Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on rethinkingyouthministry.com and is reprinted here with permission.
by Brian Kirk
Like it or not, the “Christmas Buying Season” is upon us. Apparently, the secular culture never heard of Advent and started playing Christmas carols before Halloween had even come and gone. So now might be the best time to get a little ahead of the game and try to steer your youth away from the cultural obsession this time of year with accumulating “stuff.” The following Bible study is focused on the spiritual practice we might call “simplifying your life”—something Jesus, the Desert Fathers, the monastics, and others in our rich tradition understood as a way to make more room for God in our lives.
Opening: (5 minutes)
Count off students into groups of three. Tell them they have two minutes to try to make as long a list as possible of the things that they own. After the two minutes, have them reflect on the following questions with their small group:
- How many things on your list do you need?
- How many things on your list do you rarely use?
- How many things on your list would you be better off giving away?
Consider showing clips from the documentary “What Would Jesus Buy?”
Reflection: (10 minutes)
Invite the group to participate in a quick quiz, perhaps standing or sitting as a way to vote “yes” or “no” on each item:
- Going shopping is sort of like a hobby or past-time for me.
- I sometimes take my old clothes to a “re-sell it” store.
- I would work a job I hate to have enough money to buy the stuff I want.
- I’d want to buy the newest video gaming system (or other item), even if my old one worked just fine.
- I sometimes buy something because it’s cool–not because I need it.
- I would consider buying my clothes from Goodwill or the Salvation Army or other “re-sell it” store.
- There is too much “stuff” in my bedroom!
Share that this Bible study is going to focus some time on talking about “things” that clutter up our lives. We all have stuff in our lives. We buy lots of it. Lots of it is given to us. Even right here in the church. Look around at all the stuff in your youth room/the church. These things are a big part of our lives, and it’s worth it to spend some time thinking about how they affect our spiritual lives.
Digging into the Text (25 minutes)
Separate into three groups. In this activity, each group will explore a Biblical text that speaks to how much importance we should place on our material possessions. Invite participants to listen to a Scripture passage and think about what it might have to say about the things in our lives:
Group 1: Luke 12:13-21 The Parable of the Rich Fool
Group 2: Luke 21:1-4 The Widow’s Mite
Group 3: Matthew 19:16-21 The Rich Young Man
Invite the group to prepare a skit or pantomime based on the parable, with one or more persons reading the text as the others act it out.
Bring the whole group back together. Share that, in the Gospels, Jesus talks about our fixation on money and material goods more than anything else. He is remembered as someone who clearly felt that how we view the importance of possessions in our lives has a real impact on our relationship with God.
Have the small groups stage their parables for the whole group. Invite the participants to think about what the stories have to say about how we live in the world today.
After each group performs, pose the questions below to the group. Invite them first to respond by sharing with those next to them. As time permits, invite one or two students to share their thoughts with the total group:
- What character(s) are you most like right now when it comes to the possessions in your life?
- How do you see the character’s possessions encouraging or getting in the way of his or her relationship with God?
Jesus, a poor man living in a world where most people were so poor that they only had the food they needed to live day-to-day, is remembered as teaching people to be careful about thinking that “things” would make them happy. He invited people to see that true life was about something better than just having lots of stuff. But he also knew that in order to see that better way of life, sometimes we have to let go of some of the clutter that keeps us from seeing God’s love more clearly.
Read Matthew 6:19-21, and invite the group to meditate on the passage in silence or perhaps by using the ancient prayer practice of Lectio Divina.
Brainstorms some ideas as a group for simplifying your lives, including giving up some unneeded possessions. Try some of these ideas for starting this practice today. Perhaps take on a challenge as a group to adopt some some of these practices during the holiday season.
Close in prayer.
Note: Some of this Bible study was inspired by the resources from the Way to Live text and companion site.