Teaching Children the Second Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective
If you haven’t already done so, you may wish to read the previous posts on the Second Commandment. The following are ideas for teaching the Second Commandment to your children or Sunday School pupils based upon the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
FOR VERY YOUNG CHILDREN:
If you read the Second Commandment to very young children, they most likely will not be able to comprehend what it means. It may be best to introduce the concept of it in a more concrete fashion. Here is one possible lesson leading up to the Second Commandment:
Bring a small toy animal to your class, or home session, preferably a carved wooden figure. Set it out on the table for the children to see, and ask: “What is it?” Suppose you have an elephant. You’ll probably get the response: “It’s an elephant!” (or “it’s an elephant, dummy!”) Some bright child may tell you right away that it is a toy or statue, but until one of them does, prod the children with other questions to get them to think about what they are seeing:
“How do you know it is an elephant?” “Have you seen one before?” “How is this different?” “Will it eat this peanut?” And so on. After you have exhausted this line of reasoning, everyone should be able to agree that it is not a real elephant. But what is it? Ask the children to hold it and touch it. Then ask the following: “What is it made of?” “Where did the material come from?” “Is a tree an elephant?”
When it is established that the elephant is made of wood (or whatever material your animal is made from), ask who or what has turned the block of wood into an elephant? An artist; perhaps a woodcarver. Maybe a machine programmed by a skilled technician.
Then write out the word “carve.” Maybe you can find a picture of a woodcarver or sculptor at work. Write out the word “engraven.” Talk about how artists carve and engrave the images of animals onto a plain block of wood to create an image of an elephant. Write out the word “image” and show it to them.
By now, the children should have a small concept of what a carved or graven image might be, with regard to idols or statues. You can point out that they have just learned that a carving is not the real animal that it represents. It might be beautiful or fun to play with as a toy or art object, but it is not a real elephant, which would have its own special qualities, the main one being life!
Now, you might ask, “Where else might we see images?” Pull out a small mirror. Have each child look at themselves. Ask which is the real [say name of a child]? We’ll use the name “Rachel” as an example. “Is the child in the mirror, Rachel?” “No! The girl in the mirror is an image of Rachel.” Do this with all the children. Go around once more and make sure the children understand that a carving, or an image of someone in a mirror, is not the same as the real thing.
Show them a short version of the Second Commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.” Explain that this is one of God’s Ten Commandments. He does not want anyone making a graven image of Him. He does not want anyone making a graven image of any other creature and calling it a god, either. That is a law!
You can ask, “Suppose we wanted to make a carved image of God in spite of His law against it. What would God look like? What would we make from a block of wood?”
Lead their answers around to the fact that we do not know. God is Spirit. He does not have a physical or material body such as humans have. We cannot see Him with our eyes. However, God is many things that we can learn to know. For instance, the Bible tells us “God is Love.” Can we see Love? What does Love look like?
Lead them to see that while we do not know what God as Love looks like, we can feel His Love, we can express love to others, and we can do good and loving deeds. For instance, helping our family with the chores is a good deed which expresses love. Being obedient to both God and our parents is a way to show love. This love we show is actually Love we reflect from God. Like our images in the little mirror we looked at, we are made in the image and likeness of God. But it is not a physical body that we reflect, but the spiritual character of God! “Love is reflected in love,” we learn in the spiritual interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer found in our textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.
The Second Commandment, therefore, is a reminder that God is Spirit only, not made up of matter or evil or any bad thing. And man, as His image and likeness, is only spiritual, not material. You might show them the “Scientific Statement of Being” in the textbook, which those in Sunday School hear read to them at the end of the session.
To bring the lesson to a close, you might hold up the carved, wooden elephant (or whatever toy you have), and ask, “So, if there was a contest to find the world’s strongest elephant, would we enter this little fellow here?” “Would we take it to a circus and expect it to perform elephant tricks?” “No!” they will hopefully respond. “That’s right, because it is only a graven image of an elephant. It is not a real elephant!”
You might ask them to consider ways in real life that we need to separate the real and
powerful from the illusion of power: prayer versus pills; peacemaker versus fighting; telling the truth versus lying to get us out of trouble, and so on.
A good Bible story that can bring out this Commandment is the story of Noah’s Ark. God was not happy with the many people who were worshiping idols, and He had to put a stop to it. Noah was faithful to God, and did not worship graven images, and so God helped Noah prepare for a time when He, God, would send a flood to separate the good from the evil. Noah and the animals (his qualities of thoughts) were protected from the flood by the Ark. Not only must we not worship graven images, but we must actively worship, adore, and listen to God. His rainbow in the sky was a promise that He would not send another flood. However, later, He had to give Moses, another great friend of God, the Ten Commandments, to remind the people they must be obedient.
