For Youth Workers Post


Will Penner

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for December 8–14, 2014.


“When I was younger, I used to dream about mailbox money. One day I wouldn’t have to work at all; the hardest part of my day would be to pick up all the checks from the mailbox. I suppose today I wouldn’t even need to go to the mailbox because the money could be deposited electronically. I didn’t dream about mailbox money that would free me up to be involved in ministry or missions; I would live a plush lifestyle and take exotic vacations. I sometimes still lapse into daydreams about such a lifestyle, but that’s when greed is starting to infiltrate my spirit. Especially in contemporary industrialized societies, allowing greed to masquerade in more socially acceptable forms is easy: ‘He’s such a go-getter.’ ‘She is so dedicated to her job.’ ‘He’s a work-hard, play-hard kind of guy.’ ‘She’s Number 1 at everything she does.’ But that doesn’t make greed any less of a spiritual sin.” —Will


Will PennerWill Penner has been in ministry with young people for more than two decades in Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches, public and private schools, and as a popular speaker at youth retreats, camps, and conferences. He has served as the editor of both leading professional journals of youth ministry and has authored or edited numerous youth ministry curricula and books, the latest of which is It Happens: True Tales from the Trenches of Youth Ministry. But most importantly, he is the husband of his amazing wife, Christine, and the father of five fantastic children, ranging in age from 5 to 24.


  • markers
  • newsprint, whiteboard, or poster board
  • copies of the closing prayer
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session


  • Alli Sadegiani created an interesting short film called “Greed” and posted it on YouTube. If you use it, I suggest inviting the group to discuss the “Checking In” question first. After watching it, you might consider using a quotation from Stephen King as a discussion starter—the quote Alli Sadegiani included with his Facebook post on October 30, 2008, when he first posted the video: “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”


Bring group members together for brainstorming and discussion.
       Imagine for a moment that you have just won the lottery, which is going to provide you with $25 million. What would you do with the money?

Choose someone to record the responses on newsprint or a whiteboard. Let group members have some fun dreaming; but if they start giving typical Sunday school answers, such as “Give it all to charity” or “Tithe ten percent to the church,” push back a little by asking if they are giving away all of the money they make now or if they are tithing. Many will say that they would give more if they had more.

Before moving on to the scripture lesson, ask group members to look back at their answers.
       Why did you make these choices?
       What would having better homes, cars, clothes, trips, and so on provide that you feel you currently lack?

Have someone else record the answers. If the answers are slow in coming, prompt responses such as these: “I’d be more popular,” “I’d feel better about my body,” “I wouldn’t have to worry about running out.”


Scripture: Exodus 16:2–26

For several hundred years, the Egyptians had enslaved the Hebrews, denied their freedom, and forced them to work under harsh conditions. The Pharaoh even had all male babies two years old and younger brutally slaughtered in order to control population growth. It was a horrible experience, and God finally delivered the Hebrews from their captivity through the leadership of Moses and Aaron.

After plagues swept across Egypt, the Pharaoh finally agreed to release the Hebrews. When the Pharaoh later changed his mind and sent soldiers out after the Hebrews, God delivered them yet again by separating the waters of the Red Sea and letting them pass through. Despite God’s faithfulness, once the Hebrew people were in the wilderness, they started whining because they couldn’t see how they would survive.

Exodus 16:2–26 describes yet another faithful act of God to provide for the people. Every morning, they would find all over the ground a flaky substance that was tasty and provided enough nourishment for them to get through a day. On the sixth day of the week, God even provided enough for two days so the people could gather enough to eat and be filled on the Sabbath without having to work for it.

While providing enough, though, God also tested the people, instructing them to take only as much as they needed and no more. Once again, despite God’s faithfulness, the Israelites were faithless. They gathered more than they needed. The result was that the manna “bred worms and became foul” (verse 20).

Invite group members to look at their second list of answers. Then ask:
       Could any of these reasons have motivated some of the Israelites to gather more than they needed? (If so, have someone put a check by those items on the list.)
       What else might have motivated them to disobey God and to gather more? (Have someone record additional reasons, for example: “to be sure they had enough even if God didn’t deliver,” “to avoid working the next day,” “ to build up their wealth,” and so on.)

Ask a third person to record the group’s answers to these questions:
       In what areas of our lives are we most greedy?
       What were some of the kinds of greed discussed in devozine this week? (Prompt the group if you don’t hear these responses: time (meditation #8); clothes (#9); food (#13); other “stuff” (#10), such as cars, mansions, and electronics.)

Invite further discussion:
       Is God sufficient to fulfill all of our needs?
       Is our faith as weak as that of the people grumbling to Moses and Aaron?
       How much of our own prayer lives sounds as whiny as theirs? Are we like them when we ask our parents for money?

Invite the group to take another look at their first list of answers. Ask:
       If God is sufficient to supply all our needs, how should our answers change?

Interestingly, God sometimes provides more than we need for a day, as evidenced by the Hebrews’ gathering twice as much on the sixth day.
       In what ways may God be providing more than you need?
       How can you balance “storing up for a rainy day” and providing for those in need?
       What would your life be like if you actively give up some of what you tend to hoard in order to practice relying on God?


Invite group members to pray with you this prayer:

“God, creator of all there is, you have continually provided your followers with all they need. We trust you to provide for us as well. Bring to mind the ways we have been greedy. Forgive our sin, and help us to make different choices in the future. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.”


Suggest that the youth choose a partner with whom they will check in midway between this and the next session. Encourage them to talk honestly about how well they have been able to make less greedy choices in one specific area of their lives.

—from devozine In the Habit (November/December 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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