To help children understand that selfishness can seriously damage your health!
Things you’ll need
- 3 sheets of A1 paper
- A length of wallpaper
- A spirit level
- A length of string with weight attached to make a plumb-line
- A stick of coloured chalk
- A few marker pens
Before the assembly begins, use Blu-tack to attach the A1 sheets of paper to a wall (so that they are visible to everyone), so that you make one large work surface. Also attach Blu-tack to the back of the piece of wallpaper ready for use during the assembly.
1 Hold up the spirit level and ask the children if they know what it is and what it’s used for.
2 Ask the children what would happen if we didn’t build things level. Ask for two helpers. Tell them that you want them to check that the spirit level is working properly. Send them together to different parts of the hall/room you are meeting in, to inspect the window frames, door frames, shelves etc and check whether they are level. Get them to inspect four items. Have one child check two items, with the other reporting back to you. Then swap round and check two more items.
3 Explain that before the spirit level was invented, builders would use a length of string with a heavy weight attached to one end to give them a straight line. Show the children your plumb-line. Ask if anyone knows what it’s called.
4 Demonstrate its use in the following way:
a) chalk heavily along the length of the string;
b) ask someone to hold the end of the string against the sheets of paper attached to the wall;
c) when the weight has stopped moving, hold it still against the paper and ask a volunteer to ‘ping’ along the length of the line, so that you finish with a straight chalk line printed onto the paper.
Remove the plumb-line.
5 Ask for a few volunteers who think that they can draw a straight line free hand on the paper. Give them each a marker pen and ask them to draw a vertical or horizontal line (drawing over the chalk line doesn’t count!). Ask the rest of the children to judge which is the straightest line. Check their choice with the plumb-line or spirit level. Give a round of applause to the person who gets nearest to straight.
6 Use the chalk line (if it’s still there) or draw a new vertical line as a guide for hanging the sheet of wallpaper. Explain that you are going to put up this piece of wallpaper using the line you’ve drawn to make sure that it goes up straight. Line up your paper, then press it onto the wall.
7 Explain that if you continued to paper along this wall, all the pieces of wallpaper would be straight, just because of that one line. (Don’t mention papering around corners!)
8 Tell the children about Amos, one of God’s special messengers, and his message from God about a plumb-line.
Nearly 3,000 years ago, the prophet Amos had a sad job of work to do for God. As a prophet, he had to give messages to people about how God wanted them to live and what he wanted them to be like. Sometimes this was very difficult to do.
9 At this point read, or ask someone else to read, Amos 7:7,8. Then continue telling the children about Amos:
God showed Amos a plumb-line, just like we used, to show that the wall that had been built was straight. God was saying through Amos that it was as if he was measuring his special people, the Jews, against a plumb-line.
Remind the children that a plumb-line helps you get things right and see when things aren’t quite right. Ask the children for their ideas about why God would compare his people to a plumb-line.
10 Explain that the Bible says that God had given his people a way of living which was the very best for them, and they had agreed to live that way. Ask the children to imagine that the plumb-line represents that way of living. Now move the piece of wallpaper so that it’s crooked, and say that the piece of wallpaper represents the people.
11 Pointing to the crooked wallpaper, ask the children who (or what) has moved. (Answer: the wallpaper.) Or – in the case of God and his people – the people had moved away from the straight line. They had decided to do things their own way and had chosen to ignore God. They were no longer on the level. Their ways were not straight! They were moving away from God. God knew this and told Amos to show the people this picture of the plumb-line to help them understand what they were doing and how sad it made God.
A Christian viewpoint
- The Bible says that God’s people had promised to obey him and live the way he said. Like most of us, they thought they knew what was best and decided to ignore God’s rules for living. Through his messenger Amos, God said that there would be very serious consequences for everyone who carried on breaking their promises to him, doing things that hurt him and other people.
- It’s the same for people today. God has given us good rules for living. If we ignore them and insist on living our own way, we hurt ourselves and other people.
Compare the plumb-line to the rules of the road. The Highway Code says you must stop when the lights are red. Some road-users take a risk and ‘jump’ a red traffic light, hoping that they will get away with breaking the rule. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Accidents happen because people choose to disobey the signals (or rules). Or you might get caught on camera and then be prosecuted by the courts. These things happen because people choose to break the rules, which are there to protect everyone. Explain how the plumb-line is a bit like those rules.
- Ask the children to look at the crooked piece of wallpaper – which should still be on the wall. Ask them to follow the line of the paper from top to bottom.
- Now ask them to think for a few moments about what their school (home, local community, country etc) would be like if we all chose to ignore the rules.
- Straighten the wallpaper and ask them to think again about the difference it makes when we try to live life ‘on the level’.