Grades 3-6 Lesson 9 for Sunday School:
Imitators of Christ –Sacrificial Giving
Handout for this Lesson
Teacher’s Notes: For many weeks, now, we’ve looked at what it means to call ourselves “Christians.” We are called to be Christ-like; and Jesus Christ, Himself, lived out many great examples for us while He walked on this earth. We began by looking at Jesus’ examples. Then, last week, we turned to examples in other Bible characters. This week, we will look at sacrificial giving; we’re going to look at a New Testament church that didn’t give out of the abundance in their pockets...they gave out of the abundance of their hearts.
Remind the students that we are learning about what it means to be Christ-like. And that last week we talked about four men who showed great perseverance in bringing their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Then ask the students if any of them had opportunities, this week to work on perseverance. Give your students the opportunity to share with the class what circumstances they encountered this week, and how God helped them to persevere.
Let’s take a few minutes, before we look at this week’s lesson, to remind ourselves what it means to be imitators of Christ. We started off looking at examples from Jesus’ life. In our first lesson, we found Jesus being tempted by Satan. Does anyone remember the weapon Jesus used to defeat him? It was the Sword of the Spirit – God’s Word. Then, we learned about Jesus feeding a group of five thousand men (probably around 15 thousand people). What did we learn about Jesus there? We learned that He showed great compassion. He was concerned about the need, and did what He could to meet it. We also saw Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. There we saw His humble service. Then, we spent a couple of weeks looking at the events leading up to and including Jesus’ death on the cross. Through those lessons, we saw that being like Jesus means being submissive, and loving.
In our most recent lessons, we’ve been studying Bible characters who also showed Christ-like character. Do you remember the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus? One of them came back to Jesus. Do you remember why? One came back to thank Jesus for healing him. Then, last week, we met four men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus. What did we learn from all they went through to get their friend inside the house? We learned that Christians need to have perseverance.
This week, we’re going to learn a new expression: sacrificial giving.
Here’s a suggested activity to teach the students how it feels to give sacrificially: Bring in a special treat for the students in your class. Give each student 2 treats. But leave one student with nothing. (Try to choose a student who will not be hurt to be left out…for a time). When the students realize that one student has nothing, let them know that if someone would like to give both of their treats to the one who has none, that they are free to do so. But they have to give them both up – not just one. Is anyone willing to give all they have, to give to the one who has nothing? If a student does willingly give up their treats, after they have given them away, give that student 4 treats – showing them that God will reward those who are willing to give sacrificially. Explain that He doesn’t always reward us in such an obvious way. And that we may not be rewarded at all until we get to Heaven. But remind them that God will see their kindness, and bless them for their sacrificial giving!
No one has ever sacrificed more than Jesus Christ, Himself. He left the glory of Heaven to live here, on earth. He entered into a human body. And He allowed those He came to save to put Him on a cross, and crucify Him. He did all of that so that our sins could be forgiven. When someone gives so much that it hurts…that is sacrificial giving.
And Jesus is not the only one in the Bible who teaches us about sacrificial giving. This week, we’re going to look at some of the early Christians, who were taught by the apostles about being Christ-like. We’re especially going to focus on the Macedonian church, and the costly gifts they sent to back to the Christians in the church in Jerusalem.
But before we dig into our Scripture passage for today, let’s take a few minutes to learn today’s memory verse.
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.)
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Holy Bible, where we can read about people who are good examples for us to learn from. Please open our eyes, and ears, and hearts now to see what it means to give what we have back to you…even if it hurts. Remind us that you are always good, and long to bless us. And that when we give to meet the needs of others, we are really giving to You! Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: (giving even when it hurts)
Have you ever saved money for anything? If you have, what were you saving for? Have you ever saved money to buy a gift for someone else, or so that you could give that money away? As crazy as that might sound, that’s just what some Christians in the New Testament churches did.
This week, we are going to look at two different passages of Scripture that will teach us what it means to give sacrificially. One deals with giving to meet the needs within the local church, and the other with giving to another church that is in need.
