Grades 3-6 Lesson 11 for Sunday School:
Imitators of Christ –Others First
Teacher’s Notes: At the start of this lesson series on being like Christ, we noted that there are several ways to learn what it means to be Christ-like. We began our study by looking at specific examples from the life of Christ. Then, we looked at others in The Bible, and learned from their examples. Our final method of learning what it means to be Christ-like will come from teachings found in The Bible. These will be types of “because I said so” lessons, where the writer of our passage tells us how we should live, because God says so. If we remember that God is our Heavenly Father, and loves us a great deal, we can appreciate these instructions as “fatherly advice.” Our first lesson in this last method of study will be looking at putting others first.
Can anyone tell me who we’ve been learning to be like, over the last few weeks? Yes, we’ve been learning what it means to be like Jesus Christ. We’ve studied Jesus’ own life, what He was like while here on earth. We’ve looked at other people in the Bible who have been Christ-like examples. And now, we’re going to take a few weeks to let God teach us how to be like His Son, just because He told us to. Have any of you ever had mom or dad tell you to do something “just because they said so?” Moms and dads (and other grown-ups, too) don’t always have time to explain why they want you to do something. Or sometimes, they don’t know how to help you understand why. We just have to trust that, since they are the parents, they know what’s best for us. And we should do as they ask, just because they said so.
We have a Heavenly Father who asks us to do something, too. He asks us to become like His Son, Jesus. We know that His Word, The Bible, gives us many great examples of how to be like Jesus. But there are also other passages where we are just given instructions, and are expected to follow them. This is just another way for God to teach us important truths from His Word.
The passage we’re going to look at today is God’s instructions on putting others first. There is a song that goes like this: “Jesus, then others, then you…what a wonderful way to spell joy. Jesus, then others, then you…in the life of each girl and each boy. “J” is for Jesus, for He has first place. “O” is for others we meet, face to face. “Y” is for you; in whatever you do, put yourself third, and spell JOY.” (If you know the song, have the children sing it!)
Let’s try a little activity to see how well you know each other.
Have the students choose partners. Then have each one try to answer the following questions about their partner.
What are your partner’s
Then ask the kids these questions:
Here’s another activity you can try – ask the students to imagine themselves on an ideal day…a day they can do whatever they want, go wherever they want, and be with anyone they want to be with. If they have something to write with, have them make of list of what they would be doing on that day. Once they finish their lists, ask them the following questions:
It’s human nature to put our own needs and interests ahead of others. But our lesson today is going to show us that Jesus’ mind works a little differently. Instead of putting Himself first, Jesus puts others first. So if we’re going to be Christ-like, what do you suppose we need to do? Let’s look at our memory verse and Bible passage for today, and find out. Our verse comes right from today’s passage:
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” Philippians 2:3
Explain to your students that strife is not getting along with others. And vainglory is conceit – or thinking a lot of yourself, that you are most important.
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Holy Bible, where we can find Your instructions for becoming more like Your Son, Jesus. Help us now, Lord, to have ears ready to listen, hearts ready to learn, and eyes ready to look at the needs of those around us; because those are the people you want us to put ahead ourselves. Show us how to do that through Your Word, today, so that we can be Christ-like, and please You. For it’s in Your name that we pray. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: (having the mind of Christ – putting others first)
Have you ever been at a ball game, or other sports event, and heard someone yell, “LOOK OUT!”? If so, what did you do? Did you immediately start looking around you for some possible danger, like a ball flying towards you? When someone tells us to “look out” it’s usually because they are concerned about us, and don’t us to get hurt, or cause someone else to get hurt. In our passage today, Paul is talking to the Philippians, and to us; teaching us to look out for others. And not just when they’re in danger, but also when they’re in need. Let’s look at our passage to see who God wants us to look out for:
(Suggested Bible Reading): (you may read the entire passage now, or just refer back to it when suggested in the lesson)
1If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
2Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Paul is writing, here, to the church at Philippi. And he wants to make it clear that Christian brothers and sisters ought to be looking out for one another. They should be noticing each other’s needs, and doing what they can to meet those needs. Now sometimes we run into people, even other Christians, who may seem hard to get along with. Do we need to be looking out for those people too? Absolutely! And in our passage, Paul is going to give us some good reasons why we should be reaching out and helping others (even those who are harder to get along with).
