This section provides Bible stories with the theme of righteousness, along with questions that can be used as a guide for family discussions. Choose one story that is appropriate for your children. Before reading aloud, take a few minutes to review the story. If the Bible passage is too complex for your kids, paraphrase the story yourself or use the summary provided under “key concepts.”
Your will, not mine
Read Matthew 26:36-46 and Matthew 6:9-14.
Questions for discussion
- What does the Bible tell us that Jesus did?
- Where did Jesus go to pray?
- What did Jesus say when He prayed?
- When Jesus left the disciples alone, why did He tell them to pray?
- What did Jesus say when He taught the disciples to pray?
- Can you think of a time when you wanted God’s will to be done instead of your own?
- What can you do when you are tempted to do wrong?
The Bible tells us that Jesus knew He was about to die on the cross so He went to a garden to pray. Jesus was sorrowful and troubled. Luke describes Jesus as being in anguish (Luke 22:44). When Jesus prayed, He asked that God’s will be done, not His own. As Jesus left the disciples to go and pray on His own a second time, He told them to watch and pray so that they wouldn’t fall in to temptation. This was a review of what Jesus had taught His disciples before. He had taught them to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). When we are in difficult situations or being tempted, we can pray and ask for God’s help too.
God cares for the righteous
Read Genesis 18:1-2, Genesis 19:12-16, 27-29 and 2 Peter 2:6-10.
Questions for discussion
- Why was God going to destroy a whole city and the people living in it?
- Why did Abraham ask God to consider leaving the city alone?
- What did God do instead?
- Why did God allow Lot to leave Sodom?
- If there are people sinning in your town, what do you think God would want you to do?
The Lord came with some angels and visited Abraham. During their visit, God decided to let Abraham know that He planned to destroy the city of Sodom because of the wickedness of the people who lived there. Humbly, Abraham asked God if He would leave the city alone if fifty righteous people could be found in it. When God said He would, Abraham kept asking how many righteous people would need to live in the city for God to spare it. Abraham’s nephew Lot lived in the city and Abraham was worried that He might be destroyed along with the wicked people who lived in the city. That night, God sent two angels to warn Lot to leave the city. At the urging of the angels, Lot and his family left Sodom.
The next morning, Abraham awoke to see dense smoke rising where the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had been. The Bible tells us that God had remembered Abraham and brought Abraham’s nephew, Lot, out of the city before He destroyed it. Many years later, Peter was talking to people about choosing righteousness. Peter told the story of God rescuing Lot because Lot was righteous (2 Peter 2:6-10). Peter told this story to encourage the people to live righteously, even when those around them were choosing to sin.
2 Peter 2:6-10
“…if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if He rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in His righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) – if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.”
Cain chooses to sin
Read Genesis 4:1-16. For younger children, you may wish to use the word “hurt” instead of the word “kill.”
Questions for discussion
- Have you ever been angry with your brother or sister?
- Have you ever wished that you did not have a brother or a sister?
- Can you tell me what jealousy is?
- Have you ever felt jealous of someone else?
- Why was Cain jealous and angry?
- What did God tell Cain?
- Did Cain listen to God’s warning?
- Do you ever get mad?
- What should you do when you are angry?
Cain and Abel were brothers. One day, Cain and Abel both brought offerings to God. God was pleased with Abel and his offering, but he was not pleased with Cain and the offering he brought. This made Cain angry. God asked Cain why he was angry and upset. God told Cain that if he did what was right, he too would be accepted by God.
God also gave Cain a warning. God told Cain that sin was ready to overtake him, and that he must gain control over it. But Cain did not listen. He took his brother out to a field and killed (hurt) him. God punished Cain by telling him that he would be a lonely wanderer for the rest of his life, living in a land where the ground would no longer grow crops for him.
God offers us a similar warning. The Bible tells us that anger does not help us lead a righteous life that pleases God. The good news is that God promises that He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle and that He will also provide a way out.
1 Corinthians 10:13
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
1 John 4:19-21
“We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, 'I love God' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love his brother.”
“…for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
David chooses to do right
Read 1 Samuel 24:1-22.
Background: King Saul was not happy with David because he was worried that God was going to make David king in his place. David was out in the wilderness, trying to stay away from Saul.
Questions for discussion
- We may not have people trying to kill us, but what kind of wrongs do others do to you that would tempt you with the desire to “get even”?
