Holiness is a big word that can be difficult to define. It seems like perhaps it should be reserved for God alone, but His Word clearly states that Christians are to be holy as well. Helping children understand this at an early age can help them understand a topic that many adults struggle to explain. Defining holiness for kids can be done by using several methods including objects lessons, examples, and games.
God is Holy
Most people understand that God Almighty is holy. Exodus 15:11 says, “Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders.” (NIV) God is set apart from any other being. In Hannah’s prayer given in 2 Samuel 2:2, she says, “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one beside you; there is no Rock like our God.” (NIV) God’s holiness stands out; no one can compare.
In its most basic definition, holiness means pure and set apart. As the above scriptures teach, God, in His holiness is set apart from any other god or being. He is pure. There is no wrong found in Him. Another definition is: exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness. In kid terms, this means something so special and perfect that we can’t help but love it, serve it, and tell it how wonderful it is.
For people to be holy, it means being like God in their behavior and actions. It’s in how they live their lives. Words are important, so it does matter what you say, but the way you behave is a living example for everyone around. Christians can live set apart. They can live pure lives. They can show the fruits of the Spirit every day. This is how holiness is displayed in the Christ-follower.
We Can Be Holy
Amazingly, holiness is not just reserved for God or the Holy Bible sitting on your living room shelf. God shares His holiness with His people. This is a fact because the Bible tells you so. Here are a few verses you can share with kids that help explain this concept. Way back in the Old Testament, God passed this message on to Moses. “Speak to the whole community of Israel. Tell them, ‘Be holy, because I am holy. I am the Lord your God.’” (Leviticus 19:2, NIrV) God is holy, therefore we are to be holy.
In the New Testament, this is reiterated multiple times. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says, “The God who chose you is holy. So you should be holy in all that you do. It is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy.’” (NIrV) That’s worth repeating. Be holy in ALL that you do. Not just on Sundays or when someone is watching. Display goodness and righteousness always.
When you love Jesus, you should live a holy life. 2 Timothy 1:9 explains it like this: “God has saved us. He has chosen us to live a holy life. It wasn’t because of anything we have done. It was because of his purpose and grace. Through Christ Jesus, God gave us this grace even before time began.” People can’t be holy because of their own doing. There’s no checklist to be completed to earn holiness. They are allowed to be holy through Jesus.
Examples of Holiness
Illustrations can be a good way to help students see a clearer picture of what holiness means. One way to explain it is by using the example of the sun. The sun is so bright and powerful. Without it, living things could not survive. God in His holiness is like the sun. This powerful star doesn’t keep its gift to itself. It provides light and warmth through its rays to every living thing on the earth. People get to be on the receiving end of their gifts. In the same way, Christians are recipients of God’s holiness. They get to reflect his goodness and light.
Another example is to talk about the holidays. Kids are familiar with days like Thanksgiving and Memorial Day. These days are special. They are set apart for a specific reason. Presidents and leaders declare these days sacred by closing businesses and schools. Many people use these days to celebrate. When Christians display holiness, they are seen as set apart as well. They look different than everyone else.
One last way to discuss holiness through illustration is to use the example of an old children’s chapter book, The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skeen Catling. In this fictional story, a boy named John can turn everything his lips touch into chocolate. Have kids imagine if everything they touched turned to chocolate or something else they enjoy. This mysterious ability is like God giving us holiness. Everything God touches is holy. So, His children (Christ-followers) have access to holiness through His Son, Jesus.
Hands-On Object Lessons and Games
Sometimes kids need to do something for themselves to understand a concept. Here are a few ideas that can help children wrap their minds around what holiness means. The first is a simple game that can be played anywhere. Have kids sit across from you and tell them to pretend they are looking into a mirror. They should do everything that you do, mirroring your actions. Explain that imitating, like the reflection in a mirror, is what we should do with God. He is holy; therefore we are to be holy.
Another idea is to get several objects that can be used to clean something. Use things like a toothbrush, a washcloth, hand sanitizer, dusting spray, dish soap, laundry detergent, and a hand-held vacuum. Put all the items in a box. Have kids take turns pulling out an object and telling you what it is used for. See if they can come up with what all the items have in common – they are all used to make something clean. Have a conversation about holiness being something that Christians possess to show they are pure and set apart from the world.
A similar activity would be to get several random objects to play “One of These Things is Not Like the Other.” Put the items together in groups of four. Three items should go together, and one won’t belong. For example, you could have a plate, fork, napkin, and Lego. Which one doesn’t belong? The Lego, of course. The rest are used when eating a meal. Separate the Lego from the other items. Having holiness means being set apart. You look and act differently because of God’s holiness.
This last object lesson requires silly putty and newspapers. Show kids how to flatten a piece of silly putty and press it against a newspaper clipping. Pull it off and reveal the imprint of the paper onto the putty. Just like the silly putty picks up the image of the newspaper, Christians can pick up the holiness of God. They are imprints of God’s holiness. Of course, a person’s holiness won’t be perfect, and it might be a little smudged, but it will look a whole lot like the original.
Conclusions on Holiness
Holiness can be a big, scary word, but kids must have a basic understanding of its concepts. The bottom line is that a Christian can possess holiness because of their relationship to God through Jesus. God is holy therefore His followers are to be holy. Holiness means being set apart; it’s being a reflection of God’s goodness and righteousness. It means not looking like the rest of the world but imitating a perfect Savior. With a few simple definitions, some hands-on activities, and object lessons, kids can grasp what it means to have holiness in their lives.
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