Note to the Teacher
The scripture we read comes from the book of Job, and it includes the conversation between God and Satan about the person, Job. The opening activity has students playing a fun game called “Up-Down.” The discussion encourages students to grapple with some difficult questions about suffering and their own faith in God. The activity and discussion have students designing a “blameless and upright” newspaper that allows students to get creative and begin to think about the type of person Job was. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.
1. Ice Breaker: “Up-Down” (10 minutes)
“Up-Down” is a fun game where students simply try to get an object to go straight up and come right back down to the same place. This game can be played individually or in groups of two to four people. Give each group a towel, sheet, tablecloth, or something similar that they will use to “toss” into the air. Once you are ready to begin, hand students a small object (ball, pencil, marker, etc.). You want to try and give each group the same object if possible. Then ask them to complete the following challenges:
- Students together, toss the object up, using the towel or sheet up to five, ten, and twenty times without dropping it once. If the students drop it, they must start over.
- See who can toss the item up the highest and catch it.
- Toss more than one object for thirty seconds without dropping any of the items.
- Toss the item in the air while flipping the blanket, sheet, towel, or tablecloth over.
- Toss the item on the sheet while trading positions with someone holding an alternate side.
If you have a student or students participating at home, ask them to find a family member to participate with them. If there isn’t a family member available, invite them to try and do these same challenges using a smaller item and just tossing the item up using their hands.
This is simply a fun exercise that gets students thinking about the ups and downs of life. End the game by asking students if they’ve ever had a time in their lives that felt really good, as if everything was going up, followed by a time that felt pretty crummy, as if everything was going down Invite them to share if time allows.
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today is part of the story of Job and how suffering affected him and how suffering affects us today. While the scripture is being read, invite students to try to put themselves in Job’s shoes. Encourage them to really pay attention to the conversation between God and Satan about Job.
Read Job 1:1, 2:1-10.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
- What does this limited peek at the person of Job tell us about him?
- What do you think it means to be “blameless and upright”? How would a person behave in order to earn those labels? Why do you think the author linked the words “blameless” and “upright” together? (Use a Bible dictionary or other resources to learn about how those words were chosen for your translation of the Bible)
- Can you think of anyone living today, or that you know, that you would consider “blameless and upright”?
- Is it possible to be completely (one hundred percent) “blameless and upright”? If so, who makes that judgment?
- If it were possible to be completely “blameless and upright,” would that make you immune to suffering? Would there be a need for grace and forgiveness in the life of someone completely “blameless and upright?” Why or why not?
- Has your faith ever helped protect you from or process suffering?
- Have you ever heard that being Christian means nothing bad will ever happen to you? Agree or disagree and why?
- Big question, why do bad things happen to good people? To bad people? To all people?
- Can you provide a recap of Job, Chapter 2? What are God and Satan discussing? What happens to Job in 2:7-8?
- How would you explain Chapter 2 to someone you know? Why do you think the people who organized the Bible decided to include the Book of Job?
- How does this beginning to the story of Job challenge our faith and inspire us to grow?
- Can you think of ways that your faith has been challenged? Over the past year? Month? Week? Today?
- Transition to the next activity by saying something like, “The story of Job will eventually demonstrate that faith should not depend on how happy we are in life, or how blessed in family, in health, or in material possessions, or wealth. The story of Job will lead us to reflect on our own internal choices in the face of the good and bad that comes our way and how those choices can develop Christ-like behaviors in us and good relationships in our community.”
*The questions below are at a deeper and more challenging theological level. As the leader, consider providing additional time, resources, or involvement of a pastor at your church if you lead your group to wrestle with the following.
- Do you think that the Book of Job is a “cosmic drama or soap opera” (written with embellishments to teach lessons) or describes a real person and their life as affected by God and Satan? (As a point of reference, the Book of Job has no “historical markers” like other books of the Bible. For example, nowhere in Job does the text say something like “when blah-blah-blah was King of Israel . . .” or “when so and so prophet was this old . . .” to ground the story in a particular place and time.)
- Can you use Biblical resources to look for other translations of the name “Satan” in this story? (The Hebrew would be closer to something like “The satan” or “The accuser” or “The Adversary” making “Satan” a title or a way of acting, as opposed to the name of a literal being.”)
- Do you think God punishes people? If God is good, why would God punish people?
- Do you think Satan is as real as God is? Do you think Satan “goes to and fro on the Earth” causing mayhem and cursing people? Are you familiar with churches that believe in that personification of Satan?
- In this story, why do you think God allows Satan to challenge Job?
- Suffering is a normal part of our world, and the human experience. Why do you think suffering is part of the human experience? Are there ways that we can recognize the causes and effects of suffering, as well as the role of God in suffering that are consistent with our understanding of faith?
4. Activity and Discussion “The Perfect Newspaper” (20 minutes)
Explain to your students that today they are going to create a newspaper that is one hundred percent “blameless and upright.” (Meaning that the stories are completely accurate and factual, no spelling or grammatical mistakes, as well as being clear to read with reasonable handwriting, etc.) Students may choose to use current news stories, school news stories, random stories they have about their friends and/or family; or they may just want to make up a bunch of “blameless and upright” stories. Have them get creative but remind them that they have only about ten to twelve minutes to work on this activity. If an entire newspaper (or if web pages are easier for your youth to replicate) seems too much for your group, consider focusing just on different sections like “life,” “sports,” or “local news.” Allow for a few minutes toward the end for each group to share. You can also split your group up in a number of ways, so choose the way that best fits your group.
- Individual – Have each student grab a white sheet of paper and a pen/pencil or markers and design a “blameless and upright” newspaper.
- Groups – Have students break out into groups of two to four people to work on their “blameless and upright” newspaper together.
- Digital – Have students create a digital newspaper using a word processing application or design app. If possible, have them share their screen to show everyone.
You may choose to grab more supplies for students to use on their newspapers. Just remember if you have online students, they may be limited by what they have available.
Wrap up your lesson by reminding students that life isn’t perfect. Being a Christian doesn’t mean they are never going to suffer. In fact, it’s just the opposite. As Christians, we should expect to suffer and to witness suffering. Experiencing and witnessing suffering can both challenge and grow our faith, and call us to act to understand the causes of suffering and how we might work alongside each other to reduce or eliminate suffering caused by our own choices. Hopefully, this activity helped you realize that nobody (and no thing for that matter) can be “upright and blameless one hundred percent of the time.” In the coming weeks, we will see how Job grows through his suffering. Remind students that suffering is a tough topic and that having more questions than before they began the lesson is okay. It’s always okay to question.
Close your time together in a manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys and concerns, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.
Total time: 50 minutes
- Pens or pencils
- White paper
- Sheets, Towels, Tablecloths, etc. (one per 2-4 students)
- Small Objects