The New Testament and Spiritual Work with Children
Editor Vladimir Antonov
Translated from Russian by Anton Teplyy
This is the chapter from the book
"Spiritual Work with Children"
"New Atlanteans", Lakefield, 2008
© Antonov V.V., 2008
“A sower went out to sow, and while he
was sowing, some of the seeds fell down near a road and were trampled down, and
the birds of the sky pecked them, some fell down on a stone and came up, but
withered, because there was no moisture; some fell down among thorns, and thorns
grew and choked them; and others fell down on good soil, and when they came up,
they gave a hundredfold harvest” (Luke 8:5-8).
Jesus Christ narrated this parable to His disciples and explained it by
revealing the deep meaning of the images of the seed, the sower and the soil.
“The seed is the word of God; and the seeds which fell down near the road are
essence about listeners to whom devil comes afterwards and takes away the word
from their hearts, for they will not come to believe and will not be saved; and
the seeds which fell down to stone are about those who when hear the word,
accept it with glad, but do not have a root, have ephemeral belief, and in the
time of temptation fall away; and the seeds which fell down among thorns are
about those who listen the word, but go away, choked by cares, riches and
pleasures of this world, and give not any fruit; and the seeds which fell down
on good soil are about those who have heard the word and kept it in a kind and
clean heart giving fruit in patience.” (Luke 8:11-15).
What can we say about the future life of the children with whom we have a
contact? Will they be able to choose with benefit for themselves the truth in
the flow of information and events around?
If the good soil was prepared, if in childhood one got rich versatile
information about the world around us, if at the same time the foundation of
ethics was laid, then one’s spiritual Path will be less winding. And if the
adults are sincerely interested in the happy future of the children, thinking
not about financial success, but about the surest progress on the spiritual Path,
predetermined by God, then relationships between them and their children should
be built according to the Divine rules which were given to humanity through
Work with children in the groups of psychic self-regulation can be enriched
with the themes from the New Testament. This agrees very well with the basic
principles set forth in the article of V.V. Antonov The Basic Principles of
Teaching Psychic Self-regulation to Children and Adolescents.
In the life of Jesus Christ, in His deeds, speeches, and parables there are
answers to many questions which arise during one’s life. Many aspects of one’s
relationships with the material world, with other people, and with God are
reflected in the Gospels. It is important that an instructor find what is
necessary now taking into account the age of the child, outward circumstances,
the deepness of relationships with the child, and give the appropriate
information in the most suitable form.
By the example of the life of Jesus Christ can be realized the principle
mentioned in the article of V.V. Antonov: “Directed ethical work… should lay in
students the basics of ethics”.
One more principle mentioned in the same article: “In work, stress should be put
on broadening of outlook, wide informing of the students in order to help them
to choose their course of life when they become mature”.
By using Gospels, it is possible to diversify information given to children.
But it is essential that all information be presented according to the
children’s age and, when possible, with taking into account the individual
peculiarities of each child for the sake of achieving the most intensive and
harmonious development of a person.
While working with children, it is necessary to remember that all information
should be given unobtrusively. If the children do not perceive what is presented
to them, then one should try to understand the cause: either the information is
given in a too complicated form or the current relationships between the
children and the instructor do not allow to communicate on the level of
spiritual openness which is implied by the given information, and so on.
A failure during work with children should be interpreted as a good reason for
bringing to harmony the ethical, intellectual, and psychoenergetic aspects of
the development of the instructor himself.
Let us examine peculiarities noticed during work with groups of children of
Children of age from 4 to 6 do not concern about from where this or that life
principle is taken. They just experience the emotional background around them
and behave accordingly to it. If it is love, which accepts the child as he is,
then the child “soaks up” this love into himself. This allows the instructor to
unfold the child’s abilities and creates the favorable rate of development. If,
on the other hand, the child does not receive love, but even more if negative
emotions are directed towards him, then he suffers, becomes reserved, or on the
contrary, begins to behave glaringly.
We can conclude from the aforesaid that when we work with children of 4-6 years
old, we should first of all create the atmosphere of love, the atmosphere of
equal and calm attitude towards all children in the group independently of their
merits and demerits.
At this age, children easily accept the idea of unity with all surrounding
world, perceiving even lifeless things as living beings, giving them characters
and habits. Therefore, the basics of ecological education are perceived by them
as something self-evident: “it is painful to a tree if we crack its branches”,
“a flower does not want to be picked” — all this is very understandable to small
children, and one needs only to stress this.
The children of age 4-6 also understand very well that in every human being
there is the Divine Love, which can light up both the life of the man himself
and the life of all that surrounds him.
