This Christian object lesson uses money to demonstrate how salvation through Jesus Christ is a free gift God offers; all we have to do is receive it!
God's salvation through Jesus Christ is a free gift; it is not based on our works.
A five-dollar bill or any amount of money
Ephesians 2:8-10 - "For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them."
I normally use a five-dollar bill for this lesson, but for younger children you could just use a one-dollar bill or for teens you may want to use a ten or twenty. It depends on the effect you want!
Pull the money out and talk about how it is your money and how you came about having it whether you earned it or it was given to you as a gift. Whatever the case may be, it belongs to you.
Ask students what they would do if they had the amount of money you are showing them commenting on what you think of each idea.
Begin reading Ephesians 2:8-10. Ask what it means for something to be a free gift. Allow time for answers, and then comment - "So if I wanted to give this money away and offered it as a free gift to anyone who wanted it, they could come and take it for their own without working or doing anything for it except to just receive it?"
Continue making similar comments while waving the money around until someone gets up and comes and receives the money as their own.
Ask if the person had to do anything for the money to be theirs.
Some may comment, "no," but the answer is yes!
They had to actively receive it. The money was offered to anyone that would come and take it. Any one of them could have received it as a free gift; so why didn't they?
God offers us His gift of eternal life, salvation & rescue from sin through Jesus' death on the cross; why don't some people get saved then?
Allow students to discuss the reasons; then point out that although salvation is a free gift God offers, He does not force us to accept it. He has given us free will to choose to receive His gift of love and a relationship with Him...or not.
We all know John 3:16; let's quote it. How many of us know John 3:17-18 though?
It goes on to say - "For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God."
Only one person got the money. It was not automatic though just because it was offered. They had to choose to get up and actively receive it. Everyone else still made a choice...the rest of you chose not to receive it. Everyone had the opportunity.
A free gift cannot be forced and remain a free gift. Love can be given, but cannot be forced to be returned. It is a choice, an act of our will. God has offered, but He gives us the choice to receive Him or not.
Read Ephesians 2:8-10 again and ask which comes first the word "faith" or the word "works".
Draw a simple train engine with a couple of train cars behind it.
Write the word "FAITH" on the engine and "WORKS" on the train cars. Just as the train cars do not come first and pull the engine, our works are not what initiates faith. Both grace and faith are part of God's free gift that He first offers. Once we have received it, salvation is ours. And because we have received it, then good works follow because of God in us and at work in our lives!
Give students time to sit quietly without looking around and contemplate if they have received God's free gift of salvation, and if not, then why not.
Close in prayer thanking God for providing salvation as a free gift. Thank Him for sending Jesus to die and pay the price for that gift which saves us from the penalty of sin because we cannot in and of our own works and effort.
Be available for individual questions afterward.