You'll need one quarter and one dust cloth for each family member. Get five index cards and mark each one with a different time of day: early morning, late morning, noon, early afternoon, late afternoon. You'll also need a watch or clock with a second hand.
Read the Word
"The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' So the last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matt. 20:9-16).
Talk It Over
WEEK 1: The Workers
Have an older child read the passage through once (if you'd like to read the full story, start with verse 1). Choose one person to be the landowner (this person needs to be able to read.) Turn the index cards upside down and have each family member (except the landowner) choose one. Hand all the workers a cloth. Then act out the story with the landowner reading her lines and sending the laborers "to work" dusting the furniture in the room. Start with the early morning worker and add a new worker every minute. After the final worker has dusted for a minute, pay each worker a quarter. How does the first worker feel at payment time? How does the final worker feel? What does this parable tell us about our attitude toward God's grace? End your time by asking God to help you be thankful for the gift of eternal life.
WEEK 2?3: The Payment
Read the passage and repeat the exercise from last week, making sure everyone has a different starting time than they did before. After you've paid everyone, talk about what this lesson has to do with heaven. Who "deserves" eternal life? What are some ways we try to earn our way to heaven? End your time by thanking God for his generous grace.
WEEK 4: The Landowner
Read the passage, focusing on the verses 15 and 16. Discuss the ways in which God has been generous to your family. Talk about a time you felt his mercy and grace. What does God mean by the first will be last and the last will be first? What does this tell you about God? About heaven? End your time by thanking God for the promise of heaven.
"So the last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matt. 20:16).
Karen L. Maudlin, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in family therapy. She also taught in a Montessori-based children's worship program at her church.
Ask your child who her favorite character in the story is and why. Talk about how that character might have felt. Then ask your child to tell you about a time she felt treated unfairly. Over the next month, help your child identify times when she can be fair to other people.
Have your child put the dust cloth in his backpack as a reminder of this month's lesson. Ask your child questions like: How do you feel when a sibling seems to get more attention than you? Do you ever feel that way with God? What does this parable tell us about the way God takes care of people? Have your child write out the Remember This verse and try to memorize it this month.
Have your child think about a friend who has been a Christian for a long time. Then have her think about someone who has just become a Christian. Ask your child to think about how God feels about these two people. By the world's standards, is it fair that both friends will get the same reward of heaven? How is God's sense of fairness different from the world's? How can we change our sense of what's fair to be more like God's? Encourage your child to learn the Remember This verse, and to talk or write about what this parable tells us about God's gift of eternal life.
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