus returns. God won’t turn away the person who was just baptized, because he was baptized right before Jesus returned. (For older students you may or may not want to add that this parable does not give us an excuse to disobey God our entire lives and wait until we are very old to obey God!)
Read students Zechariah 7:9-10. Explain that God also wants us to help make life “fair” for people on earth. Explain that once again, this does not mean we will be able to make sure everyone has the same amount of money or other “stuff”. What God does want us to do though is to serve people by helping them get the things they need to be successful – like food, clean water, shelter – and especially teaching them about Jesus and how to get to Heaven.
God also makes it very clear in the Bible that He does not want us to show favoritism to people who come to church. People who are rich should not be treated any differently than people who are poor in your church. A homeless person should feel just as loved and welcomed as a famous movie star. Older students may want to continue discussing this concept in more depth.
Help students think of ways they can be fair to others in the ways God wants them to be fair. Depending on your students, you may want to have them act out various scenarios or create a piece of art that will serve as a reminder of this concept and what they can do to be fair to others.