Developing a children’s sermon on Matthew 5:21-37 is challenging on two fronts. First, this passage is not a story. Second, it contains several distinct and difficult teachings.
Here he talks about four separate kinds of law. I think it is wise to take just one topic for a children’s sermon. That leaves the question of which topic.
- I could take a bird’s eye view of the passage and talk about the law, or God’s rules, in general.
- Or I could take just one of the four main issues in this passage.
All four are pretty grown-up stuff. One could conceivably deal with divorce or adultery, but there are more ways for these to go wrong than for them to be really helpful.
The preacher’s task is to find the issue that goes most directly to a child’s experience of life and a child’s life of faith. I think there is lots to work with in what Jesus says about the command against murder.
I’m not entirely sure whether this approach of inventing a narrative and using a dialogue works here. I’d love your thoughts on this.
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 5:21-37
One day Jesus was teaching his friends, and someone asked him about God’s rules for living. God’s rules for living had already been in the Bible for a long time. You’ve probably heard of some of them. Most people call them “The Ten Commandments.” Other people like to call them “the ten best ways to live” — and I think that’s a really good name for them.
So imagine the conversation:
Maybe Peter said, “I’m doing great at God’s rules for living. God said ‘You shall not commit murder.’ Well I’ve never murdered anyone! Cha-ching!”
Jesus said, “That’s a good start.”
Peter said, “Hey no fair! How come it’s just ‘a good start’? I did everything the rule said to do!”
Jesus said, “Yeah, I know. But think about it: Did you ever know of somebody that killed somebody?”
Peter shook his head.
But James said “I did! It was so sad. They had this big huge fight!”
Jesus asked, “Wow, that is sad. What kind of fight was it?”
James said, “They were just fighting. Like out in the street pushing and wrestling and hitting and stuff.”
Jesus said, “Ah, so fighting came before killing. Well what happened just before that?”
James said, “Well before they were hitting, they were calling each other names. One said ‘You’re an idiot!’ and the other said ‘Well you’re a jerk!”
Jesus said, “Okay, so first it was name calling, and then it was hitting, and then somebody got killed. What happened before that?”
James said, “Hmm… I don’t think they had spoken to each other in a long time. They were SOOOO mad at each other!”
Jesus said, “So first they were angry. Being angry led to name calling. Name calling led to fighting. And fighting lead to murder.”
James thought for a minute. Then he nodded. “Yep, that’s how it happened.”
“So Peter,” said Jesus, “If you want to really keep God’s rule against murder, what do you need to do?”
Peter thought for a minute. “I guess I need to avoid fighting.”
“And name calling” said James.
“And,” said Jesus, “If you get angry at someone, you need to find a way to make the relationship better again.”
Peter said, “That’s a lot harder than just not killing.”
Jesus said, “But when you think about it, it’s all part of the same thing: Steaming away in anger, calling someone names, fighting, and killing.”
Feel free to use this children’s sermon if you’d like to. I’d love to hear how it goes if you do!
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