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The Giving Tree - A Bible Lesson in The Art of Giving

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein can be used to help children learn the joy that is found in giving to others. It is also a fun and easy book to read aloud to any age.

A lesson on giving to others is an essential one to teach our children in this day and age.

Summary of the Giving Tree

"Once there was a tree..." the story begins as an apple tree befriends a small boy.

As the boy grows, the tree gives of herself and her resources to make him happy.

She gives her apples so that he will have money, she gives her branches so that he can build a house and have a family, she gives her trunk so that he can build a boat and sail far away. Each time she gives - the tree is happy.

Finally the giving tree is only a stump, but when she is able to be a place for the boy (now an old man) to sit and rest, she is happy once again.

This story easily contrasts the lack of contentment of the boy who is constantly receiving and the contentment of the tree based soley upon her heart to give. It also depicts that giving is a visible action of love.


Make a Book into a Bible Lesson

Use The Giving Tree to help children understand the concept that God gives great joy to those that are cheerful givers and that giving is a true act of love.

Read Aloud

Attain a copy of the book from your local library or it may also be ordered at the bottom of this lesson.  You may also listen to the video reading above and tell the story in your own words.

When reading aloud, remember to read slowly giving children time to absorb the meaning as they view the illustrations.  If retelling the story in your own words, use facial and body expressions to instill emotion and visual context for the story.

Lesson Script

God's ways are not like man's ways. God says it is better to give than receive. He loves to bless a cheerful giver. When we give to others with a heart of love, it brings us great joy and contentment (that means being truly happy with what you have).

Have students locate and read aloud the following Bible verses:  Acts 20:35; Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:7 (all above)

The world in which we live says: "Look out for number one!" and "Get all you can; they owe you."

This isn't what Jesus taught. In Acts 20:35, Paul recalls the words of Jesus, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

Luke also records further teaching by Jesus in Luke 6:38:

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Still another time Paul focuses on our attitude for giving.

2 Corinthians 9:7 says:

"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."


Things to Talk about

  1. What were some of the things the tree and the boy enjoyed doing together? Would you say they were good friends?
  2. As the boy grew, what things did the tree give the boy?  Why did she give these to him?
  3. What made the tree happy?
  4. In this book, who gave and who took?  Which one was happy and what made them happy?
  5. Could you tell the tree loved the boy?  How?  
  6. Do you think the boy was every really happy?  Why do you think that?
  7. What adjectives would you use to describe the tree?  What adjectives would you use to describe the boy?  
  8. After reading the story, which character would you want as a friend - the tree or the boy?  Why?  
  9. Look at the trunk of the tree; did you notice the two hearts?  Whose initials do you think they have carved in them?  Which heart remained all the way to the end?  Why do you think the illustrator included these?

Explain that giving is one way we can show others we care and that we love them.  Think about how it makes you feel when you give something to someone else.  When we make others happy by giving, it also makes us happy too!

God demonstrated His love by giving too!  Romans 5:8 tells us - 

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  NIV

John 3:16 also says "For God so love the world, He gave..." Have students say the rest if they know it from memory or look up what/Who God gave.

The Bible also says "We love because He first loved us."  Jesus tells us in John 15:12 that we are to love others just as He has loved us.  God shows His love by giving and we can do the same!


1 John 4:19 "We love, because He first loved us."

John 15:12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you."


Make a Giving Tree

Have children draw a basic tree (or make one ahead of time) and color it.

Give them old magazines, and ask them to cut out pictures of items that could be given to someone else - such as food, clothing, toys,etc.

Let them glue these to their "giving tree." As they do, discuss who they would want to give something to and why.

Remind them of all the wonderful things God gives to us each day.

Take time to pray and give thanks to God.  Encourage kids to do the same each day.


The Giving Game

(played like "Duck, duck, goose")

Bring a small wrapped gift (small enough to fit in children's hands). Have kids sit in a circle with their hands behind their back.

One child can be the "giver." As others close their eyes, the "giver" walks around the outside of the circle and chooses one person's hands to secretly place the gift.

He then begins to run around the circle as the receiver jumps up to chase him. Once the giver is seated in the receiver's place without being caught, the receiver says "thank you!"

Now he becomes the giver and the game continues.

Remind the students how God's Word says in Matthew 6:2-4:

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."


© Copyright 2007 Susan Smart


If you purchase a copy of The Giving Tree  through the following ChristianBook.com link, our site will receive a small percentage; this helps us continue offering free Bible Lessons online. 

The Giving Tree
By Shel Silverstein / HarperCollins

Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy.
So begins a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein. Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk--and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave.

This is a tender story, touched with sadness, aglow with consolation. Shel Silverstein has created a moving parable for readers of all ages that offers an affecting interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another's capacity to love in return. Recommended especially for ages 10 and up.

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Additional ideas for older students...click here. 


More by the author - Shel Silverstein

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