The Pink Pencil

In Kids Club we’re focusing on one of the ten commandments each week, and we’re studying how these commandments came into being and their influence on people, including us. Imagining a world with no lying, stealing, jealousy, idols, or murder can help us to picture, and long for, more of God’s kingdom. We’ve read how the people of Israel said to God, “Yes, we will follow everything you ask of us,” but then they failed to keep that promise.

As a leader among children, I feel a tension to want to make our kids “good” by having them follow the letter of the law. But another part of me knows that the sooner kids realize that no one can earn Kingdom entry, the better.

All of my theological pondering got practical a few days ago when, it seems, one child stole another child’s pink mechanical pencil. Both children sounded their passionate outcry: “That pencil is MINE!” The matter was made more complex when a third child said she knew for certain that the pencil was hers, and that she had gifted it to a friend. So, three children, three stories, and one pencil.

This situation kept occupying my mind for hours after I removed the pencil from all of them. In the end, I talked with each child separately, reminding them that God knows everything about us, and that he’s the one who said we should not steal. I also reminded them that lying sets up a feeling of mistrust. Finally I told them that I wanted them to understand that we are just like the Hebrew people, who were not able to keep the laws given through Moses. But, I reminded them, the Bible says that mercy comes through Jesus, who died for our sins because he knew we could not keep the law.

Then I explained what they already knew, I’m sure: that there was no way I could know for sure who had told the truth. I wanted them to know that I was sorry if the struggle caused one of them to lose the pink pencil that was rightfully theirs. I told them how much I had thought and prayed about the situation. Then I revealed a solution that seemed fair. I presented each child privately with a new mechanical pencil: one green, one blue, and one yellow. I told each child that I cared about them. I told them I wanted them to understand that lying and stealing are wrong, but that I also wanted them to grow in their understanding of what mercy and compassion feel like.

Whether or not I helped them to grow or only enabled them, I do not know. But that pink pencil made me think about my own life and how grateful I am for the many, many times God applies mercy instead of judgment to me. It is likely that I erred somewhere in this incident, but with the hope of sharing the Good News with these three, I decided it best to error on the side of grace.

I hope you are encouraged by this story, and that you take advantage of the opportunities you have over the next several weeks to give grace to people you encounter. All of us need it!


NETwork Ministries

Our mission is to share in the love of Christ with those who are most vulnerable in our community. We especially seek to equip children and young adults with the skills necessary for spiritual growth, academic achievement, life management, and Christian leadership.