Feb 25

“Transaction or Transformation?” An object lesson for Lent, Week 3

I hope your Lenten season is going well, and that you and your church families are growing closer to the Lord as we all prepare for the coming of Easter. The lesson for the third week in Lent touches upon a theme, and a temptation, that I know I need instruction in order to avoid. Because SO much of our culture has been absorbed into thinking of things and experiences in terms of transactions, it is easy to view people and relationships in that way, too. I hope the following lesson blesses you this coming week.


Chaplain Chris Haugheestack-christian-books

Lent, Week 3: “Transaction or Transformation”

Objects needed: a pile of self-help books, brochures, especially if you can find some that say “3 quick steps to…,” advertisements, magazines… whatever you can get your hands on that suggest a “transaction” that makes things better for you without much effort.

Theme/Main Idea: When it comes to a relationship with God, it is always tempting to turn the relationship into a transaction. Transformation is harder and takes longer, so of course we want to shorten it and make it easier. The problem is that the transaction is a trap and we start to bargain with God. We wonder how many sacrifices we can make until God will bless us. Jesus cleared the temple so we could see that God wants (and we need) transformation and not a transaction.


“Good morning! How are you this morning? Are you filling up your change cans at home or in your Sunday school class? I sure hope so! It makes a big difference in the lives of the children at Intermountain. We’re already in our third week of Lent and today we come to one of the more surprising stories in the Bible about Jesus. But, before I get into that, I am wondering if you can guess what story I am talking about if I show you my items for today’s object lesson?

[take brochures, magazines with advertisements, self-help books, etc. out and show the kids… you might need to play it up a little by reading some of the titles or advertisements and talk about how you just need to read that article or buy that item and everything will be better!]

So… any guesses as to what story about Jesus I am referring to? [kids guess] All great guesses. I am thinking that the most surprising story about Jesus is the one we come to today in the gospel lesson where Jesus comes into the temple and clears out the money changers and those selling animals for sacrifice. When you read the story, it seems like Jesus is really upset! Why do you think Jesus acted this way?

[give children time to respond]

Well, I’d like to share some ideas with you about why I think Jesus might have been so upset. Do you know what a transaction is? No? It’s where I give you something and you give me something back. Most often, we think about transactions that involve money… you know, buying stuff. I want a candy bar, so I go to the store and I give them 79 cents for a Snickers bar. They get my money, I get the candy bar… we both go away happy. At least we’re happy for that moment.

Now, what happens when we start thinking about our relationship with God as a form of transaction? I pray and I hope God gives me stuff. I give money to the church, so I want to have a say in how the leaders of the church spend “my” money.

I want something really bad, even a good thing—like a parent, friend, or grandparent healed from a yucky illness—so I promise God that if he does that thing for me, I’ll do something in return… a transaction. God gets something… right?… and I get something I want in return.

That’s how it should work, don’t you think?!

[hopefully, some of the kids disagree and show it!]

Why are you guys looking at me that way? Is there something wrong with thinking about our relationship with God this way? Yes, and I think Jesus has a problem with us viewing God as the great big shopping mall in the sky. God wants a relationship with us, and wants us to pray to him about everything… not just when we want something.

When we pray this way and treat God like a friend and not a vending machine, something happens to us. We are transformed. We experience God’s love that is bigger than anything we could have asked for in the first place. We can’t buy it, and God isn’t selling it. It’s a gift, and it’s free.

Let’s pray:

God, thank you for your transforming love. Correct us when we are tempted to think we can earn your love or buy our happiness with money or good deeds. Jesus, just as you cleared out the temple, clear out our hearts. Make us clean and new. The only transaction we are interested in is accepting your love and grace, freely given to us this day and always. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we pray. Amen.

Key Text: John 2:13-22 (NIV)

Jesus Clears the Temple Courts

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.