At Halloween time, you can bring up the Second Commandment again. Ask them when they or their friends put on a Halloween mask or costume, which is real? The person, animal, character, or thing represented by the mask? Or, the person underneath the mask? If they can see the difference, they can also be willing to see what God wants us all to see: the material body is not the real, spiritual man; and, the false concepts about God that would make Him material, do not represent Him, either. God is Spirit; man is spiritual — no matter how many graven images would say otherwise.
FOR OLDER CHILDREN:
Depending upon their level of maturity and experience with the teachings of Christian
Science, you can take lesson ideas from either the ones for the little children above, or
from the general lessons on the Second Commandment found elsewhere.
Lessons for elementary-school age children might include the following:
Show them the entire Second Commandment from Exodus 20, or at least the portion
that stops after the second colon. Explain that symbolically the “heaven above,” “the
earth beneath,” and “the water under the earth,” may represent states and stages of
human consciousness. The “water under the earth” may be the mortal subconscious,
which we are not aware of, but which exerts a great deal of influence upon our thinking
and actions, if we do not learn to handle its false influence. Lots of “graven images”
develop and spring forth from the so-called subconscious.
Discuss historical details about idols and idol worship in the Bible. Look up Bible stories in which idols played a role. Discuss how the children of Israel, who were with Moses in the desert, returned to idol-worship when Moses took so long getting back to them.
Discuss God as “the great I AM.” He is not to be represented by any object, or worshiped by any material process. Think what that might mean. For instance, is just showing up at church, while spending time thinking of what you’re going to do that afternoon, true worship? Or, is an effort to seek fresh inspiration? Mary Baker Eddy has a number of citations referring to what true worship or divine service is. It has more to do with daily deeds than with the rituals of traditional church activities. This is an important point to discuss with kids as they get older. They do see hypocrisy in church members so clearly, and they need to find out that, yes, true worship is spiritual, and we all must actively seek to do better and eliminate any form of material worship. It is a trap anyone call fall into, even them!
The disciple John has a good statement on this in his book: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
The pupils must see, however, that it is not enough for them to go around identifying other church members as hypocrites. They must learn what it takes to avoid doing the same things — only differently! There are many avenues that hypocrisy and worshiping graven images can take. It is a life-long struggle we must be alert to. We need to get into the habit of self-examination, and become aware of how we worship and adore God.
You can use the wind as an example in one lesson (and this would also be good for the little children, too). If you can, go out and observe the wind. Otherwise, have them imagine a windy day. Note that we cannot see the actual wind. We can only see the effects of what it does. It makes the trees or leaves sway. It sweeps away light trash. It spreads the seeds of flowers. It clears the air of pollution. It carries the clouds away. The wind has a lot of power. Just so, we do not see God with our physical eyes, yet we can see His power at work in our lives if we know how to judge the effects correctly. Ask the children for examples of what might be God’s power at work in our lives. Remind them that God is Spirit, and that the Second Commandment tells us we do not have to materialize God to worship Him. We
can be grateful for His mighty works and adore Him, even without being able to see Him physically.
Point out that it is the devil, or “the accuser” as it is sometimes called, that likes to trick us into believing that God is human-like, rather than the other way around. Discuss the story of the serpent, and how he tricked Eve into believing she could be like God. The serpent, or false suggestions that are whispered into our thoughts, would try to get us to carve new “graven images” in our thought, that God never ordained. We must “stand porter at the door of thought” to protect ourselves, and to keep us from trying to label God with false, human attributes, such as hate, revenge, partiality.
Discuss how the media of today bombards us with false images that may become engraved in our thoughts. Sex and violence on TV, movies, video, and computer games would rob us of our peace and purity of mind. Commercials for medicines or other material aids for health would turn us away from trust in God for our health and harmony. Advertisements for all manner of toys and gadgets, clothes and accessories, would create an artificial need for such things. We make them into “other gods” that we worship as “graven images” if we hand to these things a power to make us happy or sad.
Discuss the role of the five physical senses in creating “graven images.” Point out that these material senses are misconceptions of the true spiritual senses of Spirit and Soul. The physical senses would hypnotize us into believing that what they experience is the sole reality. They would create graven images for us to worship or fear. The pains and pleasures of these senses in the body really do nothing but enslave us. We must start training ourselves to look through these lies, to our true spiritual nature. We must affirm that there is no sensation in matter. Only Spirit has true substance, only Soul has true feeling. Encourage them to include the “Scientific Statement of Being” in their daily prayers, and to work daily to deny the reality of matter and the five physical senses, which lie, lie, lie about God and His universe.