Illustrations by Scott Greer; textured backgrounds by istock/thinkstock
Sometimes when you see all the problems in the world, it might be tempting to pack up your stuff and move deep into the wilderness. But that really isn’t the best answer—and not merely because it’s tough to eke out a living picking berries and watching wildlife.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught, “We cannot avoid the world. A cloistered existence is not the answer. In a positive sense, our contribution to the world is part of our challenge and is essential if we are to develop our talents” (“Lessons from the Old Testament: In the World but Not of the World,” Ensign, Feb. 2006, 54).
Part of that contribution is reaching out to and serving others. We need to build friendships and share our talents to help make the world a brighter place. But how do we do that without becoming tainted by worldly values?
Object lesson time! And one that’s fit for a family home evening lesson. You’ll just need a small glass jar, a bottle of vegetable oil, a container of clear water, and a separate container with water dyed by food coloring.
The Things of the World
Pour the clear water into your empty jar until the jar is one-third full. Tell your family that the water represents the things of this world. You might want to read the following scripture—or one of your choice: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
Talk with your family about the scripture, asking questions such as, “How can we avoid loving the things of the world more than the things of God?” There’s nothing wrong with loving nature, for example, but that doesn’t mean we should skip church to go hiking.
Next, explain that the vegetable oil represents us and pour it into the jar until the jar is two-thirds full.
Most people have seen what happens when you combine oil and water (though they likely haven’t seen what you’ll do next). Still, it never seems to get old. It’s mesmerizing to watch oil float on the water. Discuss this phenomenon for a few minutes, talking about questions such as “How can we separate ourselves from the things of this world?” or “How do we resist temptation?”
Once you’ve spent some time discussing, you’re ready for the really cool part.
Bring out the colored water. This can be any color you want, though a darker hue such as blue or green will be more striking visually. Tell your family that the colored water represents worldly values such as selfishness or jealousy. Slowly pour the colored water into the jar.
Watching colored water slip down through oil is beyond awesome. It slithers to the bottom of the jar yet doesn’t react with the oil. Once it reaches the water, the whole bottom of the jar darkens while the oil remains pure.
Consider asking a family member to read the following quote from President Thomas S. Monson: “The Savior of mankind described Himself as being in the world but not of the world. We also can be in the world but not of the world as we reject false concepts and false teachings and remain true to that which God has commanded” (“Priesthood Power,” Ensign, May 2011, 67).
As long as we stay close to the gospel and live the commandments, we can reject false teachings and worldly values! They won’t affect us, just like the colored water didn’t affect the oil.
But what happens if we start loving the things of this world more than we love God?
Explain to your family that we all fall short of perfection (see Romans 3:23). Stir the contents of the jar with a spoon or put a lid on tight and tip it upside down several times. It doesn’t take long before the whole jar becomes one big murky mess.
Now set the jar aside while you discuss how when we turn our hearts to the things of this world, we become tangled up in worldly cares and the worldly influence begins to affect us.
Explain that even though we make mistakes, we can always repent (consider reading a scripture on repentance) and turn our hearts back to God. Though repentance can sometimes be difficult and painful, as soon as we turn our hearts back to God and choose to serve Him, we start to pull away from worldly influences—just like the oil and water begin to separate again once you’ve chosen to stop shaking them together.
Before closing the lesson with your testimony, consider talking about how no matter what worldly attitudes might storm around us, even if they trip us up temporarily, we can always choose to rise above them and be clean before God.