In verse 1 of our passage, Paul starts out by reminding the Christians in Philippi, and us, that we have “consolation in Christ.” In other words, if we are born again, we have Jesus Christ working in our hearts to encourage us. Have you ever noticed how “catchy” emotions are? If someone else around you is happy, it’s much more likely that you’ll be happy. If someone else is acting sad and depressed, then you will probably feel badly, yourself. And when someone is yelling at you, you’re much more likely to speak sharply to someone else, as well. But Paul wants to remind us that we have Christ with us all the time, encouraging and building us up. And when we realize what Christ is doing in us, then we can show that same encouragement to those around us who might be needing it, too.
We should also keep in mind that Christ doesn’t offer that consolation to just us. He loves all of His children. And if their needs are important to Him, they should also be important to us.
Paul gives us a second reason, in verse 1, for why we should be looking out for the needs of our Christian brothers and sisters. He reminds us that we have the “comfort of love.” God loves us so much that He sent His own Son to die on the cross for us, so that our sins could be forgiven. There is no greater way to show someone you love them than that! And just knowing how much God loves us, and how much He loves our Christian family should be enough for us to treat them with love, as well. And that means being concerned about their needs.
Verse 1 includes yet another reason why we should be looking out for each other – “fellowship of the Spirit.” Would anyone like to guess what Paul meant by that? Those of us who have been born again all have the Holy Spirit living in us. That means that God’s very nature is alive in us, so we have the ability to do what is in His nature. That means that we can be kind and helpful, and have no excuse for not getting along with others – even if they seem hard to get along with. That same Spirit is in all Christians. So if you’re not looking out for someone else because you’re not getting along with them, then it’s because you won’t…not because you can’t.
Then, verse 1 contains one last reason why we can and should be looking out for each other: “bowels and mercies.” Now what do you suppose Paul meant by that? Paul was talking about those feelings we have way down deep inside. Again, it goes back to the love of Christ that resides deep inside of us. And that love of Christ is available for us to share with our fellow Christians.
Paul loved the Christians in Philippi very much. And he wanted them to get along, and be meeting each other’s needs. And much like a parent would feel about their children, Paul let the Philippians know, in verse 2, that seeing them reach out and help each other would make him very happy. Have you ever helped out a brother or sister, or made a point to say something kind and encouraging to them, then noticed your parents watching you? If they were, they probably had a big smile on their face. Nothing makes parents happier than seeing their children getting along and helping each other. That’s the way Paul felt about the Philippians. And that’s the way our Heavenly Father feels about us. Doing things to help fellow believers brings a great deal of joy to Him!
But, how do we go about figuring out the needs of those around us? Verse 2 has that answer just waiting for us. Be “like-minded,” which he goes on to explain as “having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” What does it mean, to be “like-minded…of one accord, of one mind?” A good clue to what Paul was looking for is the phrase in the middle: “having the same love.” And that love, of course, is the love of God that’s in our hearts. Paul wanted us to remember that we have something very special in common, that “same love,” and that such a bond should help us want to reach out to our fellow believers, just as Jesus would do, Himself. We are all part of the same body, the body of Christ. It makes sense, then, that if we’re sharing the same body, and have the same mind (that of Christ), then we should be able to know the needs of the rest of the body. And we should be working together to keep that body healthy and happy.
What is it like at home when family members are not getting along? What can we do to help keep unity (or like-mindedness) at home? Perhaps not complain about rules. Or not talking badly about other family members behind their backs. And one of the best ways to assure family unity is to let other family members have their way, without worrying about whether or not you will get what you want.
It works the same way in our church family, too. If we are focused on maintaining family unity, then our priority will be taking care of the needs of others, first. And imagine how that makes our Heavenly Father feel, to see His children getting along, and looking out for each other’s needs. We also need to keep in mind that if we are refusing to get along with another believer, then our relationship with our Heavenly Father will be affected, as well.
If we are following Paul’s instructions on like-mindedness, and now understand that it requires family unity, then the next step within that family is to truly be concerned about the needs of others. Verse 3 tells us not to do things through “strife or vainglory.” That means realizing that our own needs are NOT the most important ones. And we shouldn’t be trying to get all the attention on ourselves. To put it simply, we need to stop being selfish.
