Righteousness is an attribute that all Christians should strive for. Breaking down this big word and giving kids ideas of how to apply righteousness in their lives can help set them on the right path in their walk with the Lord. It’s not easy though. Here are our best tips for defining righteousness to kids in a way they can understand.
The most basic way to define righteousness is simply: “doing what is right in the sight of God”. Kids have an understanding of right and wrong from a very early age. By the toddler stage, they learn not to pull the cat’s tail or touch a hot stove. Whether they obey it or not, they know that hitting and throwing a fit is wrong. From early on, children are disciplined for making wrong choices and praised when they choose the right ones. You can easily explain to kids that making the right choice, or doing things that please God, equals righteousness. These can be little choices like being kind to others or big choices like choosing to give your life to God and become a Christian. Kids can learn that they have the decision to choose righteousness every single day.
Bible Verses to Back it Up
The Bible has a lot to say about righteousness. It’s the best source to first explain what it means. God, of course, is righteous, first and foremost. Psalm 145:17 says, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and faithful in all He does.” (NIV) The prophet, Zephaniah explains, “The Lord within her is righteous; He does no wrong. Morning by morning He dispenses His justice, and every new day He does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame.” (Zephaniah 3:5, NIV)
God is solely good. He is incapable of doing wrong or evil. Humans are certainly capable of doing wrong, but it’s the Christian’s duty to strive to do right. Micah 6:8 (NIrV) doesn’t use the word ‘righteousness’ but everything it encompasses speaks of its definition. It’s a great one to share and memorize with kids. It says, “The Lord has shown you what is good. He has told you what He requires of you. You must act with justice. You must love to show mercy. And you must be humble as you live in the sight of your God.”
So, God is righteous and asks His followers to be as well. In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6:25 (NIrV) puts it this way, “And if we are careful to obey all the law before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” Obeying God’s Word is righteousness. It was first asked of the Jewish people long ago. But now, it’s asked of everyone who loves Jesus. “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile.” (Romans 3:22 NIrV) Christians have the ability to be righteous through Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIrV) says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
After hearing definitions and explaining righteousness through scripture, kids need tangible ways to understand it better. A simple candy sucker can do the trick. Show kids a sucker with its wrapper on. Explain that the wrapper protects the candy. Take the wrapper off and roll the sucker around in a little dirt. That tasty treat is no longer desirable. The wrapper protecting the sucker is like righteousness protecting your heart. Having the right desires and motives keeps you from making bad choices and sinning.
Another way to think about it is to show kids a picture of a metal detector. If you have a real one, that’s even better. Metal detectors sense and find things that are metal. They might beep quietly every once in a while as they are searching, but when they get close to the right material, their sensor really goes off. A metal detector is similar to righteousness. When you have righteousness in your heart, it detects when temptation is coming your way. When the possibility of a wrong choice is close by, the sense of right and wrong kicks in and shows you things that are against what God wants. Your righteousness detector can help you make good choices.
Lessons, Games, and Activities
A great Bible lesson to teach righteousness comes from Ephesians 6 when Paul talks about putting on the full armor of God. One of the key pieces is the breastplate of righteousness. Kids can learn the importance of protecting their hearts against sin with this piece. Through this teaching, they can see it is vital to put on righteousness each day to defend against Satan.
An easy game for a group of kids is to have them all stand in the center of the room. Designate one side of the room to be ‘righteous’ and the other side to be ‘unrighteous.’ For younger kids, you could change the terms to ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ Give them scenarios they can relate to. For example, Sam forgot to study for his test, but Lucy was sitting where he could see her answers. He just took a quick peek. Ask kids to choose which side of the room they should stand on. Was Sam’s choice righteous or unrighteous?
Here’s a similar version of this game to play in a small group. After giving kids a relatable scenario, ask the question: what would you do? Change the above scene to Sam forgot to study for his test. He sits right next to Lucy, who always knows the right answers. What should Sam do? What would you do? Giving students everyday examples will help them think through their own choices at home, school, and social events.
A fun activity to get kids moving is to have a Nerf gun war. Choose some of your kids to shoot Nerf darts towards the others. The defenders should have some sort of shield to protect them. You could use simple objects like tote lids or boxes. Explain that the darts are like the sin and temptations that come their way each day. Their shields do the job of protecting their righteousness. If they don’t let the darts hit them, they can make good and right choices.
Another way to get students moving is to play a game of freeze tag, but make it have a point. The tagger should wear a sign that says, ‘wrong choices.’ The other kids will try to stay away from the tagger, but if they do get tagged, they are to freeze. Choose another child to free the kids who have been tagged. That child should wear a sign that says ‘righteousness.’ Explain that Christians should try to stay away from wrong choices/sin. Righteousness is what helps us make the right choices.
Conclusions on Righteousness
Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Peer pressures and human nature can make it easy to make bad choices. Kids need to know that even when it’s hard, righteousness is what God desires. Doing right in His eyes is all that matters. They can learn this important truth by looking through scripture. You can further explain how to be righteous by teaching simple lessons and activities and giving object lessons that can open their eyes to how to better choose right instead of wrong.