You’ve seen it… Two children are playing. Child No. 1 sets down his toy to pick up a new one, and suddenly Child No. 2 is discontent. He no longer wants what he already has. He wants what the other child has. He reaches out for the toy and yells when he can’t have it. He fusses and cries, and seeks to get his way. He’s coveting.
Next time you’re faced with this issue, use the following simple object lesson to help your children see that they will never please God in their own strength. They need help. Point them to their Savior, Jesus, who lived a perfect life and died to free them from their bondage to sin.
Step in and instruct when coveting raises its ugly head. Remind children that they cannot always have what they want and that they need to stop fussing and be content with what they have. Read the Tenth Commandment to them.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex. 20:17, ESV).
Talk about what coveting is (wanting things that are unlawful to obtain or possess). We are not to wrongfully desire the possessions of our neighbor (or our sister or brother). Help your children think of situations where they are tempted to covet.
Then ask them if they would like some water or juice. Or suggest an impromptu tea party with your children. Pull out a pretty teapot and set out plates and finger foods. While no one is watching you, add just enough blue food coloring to the water in your pot to make the water noticeably colored. If you’re just serving water or juice, do the same. Just be sure that your serving container is opaque so the children can’t see the liquid inside it. (Use a ceramic pitcher or empty juice carton.)
Carefully pour a few drops of household bleach into another container that you can close with a lid. If you have an empty bottle with an eyedropper, that would be ideal. Place a tray and some extra napkins on your table. (These will help you avoid accidents with the bleach.) Place a stirring spoon on the tray, too.
Sit down with your children and start pouring into everyone’s glasses or cups (leave some water in the teapot). When the children react to the strange-colored liquid that is given to them, stop and read Mark 7:20-23 to them.
“What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (ESV).
Draw special attention to the word “coveting”. Point out that it is included in the list of things God is calling evil. Coveting is against God’s law. Where does it come from? The heart.
Talk about how hard it is to keep from wanting what others have. Tell the children of your own temptations in this area. Then read Romans 3:23 together.
“’All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ No one can please God. We have all sinned. We are all tempted to covet. The colored water is inside the teapot. It can only pour out colored water because that is all it has inside it.”
Tell your children, “We are born with sin inside us. We cannot keep God’s law. Just like the pot pours out blue water because blue water is what is inside it, we pour out sin because sin is what is in our hearts. We will never please God on our own. But God has provided a way to please and obey Him.”
Read Roman 5:8 together. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Continue explaining, “God knows we can’t obey Him. He loves us so much that He sent His son to die in our place. Jesus lived the perfect life that we can’t live, and then took God’s punishment for sin in our place. Christ’s death and resurrection, when we place our trust in Him and not in ourselves, frees us from our bondage to sin.”
Place someone’s cup on your tray and carefully drop one drop of bleach at a time into the colored water, stirring as you do. The color should disappear, leaving clear water behind.
Next drop bleach into the teapot of colored water and stir it.
“We are like the teapot. We can only pour out sin because sin is what is in us, just like the teapot can only pour out blue water because blue water is what is in it. When we add the bleach to the water, what happens? What is in the pot now?” (Pour to see that the water is clear now.)
“We put bleach in the water and it changed. Now we can pour out clear water because clear water is what is in the pot. When we trust Jesus, He changes us. He is in us. We no longer have to pour out sin. We have new life in us, and Jesus gives us the strength to obey Him. When we do sin, we can go to Him in prayer and ask forgiveness. He has already paid for our sin. He forgives us and helps us to obey Him.”
Build on this lesson. Remind your children when they sin; if they have trusted Jesus, they are free to obey Him. He will help them. They do not have to struggle by themselves. This is Good News. This is the Gospel. This gives us hope.
(Note: Exercise caution while using bleach, and be sure the children do not try to drink the bleached water.)