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Lesson 1: God Created *

Introduction: Welcome to a new series of lessons about our Christian obligation of mercy to those around us. The Bible calls for more than a simple-minded approach. Deuteronomy 28 teaches that faithfulness to God brings material blessings. That suggests that those needing help might have been unfaithful to God. At the same time, the Mosaic law contains several commands about aiding those who find themselves in difficult economic circumstances. That tells us that merit might not be the test for helping. The Job story and Hebrews 11 reveal that the general rules do not always apply. This past Sabbath I listened to a sermon about Jesus' story of the prodigal son ( Luke 15:11-32). I thought about this series of lessons when I heard Luke 15:16 - "no one gave [the prodigal] anything" when he was hungry. The result, in Luke 15:17, is that the prodigal "came to his senses." Would the prodigal have come home if some well-meaning person enabled his rebellion by giving him food? Let's begin our exploration about what the Bible teaches about our obligation of mercy!

  1. Creation


    1. Read Genesis 1:26. Why does this text say that God created humans? (He created them to be lesser rulers. They were patterned after God, and ruled under His authority.)


      1. What was their responsibility? (To rule over the animals.)


    2. Read Genesis 1:27-28. What other power did God give to humans? (The power of creation. The command was to create other humans, fill and subdue the earth, and (God repeats)rule over the animals.)


      1. Imagine you were just hired for a new job and that was your job description. What would it mean to "subdue" the earth and "rule" over the animals? (That is tremendous authority, and an incredible responsibility.)


        1. Why would a perfect world need to be "subdued?" (Since a perfect world would not be in rebellion, I think it means that humans were to be preferred over animals. If in conflict, they were to give way to humans.)


      2. Consider this problem to test your approach to this. If humans needed a garment for privacy and warmth, would you kill an animal and use its skin? Or, would you announce a rule that no animal could be harmed for the benefit of a human? (Consider Genesis 3:21.)


    3. Read Genesis 2:15. Did humans have an obligation to be a blessing to the earth?


      1. Would you feel an obligation, as ruler, to do what is right?


      2. What do you think humans were doing to "work" the garden?


        1. How is that different, if at all, from "taking care of" the garden in which they lived?


    4. Read Genesis 2:16-17. Let's start with the proposition that God has an obligation of care for humans just as humans have an obligation of care for the animals and the earth. Why would God permit such a dangerous tree - one that had poison fruit - to exist in the garden?


      1. Imagine the simple-minded approach: let's take a vote on whether we should permit a tree in the garden that has poison fruit? (The right thing is not always the superficially obvious thing. The issue is complicated.)


  2. The Sin Complication


    1. Read Genesis 3:1-5. What is the serpent suggesting about God? (He is not telling the truth, because he wants humans to lack important information.)


      1. Notice the serpent offers the opportunity to "be like God." What should Eve had said about that? (She was already like God. She was a ruler.)


    2. Read Genesis 3:6. They had so much other fruit available to them, why would she need more "good" fruit that looked nice? (I think this comment has to do with her false statement ( Genesis 3:3) that they could not touch the fruit. The real motivation was about "gaining wisdom.")


      1. When Eve touched the fruit, but did not die, what affect did that have on her decision to eat? (It encouraged her to eat it. I believe this is why Deuteronomy 4:2 tells us not to tell people that something is sin when it is not. It is like telling people something is not sin when it is. When I was young, I was taught that I should not enter a movie theater because my angel could not enter. What I should have been taught was to be careful what I allowed to influence me.)


    3. Read Genesis 3:14. On what basis did our Ruler God curse the serpent?


      1. Is this within the scope of caring for animals?


    4. Read Genesis 3:16. Recall that one of the mini-creator responsibilities was to create other humans. What point is God making in this change in the circumstances of children being born?


      1. Both Adam and Eve sinned. Why is Adam given the lead role in decision-making? (If you review the "after action report" to God in Genesis 3:12-13, you see that Eve said the serpent deceived her and Adam said Eve gave the fruit to him. This account puts the least blame on Adam.)


    5. Read Genesis 3:17-19. How has human dominion over the earth changed? (Food is no longer a gift and a pleasure. It is now painful to raise food.)


      1. Consider this from a "human responsibility for the earth" point of view. Previously, plants were completely within the control of humans. Humans seem to have had a supervisory role based on the texts we previously studied. Now, plants are not cooperative. They resist. Obtaining food is both sweaty and painful. Now that plants are rebellious subjects, does this change the nature of our supervisory obligations?


        1. Who is at fault in this change?


      2. Consider this from a rulership point of view. Everything has become difficult. Why do you think God did this? Was it something that was "automatic" with the entrance of sin? Was it punishment for us? Was it simply a sharing of the trouble we created, because now God faced considerably more problems with the earth?


  3. In This Together


    1. Read Proverbs 22:2 and Proverbs 14:31. What principle would you find based on these two texts? (God is our Creator, regardless of whether we are rich or poor. That means we have an obligation to other humans.)


    2. Let's look more closely at Proverbs 14:31. First, we are commanded not to "oppress" the poor. Let's go back to our introduction. If the prodigal son was in your neighborhood, and was hungry while feeding pigs, would you "oppress" him by leaving him alone? (His oppression came from his own decisions. As long as I'm not making his situation worse, it is hard to see how I'm oppressing him.)


      1. Let's look at the second half of Proverbs 14:31. We are also told that if we are kind to the needy, we "honor" God. Is it optional to honor God?


      2. Does being kind require some judgment on our part? For example, if we feed the hungry prodigal so that he is never convicted to go back to his father, are we being "kind" to him?


        1. What does your answer suggest about the need to get to know the people you are considering helping?


    3. Friend, I think we can begin to see that our obligation to the earth and to others is not a matter of simple slogans or simplistic thinking. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand God's will when it comes to showing mercy. Will you do that right now?


  4. Next week: Blueprint for a Better World.


* Copr. 2019, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2019 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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