Before class begins, print out pages of the picture template found here. Print off one page for every eight students. Each picture depicts a different lifestyle: wealthy, middle class, lower class, poverty. Cut pictures apart and place each one separately in sealed envelopes; mix them up. As the students come into class, randomly hand each student a sealed envelope with a picture inside that depicts one of the various lifestyles. Explain that they should not open the envelopes until they are instructed to do so.
Our world is made up of those who have more than enough, those who have enough to meet all their needs, those who barely make it from one paycheck to the next, and those who have nothing. The first three of these groups have their medical, housing, food, and transportation needs met by an inheritance, employment, or government welfare. The fourth group, those who have nothing, are homeless and our poorest members of society. They normally live on the streets, in cardboard boxes or makeshift huts, or whatever they can find for shelter. The only way they get their needs met is by picking through trash, begging, or from handouts. They are often snubbed by the others and judged by their lack.
We don’t always get to choose what type of life or values we have. Some are born into fame and wealth, while others are born into a comfortable lifestyle for which they have to work to maintain. Then there are those who are born into and live their entire lives in poverty with little or no resources to change their predicament.
Today you were handed an envelope. The picture inside describes an economic lifestyle. Pretend that you have been born into this and will live in that lifestyle for the remainder of your days. Allow your teens to open their envelopes. Go around the room and allow students to express how they feel about the lifestyle they have been handed. Encourage them to imagine what their life will be like. For students who receive a picture of the lifestyle they actually belong to in real life, ask them to share what some of the dangers of living that way might be (example: if someone actually lives in a low-income situation and receives the poverty picture, they might share that a danger would be discouragement and hopelessness. Someone who lives in an upper middleclass lifestyle who receives that picture might list taking things for granted, a sense of entitlement, or the need to “keep up with the Joneses” as a possible danger.) Once your students have all had a chance to share, discuss:
We all have values that we live our lives by. Our values dictate the type of house we expect to live in, the kind of schools we attend, the type of car we drive, the clothes we wear, or the type of people we interact with.
- Do we unconsciously communicate values that we don’t really intend to, and if so, how? (Answers will vary, but should include some of the following points: Our values come from the way we are raised, our relationships, and the society we live in. Even though we say we don’t care about popularity, style, money, or other’s opinions—our actions and words tell a different story.)
- Let’s pretend you are seated next to a new kid at school who is wearing out-of-fashion, ill-fitting, worn clothing, has an outdated haircut, thick glasses, and a slightly unpleasant odor. What would your inward thoughts be, and would you choose to interact with that person? Why or why not? (Allow a few students to answer. Accept all answers without judgment.)
- What if you were very poor and the new kid was unmistakably from a very wealthy family? What would your thoughts be? Would you choose to interact with that person or keep your distance? Why? (Ask a couple of students to answer question.)
Although it sometimes happens in America, we don’t often see too many living in extreme poverty with a dozen people crammed into a makeshift shack, or people with extended bellies due to malnutrition. But in other countries, the majority of the people live that way. It’s very easy to overlook the needs of others when we aren’t interacting with them on a daily basis. It’s easy to discount them and just not think about their situation since it doesn’t affect us directly.
Today, we’re going to talk about a group of people who had exactly this type of attitude. They were blessed by God and lived a wealthy lifestyle. Let’s take a look at how God felt about the whole situation and what He had to say about it.