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Helping Kids Choose Jesus Over Self – Tips from the Book of Genesis

Here’s a simple truth from Genesis 3 that teaches us and our children that we have a choice to make everyday: will we choose self or Jesus?

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Our lives are filled with numerous choices. Some choices are small (like what we will have for breakfast) and some are big (like deciding who to marry). But the most important choice of all is choosing Jesus over self.

Today’s parenting truth comes from Genesis 3 where we learn how choice was introduced into the world. We can use this passage to teach our children that they have a choice to follow Jesus every day.

Target age: 7 to 12

1) Read Genesis 3

2) Read “A Tale of Five Trees” (below)

A Tale of Five Trees

In the beginning God . . . This is how it all began. God created everything. From the tiniest tadpole in the smallest brook to the massive ice cap on the tallest mountain – it was all made by God. And it was good.

Center stage in this good creation was a beautiful garden. And in that garden there were two very special trees: The Tree of Life and The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Ah! That second tree . . . that second tree was a wonderful tree. A lovely tree. A tempting tree. It had delicious fruit on it and it was beautiful to behold. But God made a rule about this tree: don’t eat of it or you will surely die. You can eat of any other tree you wish. But not this tree.

This rule gave people a choice: you can choose my way or your way. Which will it be?

Well, Adam and Eve chose their own way and the face of the planet and everything on it changed in an instant. But because God is great and merciful, He removed them from that beautiful garden so that they would not eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in their self-chosen, sinful state. He loved them too much to let them live like that forever. In fact, He loved them so much that He made a promise: There would one day be a Way out of the mess that they made.

Fast forward thousands of years later and we can see three trees. Three trees on a barren hill. These are not like those first two trees. They are not pretty trees. They are rough, harsh and full of wrath. But the tree in the middle is a special tree. It is God’s “second” Tree of Life. It is the cross – our Way out. God does not keep us away from this tree of life. In fact, He invites us to stand at the very foot of it and eat. It holds the Bread of Life. And God made a rule about the One on this tree: “No one comes to the Father except though [Him].”

This second Tree of Life is the way to eternal life with God . . . and as we look upon it, we have a choice to make.

Will we choose Jesus?

3) Discuss

God gives us the gift of choice. Without choice, love is not love. Choice gives us the chance to show God if we love Him more than ourselves. Adam and Eve’s choice showed who they loved more. When we choose to put Jesus first, before ourselves, we show that we love Him.

Here are some ways that we can live for ourselves:

“That’s mine!”

“He deserved it!”

“Dad will never find out if I watch this show.”

“I won’t get caught.”
Here are some ways that we can follow Jesus:

“You can have it.”

“Let me help you with that.”

“I’ll turn this program off.”

“I forgive you.”

Matthew 12:34 says something really important: “Your words show what is in your hearts.” When we put Jesus first, it shows in how we respond, speak and act.

4) Activity

Have your children sketch, sculpt or paint a fruit tree. Glue two small twigs (or Popsicle sticks) into the shape of a cross. Have your children attach thiscross to their tree so that the vertical stick runs up the trunk of the tree. Place their creation somewhere as a reminder of the choice they have – every day – to follow Jesus or self.

5) Pray

“Jesus, help me to choose you today. Help me to show my love for you by loving others. Amen”

6) Memorize

“Then Jesus said to his disciples:

If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 (CEV)

[photo credit: lucky-frank from]

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.

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