Attitudes to Others
Changing our behaviour
by Janice Ross
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider our attitudes to people who are different from us.
Preparation and materials
- Have available the YouTube video ‘For the birds’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 3.25 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjoDEQqyTig
- You will also need to be familiar with the story of Zacchaeus, which is found in Luke 19.1-10. The story is retold in the ‘Assembly’, Step 6.
- Tell the students that you are going to show them a short film and that you would like them to watch it and consider any thoughts that the film might provoke.
- Show the YouTube video ‘For the birds’.
- You may like to ask a few students to share their first impressions after watching the film. Alternatively, ask them to discuss it in groups.
Have a discussion around the following questions.
- What was the same about the characters? (Answer: they were all birds)
- What was different about one of the birds? (Answer: it looked different and had different mannerisms)
- What was the attitude of the smaller birds towards each other? (Answer: ‘This is my perch, my line!’ They grudgingly made way for similar birds, but they made a fuss about having to share the space and showed no grace in making room for one another)
- What was the attitude of the smaller birds to the newcomer? (Answer: they ganged up against the outsider, mocking it, moving away and ostracizing it)
- Who lost out in the end? (Answer: the smaller birds because they lost their feathers, demonstrating that he who laughs last laughs best!)
- Ask the students to discuss how things might have been different if the birds had displayed better attitudes.
- Explain to the students that you are going to tell them a well-known Bible story about Zacchaeus, which is found in Luke 19.1-10.
Before you start, ask the students to listen for any similarities between the story and the film that they have just watched.
- The Story of Zacchaeus
The town was abuzz: Jesus was coming. Zacchaeus was curious. He had heard many stories of this man who was attracting large crowds wherever he went. The man’s preaching was powerful, and many healings had been witnessed. Some even said that he was the promised Messiah.
Zacchaeus wondered where he should go to get a good view because he knew that there would be huge crowds. He heard the excited chatter of people in the street outside his house, all going in the same direction. He knew what reception he would get when he stepped outside his front door, but he had to go and see.
Zacchaeus stepped outside. As he’d expected, those passing gave him the look that he was used to, a mixture of disdain and hatred. He was one of them and yet he wasn’t: he was Jewish by birth, but of a different class. They were poor, whereas he was a wealthy tax collector, employed by the Romans. He had become wealthy at their expense and they wouldn’t let him forget it. It wasn’t pleasant, but Zacchaeus could see their point.
The streets were lined with crowds, three deep in some places. Zacchaeus was not very tall, so he didn’t have a chance of seeing over their heads. He also knew that there was no likelihood of any of the crowd making room for him to move to the front as they did for the children.
Suddenly, Zacchaeus had an idea. Running on ahead, he climbed up a sycamore tree. He would get a great view from there and he could hide among the branches and leaves. It was perfect - and now he could see Jesus approaching. He stopped right under the tree. Zacchaeus held his breath as the man looked up.
‘Zacchaeus,’ a voice said. ‘Come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’
Zacchaeus almost fell out of the tree in surprise. Flushed with embarrassment, he climbed down. He could hear confused, muttering voices, and he saw the dirty looks pass between his neighbours.
‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner,’ said a disgusted, angry voice. Somehow it didn’t matter any more, though. Jesus wanted to come to his house!
‘Oh yes, please come,’ Zacchaeus said. ‘You are so welcome.’
- We are not told how the conversation between Jesus and Zacchaeus went that afternoon, but we know that, before the day was over, Zacchaeus was a changed man. In the coming days, he would shock the townspeople further by giving half of his possessions to the poor, and by paying back four times over those whom he had cheated.
- Zacchaeus had made many mistakes, but so had the rest of the townspeople. Jesus had come to seek and save all those who were lost and needed rescuing.
Time for reflection
Encourage a discussion of the story of Zacchaeus, asking the same kind of questions as you used for the short film earlier.
- What was the same about the characters? (Answer: they were all Jews, all neighbours in Jericho)
- What was different about Zacchaeus? (Answer: he was wealthy, he had a good job as a tax collector, he was employed by the Romans and he was short in stature)
- What was the attitude of the townspeople towards one another? (Answer: we’re not really told, but they were probably civil for the most part and shared a sense of camaraderie, but were perhaps judgmental, too)
- What was the attitude of the townspeople towards Zacchaeus? (Answer: they showed disdain and anger, and ostracized him, perhaps due to some false accusations or exaggerated tales of misdeeds)
- Who lost out in the end? (Answer: the townspeople because Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ house)
- Why do you think Jesus chose to go Zacchaeus’ house? What was the outcome of this decision?
Ask the students to reflect quietly on what their own attitude to Zacchaeus might have been.
Ask them to consider whether there are lessons that they can learn today about their behaviour towards other people.
Encourage the students not to be judgmental and always to make new people feel welcome.
You are all-seeing and all-knowing.
You see our actions and you know the attitude of our hearts.
Please help us to treat others the way that we ourselves would like to be treated.
May we always remember that each person is special in your eyes.
‘I am amazing’ by Philippa Hanna, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVNKj0fbMiU (4.21 minutes long)