Youth Lessons:  September 7 — September 28, 2014

Matthew 18:15-20

Have you ever been aware of someone talking about you behind your back? Usually this means there is already conflict in the relationship. Talking behind your back doesn’t help the situation at all, and in fact, it makes it worse.

The Gospel of Matthew offers five “if” statements to help us deal with conflict.

Matthew 18 refers to someone in the church who offends another person in the church — although “offend” might be too easy of a word. The word “sin” is used only in this passage and one other place in Matthew, meaning that it has to be a serious offense.

So what are you supposed to do when someone offends you?

First, approach the other person in private and explain how you have been offended. If you work things out, then the relationship is healed. If not, meet with the person again, but this time with two or three others present to act as witnesses. If this doesn’t work, present the offense to the entire church body. If there is still no repentance, then the offending party should be treated like an outsider to the church body.

There are two things that may seem strange to us in this passage: (1) The offended person initiates the discussion, and (2) the ordeal should be kept as private as possible. Maybe this does make sense because sometimes we don’t know we have offended someone, so the discussion should start with the offended party. By meeting together in private, the reputation of the offending person isn’t harmed.

77 times!
Matthew 18:21-35

Forgiveness is hard. It doesn’t seem to be the “natural” thing to do. Doesn’t revenge seem like a more normal response? We don’t want to forgive because we feel like we have been wronged or we want to get back at the other person. In Matthew 18, Jesus says we are supposed to forgive, but not just once, or even seven times, but 77 times!

The fact that it is Peter in this story who asks Jesus about forgiveness shouldn’t be a surprise. It isn’t because Peter has sinned against his fellow disciples all the time, but rather he seems edgy. Peter thinks he is going over and above when Jesus says Peter should forgive seven times, because that is twice what the rabbis teach. Maybe Peter is going with the number seven because it is considered to be perfect and represents completion, so forgiving seven times would be forgiving perfectly and completely. But even “seven” would pale in comparison to what Jesus asks of his followers.

Jesus calls us to forgive 77 times! Imagine someone sinning against you 77 times and you forgiving them all 77 times. For smaller things we probably wouldn’t think twice about it. But what if it was a deep hurt? Can you imagine forgiving a person 77 times? You might not even be over the first offense before the next one occurs.

Seventy-seven times would have been a mind-boggling number, so much so that Jesus told a parable to explain it further. In the parable a man fails to learn that to be forgiven, he must also learn to forgive. Each of us has been forgiven by God, and not only 77 times, but an infinite number of times.

Youth Lessons by David Cassady and online youth teaching resources (at by Jeremy Colliver build off of the Bible lessons by Tony Cartledge.

Youth lessons are made possible through the generous support of the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation.


Think About It:
How do you deal with conflict? Do you handle it in a healthy way? If not, how might the guidelines suggested in today’s lesson help you resolve your issues in a healthier way?

Make a Choice:
Talking to someone directly is not always the easiest thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. How will you choose to handle conflict the next time it happens? Will you talk to others about the person with whom you have a problem or go to the person directly?

Dear God, help us handle conflict in a way that honors everyone so the body of Christ may be whole again.


Think About It:
Jesus wants us be a forgiving people. What makes it so hard to forgive? How can your faith help you become more forgiving?

Make a Choice:
When someone offends you, it’s your choice whether or not to forgive that person. How do you choose to forgive someone?

Dear God, thank you for forgiving us again and again and again. May our hearts be shaped so that we also can be generous in showing forgiveness.

Life’s Not Fair
Matthew 20:1-16

How many times have you said, “Life’s not fair!”? If you ask your parents, they might roll their eyes and laugh at you because they hear it so often.

There are many times when life doesn’t seem fair, but that is usually because we are looking at the situation from our own perspective. The more distance we have from a situation, the more fair someone else’s perspective may seem, because it is no longer happening to us.

Reading the parable in Matthew 20 makes us want to say, “That’s not fair!” The parable ends with one of the most quoted scriptures: The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. What are we supposed to do with a passage that doesn’t seem fair, but we like its teaching?

In the parable, each person who has worked receives the same wage at the end of the day, no matter if he has worked all day or part of the day. On top of that, everyone receives the pay they had earlier agreed to earn. It still doesn’t seem right. Working more should mean more pay, right?

We want to hear the parable through our sense of fairness. Jesus wants us to read it thinking about grace. The parable is not about the pay someone should receive for a day’s work, but instead the reward we will receive in God’s kingdom. It doesn’t matter when we accept God’s grace; it only matters that we accept it. Grace is not something that is pro-rated, but an all-or-nothing kind of gift offered by God.

That Jesus?
Matthew 21:23-32

When you hear the name “Jesus,” what images enter your head? For most people it is the image of a gentle Jesus with a lamb or children sitting at his feet — maybe around a table eating and laughing. Another image of Jesus, also very real, is him confronting people.

In today’s lesson, Jesus has traveled and taught far and wide but has now returned and is going to teach in the temple. When he arrives at the temple, he doesn’t like what he sees.

Likewise, the priests at the temple have heard about him and aren’t thrilled with him being there. They question Jesus to try and trap him so they can get rid of him. Instead, Jesus flips the tables (not literally this time) and asks the priests a question. They are stumped by the question and have to answer with “We don’t know.” Because the priests don’t provide an answer, Jesus doesn’t tell them by what authority he does the things he does.

Jesus then tells the priests a parable and asks them to identify which son they are in the story. Those who hear Jesus’ story, no doubt, understand that Jesus is calling out the priests for not being receptive to the will of the Father.

There’s an old saying: “Do as I say, not as I do.” In this encounter, Jesus is pointing out how the priests’ actions do not match their words. We have to both walk the walk and talk the talk.


Think About It:
Although none of us deserve the grace we receive, sometimes we don’t want to give grace to others. Why do we not want to give others the grace we ourselves have received?

Make a Choice:
It is human nature to judge others by what we think they deserve rather than giving them grace. How can we learn to better follow God’s example in how we treat others?

Dear God, thank you for the grace we have received and do not deserve. May we freely pass that same grace on to others.


Think About It:
Some people find it easier to talk about what they believe and why they believe it, while others find it easier to live out their faith. If you had to describe yourself, would you be a “walker” or a “talker”?

Make a Choice:
We say all kinds of things every day without even opening our mouths. We speak with our actions. What do your actions say about what you believe and who you follow?

God, may our words and deeds point to you and show your care and love to others.