- David could have killed Saul and left his body in the cave, claiming that “he didn't do it.” Even if no one else saw the murder, who would have been watching?
- What kinds of things are you tempted to do when it appears as though no one will find out?
- What did David do instead of killing Saul?
- The Bible tells us that David was “conscience-stricken.” What do you think that means?
- Since Saul was trying to kill David, why didn’t David kill Saul when he had the chance?
- What did Saul say when he found out that David had had a chance to kill him, but didn't?
- Have you ever been tempted to return wrong for wrong?
- Where can you go for help when you are tempted to be unkind to someone who has hurt you?
David and his men were hiding in a cave. Saul came into the cave to take a rest stop without knowing that David was hiding in there, concealed in the darkness. David’s men suggested that God had sent Saul into the cave so that David could kill him. David sneaked up close to Saul, but instead of killing him, David cut off a corner of the robe Saul was wearing.
After David did this, the Bible tells us that David was “conscience-stricken.” David felt very badly about cutting a piece off Saul’s robe, because Saul was the man God had chosen to be the king of Israel. After Saul left the cave, David came out of the cave and showed Saul the piece of robe that he had cut off. David explained that some of his men had urged David to kill Saul. Saul responded by saying to David, “You are more righteous than I. You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. …May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today.”
Even though Saul was trying to kill David, David did not return evil for evil. Saul recognized David’s righteousness and Saul also knew that God would reward David for his righteous choices. We do not have people sneaking around trying to kill us, but are often faced with the temptation to be unkind to someone who has been unkind to us. In the Bible, God gives is instructions on what to do in these situations. Rather than paying back wrongs, we are to be kind and to live at peace with others.
When we are hurt or angry, it is easy to think we will feel better if we take matters into our own hands, “judging” the person who has done wrong and applying what we think is fair in return. The Bible tells us that it is God’s job to judge and we are to trust Him with the outcome in situations where we feel we have been wronged. We are to wait for God to deal with the person who has sinned against us instead of planning to get revenge ourselves.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
“Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the Lord, and He will deliver you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:15
“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.”
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up dissension among brothers.”
“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”
Jesus the Lord, Our Righteousness
Read Luke 23:1-5, 13-26, 32-43.
Background: The Pharisees were jealous of Jesus and were looking for an excuse to kill Him. They made up lies about Him and took Him to the ruler of their country to get permission to crucify Him.
Questions for discussion
- What did the people accuse Jesus of doing?
- What did Pilate say about Jesus?
- The people still wanted to kill Jesus. Why?
- Who did the people want to go free, Jesus or Barabbas?
- Who was crucified with Jesus?
- What did the first thief say? And the second thief?
- How did Jesus respond to the second thief?
- Why was Jesus so ready to forgive the second thief?
- Do you think Jesus is ready to forgive you?
- Why do you think Jesus is called “The Lord, Our Righteousness”?
Pilate was the man who had the authority to decide if someone was guilty of a sin that deserved the death penalty. When the people brought Jesus to Pilate, Pilate said he saw no reason to kill Jesus. The people insisted that Jesus deserved to die so Pilate consulted with another leader who too thought that Jesus had done nothing wrong. Even though both leaders said that Jesus had done nothing to deserve death, the people kept shouting that they wanted Jesus crucified.
The custom at that time of year was to set a prisoner free. Pilate suggested that Jesus be set free, but the people asked that a dreadful man named Barabbas (who had done many bad things) be set free instead of Jesus. To please the crowds, Pilate agreed to do what they asked. He let Barabbas go free, and let the people take Jesus to crucify Him.
Jesus was crucified between two thieves. As people were making fun of Jesus, one thief joined in and mocked Jesus. The other thief defended Jesus. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:40-41). Jesus told the thief who admitted to being sinful that he would be with Him in paradise.
Jesus wants us to do the same thing as the thief did and admit that we are sinful. The Bible tells us that when we confess our sins, God will get rid of the sin in our lives (1 John 1:9). Jesus is called “The Lord, Our Righteousness,” because through Jesus’ death on the cross, the penalty for our sins has been paid. When our sins are forgiven, God sees us as righteous.
“ ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which He will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.”
“The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put Him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.”
1 Peter 2:24
“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.”
2 Corinthians 5:21
“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
The righteous praise God!