Imagine that you’re at home, and you really want to go swimming. You happen to know that your mom has some friends coming over later, and you see that she is very busy preparing for their visit. If your mom asked you to help her clean the house, what would you say? If you react with strife or vainglory, you might remind your mom that you have other plans, and complain that her plans are getting in the way of yours. But if you react like Paul instructs us to, then you’ll remember how important family unity is, and that her needs should come before your own. Then you’ll pitch in and help your mom, before you head out to go swimming. And can you imagine the surprise on your mom’s face if you were to actually consider her needs first, without her asking? You could go to your mom and ask her if there’s anything she needs help with, before you go out. That is what Paul would like for us to do - to look out for the needs of those around us, and be ready to act on those needs because we love Jesus. And those around us are part of His body of believers.
The end of verse 3 goes on to describe how our minds are working when we put others first. It says “in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than themselves.” That simply means that on the list of whose needs come first, we put everyone else at the top, and our own name goes on the bottom. That doesn’t mean that our needs are not going to be met. It just means that as far as we’re concerned, our own needs can wait.
Now, if we go back to our example from before, where we’ve asked mom if there’s something we can do to help, because we’ve noticed that she is very busy, then we’ve already followed Paul’s next instruction, in verse 4. He says, “look not every man to his own things, but every man also to the things of others.” And that’s exactly what you’ve done. You’ve put your own plans on hold, and have looked at what your mom is doing. And when you’ve seen that she needs help, and you offer to pitch in…that’s what Paul means by looking to the things of others.
And this doesn’t apply just at home. If we look around us, there are people with needs all around us, every day. As Christ-like believers, we need to get out of the habit of sitting around thinking and worrying about our own needs being met. And, instead, get into the habit of looking around us, getting a little nosy (in a good way), to see what needs are out there, and how we can help meet them. Remember our activity at the beginning of this class, where you were asked questions about a partner? How did you find out the answers to the questions? You probably had to ask your partner. In the same way, it’s not likely that you’ll know the needs of others unless you get to know them personally, and ask them what’s going on in their lives. God doesn’t want us just going around doing good deeds to win some “good deed” medal. He wants us meeting each others’ needs to build a bond with them, and because, in Christ, we love them.
Then, the final verse of our passage gets to the very heart of what Paul wants us to understand. When we are looking out for each other, and putting the needs of others ahead of our own, guess who we are imitating…that’s right, we’re imitating Christ! Verse 5 says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” The idea of putting others first is the very mind of Christ, Himself. Remember that He gave up His home in Heaven to come to earth and die on a cross, to meet our need for salvation. Jesus definitely put our needs before His own. So imagine how pleased He must be with us, when we are imitating Him by showing love and concern for others - putting their needs at the top of our priority list.
And here’s something you might not expect: you’ll also find that as you do reach out to help others, putting them first, it won’t make just them happy, but it’ll make God happy! And that will leave you feeling pretty good, too.
Closing Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for teaching us about the very mind of Christ, showing us what we should do if we want to be like Him. Give us the desire to do just that, Lord; to put the needs of others ahead of our own, and reach out to them with the love of Christ that you’ve put in our hearts. Thank You for the opportunities You give us each day to minister to each other. And help us to get rid of all of our selfishness, so that we can truly reach out, in love, to others as You would have us to. Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
If you have time, go back and repeat the earlier activity where you asked to students questions about their partners. After they complete their answers, ask them if they were better able to answer the questions this time…now that they’ve gotten to know their partner a little better. If they find they still had difficulty, point out to them that in order to meet another’s needs, we need to really work on getting to know them, and focusing on what they’re saying to us. Then, in addition to answering these questions, have the students spend a few minutes sharing needs they might have with each other. Perhaps you could take a few moments to have them pray for each other. Or if the students don’t mind, share their needs with the class, and pray for them as a group.
Also, encourage your students to make a special effort to discover and meet someone else’s need this week. Remind them that this may require them to put their own plans on hold for awhile. If you’d like to, ask them to write down what they did, and how the person they helped responded, and bring it in to share with the class next week. You may even offer a special treat for those who bring in a report of what they were able to do for someone else.
Jesus, then others, then you –
What a wonderful way to spell “JOY.”
Jesus, then others, then you,
In the life of each girl and each boy.
“J” is for Jesus, for He has first place.
“O” is for others we meet face to face.
“Y” is for you. In whatever you do,
Put yourself third, and spell JOY!
- Author Unknown
Lisa DeVinney, October, 2017