What does the person demonstrating this trick with a jar tell you? If we put the important things like God into our lives first, everything falls into place. If we wait, however, to add God to our lives after we have crammed in everything else – we won’t have room for Him in our lives. They are just to full of the other “stuff”.
This is an example of perhaps one of the most well known object lessons used to help people visually understand some important concept in the Bible. Think of it as a visual version of a parable. Object lessons are great ways to teach children about God. They used to be very popular in Bible classes, but have cycled out of use in many places.
Object lessons make great quick, fun family devotionals. Most use items that you already have around the house. It helps visual learners and kids who are still concrete thinkers have a better understanding of some of the more abstract concepts in the Bible. Or you can even use them to “act out” a parable of Jesus.
You can find lots of free ideas online, but here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
- The Lost Coin: Luke 15:8-9 Take enough money to buy something like ice cream and hide it in your house. Tell your kids you want to take them for ice cream (or whatever you have decided the treat will be), but the money for it has been “lost” somewhere in the house. Have your kids search for the money (choosing something they really enjoy will increase the enthusiasm level). After the money is found, read the parable. Ask them how hard they would have looked for the money if they knew it was the only money you had to buy food for the month. Ask them why they think Jesus told the parable. What is the “heavenly meaning” he wants us to learn from it?
- The Mustard Seed: Mark 4:30-32 Take the mustard seeds from your spice cabinet. If you have other seeds around the house (don’t forget some of the fruits and vegetables in your kitchen have seeds in them), show them in comparison to the mustard seed. Explain that a mustard tree/bush can grow to be from 6- 20 feet tall. Explain that is between the height of a man and the height of a two-story house. Once again, ask your kids why they think Jesus told this parable and what was the lesson he wants us to learn.
- Sin, God and Baptism: I Peter 3:21, Romans 6:1-23 Give your kids a piece of fabric or clothing. Encourage them to stain it with something you know you can get out in your washing machine. (This is really important, because if the item comes out with the stain still there…!) Then wash it in the washing machine. While the cycle is completing, read the scriptures. Explain the connection between our sins, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and baptism. Explain that a few drops of water couldn’t get the stains out, but being immersed in the water removed the stains. Review the verses again that explain baptism is what God has asked us to do to have our sins forgiven and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
- An Apple, Math and the Trinity. Matthew 28:19, John 10:30, Ephesians 4:4-6 Our brains have a difficult time understanding the concept of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit being one God and yet appearing to be separate at times. For children, take an apple and try to peel it in one piece if possible. Then remove the core. Ask your kids if the peel is still considered a part of that original apple? How about the fruit and the core? Yes, even though they are now separated, they all came from that original one apple. For older students, explain that the Trinity is not 1+1+1, but 1 to the 3rd power. Neither is a perfect illustration of such a complex topic, but it should help them begin to process it a little better.
- Purity. Matthew 5:8, Psalm 119:9, Psalm 24:3-4 Purity is a difficult concept for kids to understand. Take a pice of white fabric or clothing – the purer the white, the better. Ask one of your kids to drop one drop of water died with red food coloring onto the cloth. Ask your kids if the cloth is still “pure” white. Explain that this is what sin does to our purity – that’s why God tells us to avoid it. (This can also be a time for more discussion on how God’s forgiveness can restore our purity when we have sinned, repentance, baptism, etc.)
Have fun with it, but take a few minutes, grab something from your home and teach your kids something about God and what He wants from them and for them. It’s a great way to strengthen their faith foundation while having some family fun.