(Suggested Bible Reading): (you may read the entire passage now, or just refer back to it when suggested in the lesson)
Act 2:40-47 (meeting needs close to home)
41Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
44And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Does your church collect an offering, where anyone can contribute whatever they would like to the church? If so, where does the money go? In many churches, money that’s collected in the offering helps to support the church’s pastor and his family. It may also be used to pay bills for such things as heat or electricity, and to take care of the church building. If your church buys printed materials, then the offering money may also be used to purchase those. There are also many churches that send money to missionaries in other parts of the world where churches might not be able to support themselves. (Later on in our lesson, we are going to look at a church like this.) But churches also use money they collect to meet the needs of local individuals or families who are experiencing hardships.
As the early church began to grow, the new Christians had a lot to learn about being Christ-like. The apostles were at work, in the churches, teaching the new believers as they were brought in. And one of the first Christ-like qualities they learned to practice was compassion. We learned about compassion just a few weeks ago. Remember, compassion is feeling badly for someone in need, and doing something to help them. This was not an easy time for many of these new believers. Verse 41 of our passage in Acts tells us that when these new Christians received Jesus as their Savior, they were then baptized. Some churches today have what are called baptisteries, where their members can be baptized right there, inside the church. That would not have been true of the New Testament churches. They would have baptized their members right in the local lakes or rivers. And that meant it was a very public profession of their decision to become a follower of Christ. As a result, many of them would have been shunned by their families. And some would have lost their jobs. Others were even arrested and tortured for their new faith.
Because of these hardships, there were many new Christians who had great needs. Some had no home. Others, perhaps, needed food and clothing. And the church leaders had a solution. At least for the church in our passage here in Acts, the answer for them was to combine their resources, so they could provide for those in need. Before trusting in Jesus, each one of us has a sin nature that urges us to be selfish, and take care of our own needs before others. But when we are saved, and become new creatures in Christ, we are able to do things we never would have before. Verse 45 in our passage tells us that in order to take care of the needs in their church, the early Christians “…sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” They were selling their things not so they could become rich, but so that they could give the money away to those in need.
What would you do if you learned that someone in your church was very sick, and needed to see a doctor, but they didn’t have the money they needed to pay a doctor? If you had some extra money, it would probably be easy for you to offer to give some of it to help. But what if you didn’t have any extra money? Would you consider selling something you have to get some money that you could give them? That would be sacrificial giving. And that’s just what the early Christians were doing. They weren’t giving to each other out of the extra money they had laying around. They were selling what they had to get money to give to those in need. And notice how it made these Christians feel…to be giving to each others’ needs. In just these few verses, we see a great deal of gladness and praising God! It made these Christians full of joy, to be able to provide for the needs of their fellow believers.
Have you ever had the opportunity to give to someone in need? How did it make you feel toward them? And how did they seem to feel toward you? We often see in Scripture that when people reach out to meet another’s needs, those people usually become quite close. And that was the case for these believers in the Book of Acts. They were happy to do whatever they could to take care of each other. And while there may have been a few wealthy Christians there, most of them probably were not. So they would have been giving up things they could have used for themselves in order to provide for their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Do you know of anyone in your church or community who needs some help? If your church were to take up a collection for them, would you give anything? Maybe you have very little, and don’t think you can spare anything. But if God asks you to give, then He will bless you for it. You don’t need to worry about what will happen after you give, when it seems like you might have nothing left. Philippians 4:19 says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” The apostle Paul actually shares this promise with the church in Philippi , as he thanked them for the sacrificial gifts they had sent to him.
And not only did the early church help to each other by their sacrificial giving to each other; they also brought glory to God. Their compassion and love for one another helped to draw many new believers into the church. Verse 47 describes them this way: “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” These early Christians were pleasing God by acting like Christ – giving all they had to provide for each other’s needs. And God, in turn, blessed them by bringing more and more members into the church.
But does our call to give to those in need stop with those in our local church or community? Let’s look at an example of another church that gave sacrificially. This time, however, the church was not meeting a local need. They were ministering to a church far away from them.
In our second passage, the apostle Paul was writing to the church in Corinth. He wanted to teach them about godly giving. So he shared with them an example of what the churches in Macedonia had been doing. Macedonia was an area that included several churches that Paul had visited on his missionary journeys. These included the churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.
(meeting the needs of those far away)
2 Corinthians 8:1-7, 12
1Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
2How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
3For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
4Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
5And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.
6Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.
7Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.
