As your teens enter the classroom, have them write a response to this question on the whiteboard: What is the most selfish act you have ever witnessed? Be sure your students don’t include names in their responses. Their answers might include something like someone brake-checking them on the highway or cutting in line when they’ve been standing there a really long time. Once everyone has had a chance to respond, read through a few non-relational responses (save responses about relationships for later).
We can be pretty selfish people sometimes, can’t we? So many things in our society—from an “I-want-it-the-way-I-want-it” cup of coffee, to choices that impact the environment come to mind. Here’s one disgusting example:
Share this video with your teens [2:01]:
Flushable wipes clogging sewer system
The waste management spokesperson agreed that throwing wipes away rather than flushing them is an unpleasant prospect, but then went on to comment that if you do opt to flush them, someone else later on—after a lot of extra time and money—is throwing away your wipes for you. That’s pretty nauseating—and pretty selfish.
But what about when we are making environmentally responsible choices? Are those always decisions that aren’t motivated by self? Here’s what one university professor has to say on that subject.
Show this video to your students [1:03]:
What motivates people to make environmental decisions?
- The college professor seemed pretty convinced that self is often a driving factor in choices being made—at least with getting an electric car. What do you think about that and why? (Answers will vary.)
Draw your students’ attention back to the whiteboard. Now take note of responses that involved relationships; read some of those. Answers might range from someone’s little brother always taking the biggest piece of cake for himself to a boyfriend/girlfriend always choosing the movie they want to see without letting their partner choose occasionally, etc. If there aren’t a lot of relational examples on the board, ask for some now.
- How do you think relationships are affected by this kind of behavior? (Answers will vary but may include: Relationships affected by selfishness are going to leave one or both parties angry; there is no love in that relationship, because love isn’t selfish; hurtful words will come sooner or later when someone acts selfishly; the relationship may actually be destroyed if selfish behaviors prevail.)
Selfishness—a desire to have things go your own way—in any form is destructive to relationships.
- Can you think of a time when selfishness destroyed or greatly hindered a relationship? Tell us about it. (Allow students to share without mentioning names or too many details. Answers might include a divorce, situations where siblings end up not speaking to each other all of their adult lives for something that occurred in childhood, or friends who wouldn’t reconcile. Be prepared to share your own experience.)
In this “it’s-all-about-me” society we live in, selfishness is commonplace. But selfishness is nothing new. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about a seriously troubled relationship between twin brothers where selfishness tore a family apart.
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You can find Steps 2 and 3 in your teacher’s guide; your Step 4 appears below. To purchase a teacher's guide, please visit: Bible-in-Life or Echoes
Today we learned that selfishness destroys every relationship it touches. In Isaac and Rebekah’s family, every member was affected by the selfish actions that took place. Esau, who had selfishly chosen not to build a relationship with Jacob, ended up deceived and saddened. Rebekah lost her favorite son when he had to run away from Esau. Esau lost his birthright to his selfish demands for food and lost his peace of mind to the agony of bitterness. Jacob lost his home, his relationship with his mom, the respect of his father, and gained the threats and anger of his brother. We can only imagine the strain all of this put on elderly Isaac who was lied to and manipulated by the people who were supposed to love him the most.
Hand out index cards and writing utensils to your students. Ask them to find a spot in the room where they can think and write undisturbed. Ask them to spend some time thinking about ways they have acted selfishly in relationships with others. This could be as simple as always wanting to be the first in line for something to more complicated manipulations or lies to promote themselves over someone else. How have these selfish actions affected others? Ask them to make a note of anything that comes to mind.
Challenge your students to take a good, hard look at their list this week and select at least one act of selfishness they can try to redeem by acting selflessly toward that person. Explain to your students that this could be easier said than done as a truly selfless act will not involve anything that will promote them in any way. Be sure they know that a “look at me, I’m acting selflessly” attitude will negate the purpose of the exercise.
Be sure to ask next week if anyone would like to share about their experience.
Close in prayer.
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