Scripture Reference: Luke 18:9-14

Related Scripture Reference: Romans 3:23

We live in a culture that often downplays the seriousness of sin. This lesson will remind children how terrible sin is in the eyes of God. Sin can lead to God’s punishment. If we don’t confess it and trust Jesus as our Savior, it will keep us away from God for an eternity.

Today we’re going to read a story about a religious man called a Pharisee and a bad man called a tax collector. Today, the Pharisee would be like a preacher at a church or a teacher in a college. He knew God’s Word well and was capable of teaching it to others. The Pharisees were careful to do everything God had said to do in the Bible. Tax collectors, on the other hand, weren’t liked by anyone. They collected taxes for the Roman government. Rome was the foreign nation ruling over the nation of Israel during Jesus’ lifetime. Tax collectors had to collect the amount the government told them to, but they would often collect more than that and put in their own pockets. Many people considered them robbers and thieves. One of Jesus’ disciples, Matthew (Levi), was a tax collector before he became a follower of Jesus.

Let’s say our memory verse together. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT).

Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and tax collector because some people thought they could be good enough for God to accept them. These same people thought they were much better than others and tended to look down on those not like themselves. The two groups of people in Jesus’ day who thought like this were the Pharisees and Sadducees. Both groups were leaders in the church of Jesus’ day, but the way they thought God accepted a person was wrong. Jesus had to correct their way of thinking.

Reflection: What does our memory verse say all people are? Do you think God loves us because we’re good or just because he wants to love us? Should we come to church to show off or because we love God?

People in Jesus’ time went to the Temple to pray just like we do when we come to church. Jesus tells about a Pharisee who went to the Temple to pray. He wasn’t the only one there; there were probably many other people praying as well. This religious man probably walked down to the front where everyone could see him before he started praying.

Reflection: What are some things we should do when we come to church? Why should we come to church?

The Pharisee’s prayer was boastful and selfish. He began by thanking God that he wasn’t a sinner like everyone else, especially the tax collector in the corner. He listed sins he had never committed and then told about all the good things he did for God.

Reflection: What are some things we might boast about that we do for God? Instead of bragging, what should the Pharisee have done? Can we ever be good enough to make God love us?

The tax collector’s prayer was quite different. He stood at the back and wouldn’t even look toward heaven. He knew he was a sinner and told God how sorry he was. He cried out for God to forgive him. Jesus concluded the story by saying the tax collector was the one who went home forgiven.

Reflection: Why do you think God forgave the tax collector and not the Pharisee? The tax collector confessed his sins to God. What do you think it mean to confess your sins?

Read the following verse: But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness (1 John 1:9 NLT).

What does God promise to do when we confess our sins? The Pharisee thought he was better than the tax collector, but were they really different in God’s eyes?

Game:

Who’s Who

Use this game as an icebreaker that’ll get kids talking and laughing as they learn about various people from the Bible. Write the names of people from the Bible on 3×5 index cards. (If you have a big group of kids, you can repeat names.) You could include Jesus, Mary, Joseph, God, Noah, Moses, David, Rachel, Jonah, Judas, and Lazarus.

Tape the cards with the names on the children’s foreheads without them seeing who they are. Then provide everyone with a master list of names so kids have some idea of who they might be. Give kids 10 minutes to go around the group, asking only yes-or-no questions to try to discover their identity. Give kids these hints: Their questions should start out broad, such as “Am I a boy? Am I a girl?” Then questions can get more specific, such as “Am I in Jesus’ family?” “Did I build something?”

Let children draw and then color their rendition of the Pharisee and Tax Collector.