Read Psalm 145:1-9, 17-18, 20 and Psalm 37:1-17.
Questions for discussion
- Can you think of a good reason to praise God?
- What does the Bible say we are to praise God for?
- What is one generation to tell the next generation about?
- Can you think of a mighty act God has done?
- Why do you think the Bible says the people who are righteous should praise God?
- What does the Bible say will happen to the wicked?
- Instead of fretting when we see people doing wrong, what are we supposed to do?
In Psalm 147, David tells us that he praises God because of God’s greatness. David goes on to say that one generation will tell another all about God’s mighty acts. Just as we cheer when we are happy about something, we are to joyfully celebrate God’s goodness to us and to sing about His righteousness. Over and over again the Bible says that the righteous are to praise God. God is gracious, loving, and holy and He deserves to be admired, respected and worshipped.
It is easy to be discouraged when it seems like those who are doing wrong are getting the “better deal” in life, but God assures us that He will reward everyone for what he or she has done. Instead of fretting when we see people who appear to be getting away with doing wrong, we are to trust God to give them what they deserve.
Balaam and his bad reputation
Read Numbers 22:21-39.
Background: Balak was king of Moab at the time that the Israelites were moving into the Promised Land – the new home God was giving them. Balak had seen how Israel was defeating all of the armies that tried to fight against them and all of the people of Moab were terrified that they were going to be the next nation that Israel would conquer (Numbers 22:2-3). Balak knew of a man named Balaam who could be paid to come and put a curse on your enemies. Balak hoped that if Balaam cursed Israel, Moab would win a war against them (Numbers 22:1-20).
Questions for discussion
- Why do you think Balak sent his princes to go and get Balaam?
- Who saw the angel of the Lord the first time? And the second time? How about the third time?
- What did Balaam do to the donkey each time it tried to avoid the angel?
- What did God do to get Balaam’s attention?
- What would you think if an animal started talking to you?
- Would you answer it?
- What is a “drawn sword”?
- If you saw an angel holding a sword up read to strike, what would you do?
- Was Balaam known for doing right or for doing wrong?
- Are there kids you prefer not to be around because you know they will cause trouble?
- Do you know any kids who are known for doing right?
- What do you think you are known for?
- What would you like to be known for?
Balak sent for Balaam, because he knew that Balaam accepted money to put curses on people or on nations. God was angry when Balaam prepared to visit Balak. God sent an angel of the Lord to stand in the road and block the way. Balaam’s donkey saw the angel standing there, holding a drawn sword, so she turned off the road and went into a field instead. Balaam beat the donkey to make her go back on the road.
Next, the angel stood where the road went between the walls of two vineyards. Again, the donkey saw the angel and this time pressed up against the wall, crushing Balaam’s leg. Balaam beat the donkey again. Finally, the angel stood in the road where there was nowhere for the donkey to turn, so the donkey laid down. Balaam beat her again.
God opened the mouth of the donkey and she spoke to Balaam, asking what she had done to deserve to be beaten three times. Balaam told his donkey that he was so angry that he would kill her if he had a sword (Numbers 22:29). Then the donkey reminded Balaam that she had been a very reliable donkey and didn’t usually behave this way.
At this moment, God opened Balaam’s eyes and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a sword drawn. Balaam realized he had sinned and told the angel he would go back. The angel gave Balaam permission to go and see Balak, but the angel told Balaam only to say what the Lord told him to say. Even though Balak had planned evil against Israel through Balaam, God chose to protect Israel.
Balaam had a bad reputation. He was known for accepting money to do evil against others. The Bible says that Balaam “loved the wages of wickedness” (2 Peter 2:15). God knew Balaam’s heart and his plans to do evil against Israel, so He used an angel and His great power to protect Israel. The Book of Proverbs says that even children are known by their actions – whether the things he or she does is right or wrong (Proverbs 20:11). What we are known for is called our “reputation.” God knows our hearts and if they are right and pure, but people, who cannot see into our hearts, know us by our actions.
Epilogue: Balaam made it clear to Balak that he could only speak God’s words. Three times Balak asked Balaam to curse the Israelites, and three times Balaam spoke only the words of blessing that God allowed him to speak (Numbers 23-24).
“ ‘When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand.”
“The righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”
“Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.”
2 Peter 2:15
“They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness.”