Christian Children's Crafts for Zacchaeus

Written by barbara kellam-scott
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Christian Children's Crafts for Zacchaeus
The biblical sycamore is related to fig and mulberry trees rather than the soaring American sycamore. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

The story of Zacchaeus related in Luke 19:1-10 is a perennial favourite for Sunday School, Bible School and other Christian education settings. Children may be able to identify with the "short in stature" Zacchaeus, and the classic song with hand motions draws them in further. It's less easy, especially using crafts, to address why Zacchaeus was despised as a tax collector and whether his meeting with Jesus is meant to have caused a change in Zacchaeus's behaviour or to reflect his unusually high ethics.

Finger Puppets

For the youngest children, it's probably best to stick with the simplest story, as in the song. Cut the fingers off of any kind of gloves, or give each child a whole glove to decorate. Glue on or draw faces and hair facing the back of the hand to represent the crowd. Add headgear and robes if you like. Dress the thumb, facing the palm, as Zacchaeus. To tell the story, have children wiggle the crowd of four while poor little Zacchaeus stands behind, then slide their thumbs up to peek over the fingers.

Christian Children's Crafts for Zacchaeus
Using finger puppets, one child can play Zacchaeus and another the crowd. (David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Build a Tree

Start with paper-towel rolls, narrow styrofoam cones, or tree trunks rolled from shirt cardboard. Stick in craft sticks, thin dowels, bamboo skewers or actual tree twigs to represent the branches. As appropriate to the age of the children, explain that tax collectors in Jesus' time made their living by collecting excess amounts from their neighbours, and discuss what kinds of goods working folk might use to pay their taxes. Make leaves from green construction paper and write these goods on them, or substitute pictures of the olives, grapes, grains, figs and handicrafts that might be used for taxes.

Flip Book

In a small group, or perhaps pairs, help children to create the pages of an animated flip book to tell the story of the crowd, Zacchaeus climbing the tree as Jesus approaches, Jesus speaking directly to him, and Zacchaeus coming down and leading Jesus to his house. Use the opportunity to talk about the sycamore trees that grow in Africa as relatives of fig and mulberry trees (the Greek word used in Luke 19 comes from these two roots, and perhaps look for other references to fig trees in the Bible. You can also discuss how people sat and ate in Bible times, touching each other.

Sharing Leaves

Help older children to identify with the ethical lesson in verse 8 by providing them with figleaf shapes cut from green paper, or having them trace their own hands as models. Have each child write on each finger something material she has allowed to become too important, or something she will commit to share more with a sibling or friend, or by giving to the church and other charities. Include intangibles such as time and help with chores. Some children may be interested to learn that scholars aren't sure whether Zacchaeus is making a commitment for the future or speaking in the present tense about how he acts as a tax collector. Don't neglect verse 9, in which Jesus observes that even tax collectors are God's children.

Christian Children's Crafts for Zacchaeus
The leaves of trees in the fig family look a bit like human hands. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

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