Self-Control Object Lesson {Joshua 7}

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We live in a world where everyone does what is right in their own eyes. Self-control is not a valued character trait. Here is a fun self-control object lesson that kids can do themselves. Helping our children understand the importance of self-control is a step in the right direction on the narrow path of godliness. {Deuteronomy 5:32}

Use the dramatic story of Ai and Achan, along with a jar, bowl, toilet paper roll, and a tennis ball, to teach a fun self-control object lesson!

Scripture Focus: Joshua 7

Materials: a wide mouth jar or glass, a tennis ball, a plastic bowl, a toilet paper roll (make sure the ball fits into the jar. If you feel daring, use a raw egg!)

Self-Control Object Lesson:

{Place the jar on a table. Put the bowl on top of the jar. Stand the toilet paper roll in the middle of the bowl. Place the tennis ball on top of the roll. This is a great physics experiment for teaching laws of motion. But we’re going to use it for self-control.}

image of stacked glass, plastic bowl, toilet paper roll and the tennis ball

Let’s predict. What do you think will happen if I knock the bowl out of the way? [Allow for answers.] Let’s see who is correct.

First I’m going to try to hit the bowl with a little bit of force. {With your hand about 12 inches from the bowl, slowly and lightly, move your hand to strike the bowl to the left (or right). The bowl should not move much. The ball might fall off though. But it isn’t much fun to watch.}

What happened? [Allow answers.]

{Don’t really do this next part. Allow the children to imagine.} What do you think would happen if I knocked the bowl REALLY, REALLY hard? [Everything would go flying across the room.]

So hitting the bowl with too little force, and hitting the bowl with too much force, will cause our experiment to not work correctly. I must knock the bowl with just the right amount of force. {Knock the bowl out and the tennis ball should fall right into the jar.}

Bible Lesson for Self-Control:

God used Joshua and the Israelites to destroy Jericho. One of the requirements God gave to Joshua was that none of the Israelites were to take anything from Jericho.

The next city to conquer was Ai. Joshua sent spies to the surrounding area and they were to report back to him. The report concluded that the city had few people and that only 2-3,000 soldiers were needed to destroy it. Joshua sent 3,000 men to fight. What was to be an easy battle, ended up with the Israelites retreating and 36 men dead.

Joshua, totally confused, fell on his face before the Lord. God then told him that Israel had sinned. He told Joshua that someone had taken some of the riches from Jericho. God explained to Joshua that he needed to find the man and get rid of him.

Joshua called all of Israel to come before him. By casting lots, he figured out that the man came from the tribe of Judah. By process of elimination, Achan stood before Joshua. Joshua told him, “Glorify God and confess what you have done.”

Achan replied that when he saw the spoils of Jericho, he coveted them. With a lack of self-control, he gathered up some of the riches and buried them beneath his tent.

Joshua sent messengers to go to Achan’s tent to find the spoils. They brought them back and laid them before the Lord.

So Joshua took Achan, all of the spoils from Jericho, all of his animals, his tent, and his sons and daughters, and took them outside the camp. The Israelites then stoned them to death and burned everything with fire.

Life Application for Self-Control:

When we think about this story, we must remember that God is a holy God. We must also remember the verse that states, “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)

What did Achan say caused him to take the spoils of Jericho? [He coveted them.] Coveting is a sin. That’s one of the ten commandments. But he went even farther. He then broke another commandment: stealing. He did not control himself. Coveting was bad enough…but then he acted on that sin in his heart.

What is self-control? [Allow for answers; it is the ability to control ones emotions and actions]

{Set up the experiment again.} Sometimes we are like this experiment. {Hit the bowl lightly.} There are times when we do not control ourselves and we are lazy. We don’t put much effort into doing something. Perhaps it is school work, or trying to do better at a sport, or reading our Bibles.

{Pretend to hit the bowl REALLY hard.} Pretend I hit this too hard. Sometimes we overindulge. Maybe you talk too much, eat too much food, act to crazy in the classroom. These examples are a lack of self-control as well. This experiment does not work well with the wrong amount of force.

What is the fruit of the Spirit? [See if they can list all 9.]

Self-control comes to us from the Holy Spirit. We must ask him for help with our self-control. He is the one who helps us have just the right balance of force. {Do the experiment again with the ball landing in the jar.} We cannot have good self-control without the Holy Spirit. Our lives will only work right when we have the Holy Spirit guiding us.

{Hold up and read the poster.}

Think about the city of Ai. It didn’t have strong walls like Jericho. It didn’t have many people living in it either. Ai should have been easily destroyed. That’s what a person is without self-control. You are like a city that can be easily destroyed. What will destroy you? What destroyed Achan? [Sin]

Sin will destroy you. Bad choices will destroy you. Who else was destroyed by Achan’s decision to lack self-control? [his family] When we make poor decisions and show a lack of self-control, we destroy ourselves and our families.

What are some ways you lose your self-control? [Allow for answers; anger, laziness, manipulation, greediness, gluttony, etc.]

Those of use who have Jesus as our Lord and Savior have a strong wall that surrounds us. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit surround us. We are safe from the enemy when we obey God. But if we decide to step outside of the walls and do our own thing, then that is when we are defenseless and our poor decisions will hurt us and those we love.

What can we learn from Achan? If we want to be godly, then we must ask the Holy Spirit every day to give us the fruit of the Spirit, which includes self-control.

{Display the poster in the room throughout this series and read it each week.}

Other Resources for Joshua:






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