12For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
In this passage, in 2 Corinthians, Paul is talking to the people in the church at Corinth. And he wants them to see what godly giving is like. So in verse 2, he describes to them how the Macedonian churches had been sending gifts to meet the needs of the church in Jerusalem. The Macedonians didn’t have a lot of money to give. In fact, Paul says they were in “great trial of affliction” and “in…deep poverty.” But the Christians in Macedonia did not let their lack of money stop them from giving to others in need. Their hearts were so full of love and compassion, that verse 3 says their willingness to give went “beyond their power.”
They wanted so much to be of help to the Jerusalem church that they gave according to what they had (verse 12). And that is all that God would ask. That is all that God, in fact, did ask through Paul. That’s what he meant when he mentioned that he wanted “the same grace” for those in the church at Corinth. He was talking about a desire to give, even when it means giving all that you have…giving sacrificially.
Now if you’re like most people, you probably don’t have a lot, if any, extra money sitting around just waiting to be given away. But there are other ways that you might be able to give sacrificially to God, and bring glory to Him, just as the churches in Jerusalem and Macedonia did. Here are a few ideas that you might consider, even this week:
These things don’t require any money. But they can require quite a bit of time. Would you be willing to sacrifice some of your time to meet the needs in your church or community? What if it meant giving up something you really enjoy doing in order to help someone else? That would be true sacrificial giving, too. And you, and everyone else can do it! And do you know what will happen when you begin to give sacrificially…till it feels like it hurts? God will bless you, because it will demonstrate your Christ-likeness: your compassion, your love, and your submission to Him!
And one more reminder: we must not get discouraged if we give, and do not see God’s blessing. We need to trust that He’s using our gifts for just what is needed. And that He will meet our needs, too, just as He’s promised. Remember last week’s verse? It says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9 The “well doing” applies to giving, too. God doesn’t always reward us in an obvious way, or in a way that we might expect, or in the time we might think. In fact, we might not see the reward at all until we get to Heaven. But remember that God will see your kindness, and bless you, in His own way and His own time, for your sacrificial giving!
Closing Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the opportunities you give us to be part of Your ministry, by giving to others in need. Help us, even this week, not to be afraid to give all that we have; because we know that You’ll be right there to take care of us, and meet our needs, too. Show us where there are needs that need to be met, Lord. Then give us the compassion and courage to do just that! Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
(Bible lesson Tic-Tac-Toe)
If you are familiar with the game Tic-Tac-Toe, you can use it to quiz your students on today’s lesson. Here’s how it can work. Divide the students into two teams. One team will be X’s, and the other O’s. Make a Tic-Tac-Toe board (draw it with chalk or even in the dirt if you have a dirt floor) with 9 spaces: three across, and three down. Number each of the spaces using the numbers from 1 to 9. The object of the game is to be the first team to get 3 of their marks (X’s or O’s) in a row on the board. Have the teams take turns earning the right to put their mark on by answering a question from today’s lesson (for example: can you name one of the Macedonian churches, name one of the Christ-like character traits we’ve studied). If the team answers correctly, they can put their mark in a spot on the board. To keep the game simple, you can let them choose where to put it. To make it a little more challenging, you can make little numbers ahead of time, perhaps writing them on little pieces of paper, and have someone from the team draw one of the numbers to determine where the mark will go if they answer correctly. Then, the next team takes a turn and is given another question to answer. If you are using the numbers to determine where their marks go, they may pick a number the other team has already picked, and replace that mark with their own if they get the answer right. Have fun! And the game works best if you have the questions prepared ahead of time.
Here are some ideas to consider this week:
Look first at your own family. Are there any needs you can meet there that might require you to sacrifice your own time or money? Would you be willing to consider doing whatever is needed, even if it costs you something? Then, what about the people in your church? In your community? Will you ask God to use you to meet some need this week?
Consider this verse, too, as you think about what you might be able to do: “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” Psalm 34:8 God invites us to “taste and see.” Why not taste the Lord’s goodness by offering Him whatever you can this week…It may hurt for just a time. But the rewards are eternal, and good!
A Season of Giving, For a Lifetime of Blessing
God, at times, will ask for us to give until it hurts;
At least that’s how it, for a time, may seem.
But He has promised He will meet whatever needs may come;
Blessing us beyond what we might dream.
Lisa DeVinney, September, 2017