The meaning of the Divine Love can be described to children with the help of the
image of a living sun which resides in each of us. Small children imagine well
inside their chests the sun which gives to all its tender light. Children like
very much shining and giving this light. Variants may be very different: shine
from a chest, pour out this love and light from eyes, with help of smiles, shine
with hands, fingers, with one’s whole being.
While narrating fairytales, stories one may use various fine metaphors,
expressions found in the Gospels. For example, the comparison of good people
with trees yielding good fruit.
Children from 7 to 10 have already accumulated some life experience. By this age
certain relationships with the surrounding world have been formed already. At
that if a child grew in the atmosphere of love, attended such children groups,
he will be well and openly inclined towards the perception of ethical
principles which can be understood at the age of 7-10.
If, on the other hand, a child grew against the background of the domination of
negative emotions, by this age he may have built a “protection” against this
world, which cannot satisfy his natural necessity of being loved.
Manifestations of this “protection” can be various. These are — tiredness, lack
of interest towards surroundings, defiant behavior (“hypercompensation” of an
inferiority complex), and so on.
Such children consequently provoke other adult people to negative emotions. And
this proves to such children that they are “bad”, what causes even more
strengthening of the “protection” from the people around, who do not want to
evaluate children’s inner essence. In this way, the permanent forcing of tension
between children and adults occurs. Among some people this happens to a lesser
degree, among others — to a greater.
During work in the groups of psychic self-regulation, it is important to sever
such a chain: “protection” — “reaction of adults” — “protection”… In each child
one has to find something good, special, and help to uncover this from under
the protective mask.
Sometimes it is enough to let a child once express his opinion, to pay attention
to his words, and “constraints” fall off, and the “mask” is thrown away as
If a child feels that he has a possibility to show his worthiness socially, that
the fact of his existence is interesting to other people, then interest in
getting new information from adults appears. It is possible to use parables and
stories from the Gospels in order to lay in the child the foundations of ethics,
along with information broadening his outlook.
The life of an adolescent group goes according to certain laws. Among the
children conflicts often occur. If one, instead of smoothing such situations,
tries to help children to gain the understanding of their relationships, using
evangelical stories and parables, then it is possible to change their “scale of
values”, to make them more ethical, kind, and honest.
By the age of 11-14, adolescents get questions to which they have not found
answers yet. Adolescents already have a set of the ways of behavior; they know
various nuances of human relationships; their relation towards themselves have
already formed; and the desire for knowing the principles of the world have
appeared. They make attempts to solve arising problems on the base of the
knowledge they have. Work in groups may help to sort the accumulated knowledge,
to get new information, to detach the truth from false.
The use of themes from the New Testament may help to sort out the incoming
information, to learn controlling oneself, to withstand difficult stages of life,
which appear inevitably during one’s life.
At lessons with adolescents, communication should be built in the form of a
dialog. It is important to give a possibility to express his/her opinion to each
adolescent. This can help every member of the group to gain self-confidence, to
learn respecting other’s opinions. For that it is necessary to master such
qualities as patience and tolerance.
Each lesson should be analyzed by the instructor in order to understand the
state and needs of all members of the group. Providing that, the next pieces of
information will be given in the most suitable form and have the meaning most
important at the present moment.
The themes for discussions and meditations can be various. For instance, the
theme of love: “Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your mind” (Matt 22:37), “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39).
Particularly, it is possible to raise such questions: “Why should we fulfill
these commandments?”, “Who is my neighbor?”
It is also useful to narrate the parable of Jesus about a merciful Samaritan:
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of
robbers, who stripped him, beat him up, and went off, leaving him half dead. Now
by chance a priest was going down that road, but when he saw the injured man he
passed by on the other side. So too a Levite, when he came up to the place and
saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was traveling came to
where the injured man was, and when he saw him, he felt compassion for him. He
went up to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. Then he
put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next
day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take
care of him, and whatever else you spend, I will repay you when I come back this
way.” (Luke 10:25-37). So, neighbor is not that who, for example, has the same
nationality as you, but is every kind man.
Hence, it is possible to extend this idea: ALL people are brothers and sisters
because God loves ALL, and everyone has the Divine Light inside, God’s Spirit
which lives in us.
At once it is possible to conduct the meditation of seeking the source of this
Divine Light in the chest. The chest, the “home” of this Light, is closed
initially, blocked by the “heaps” of insults, by the “stones” of envy, flooded
with heavy, sticky, and bad mood. Let us try to shovel down the “heaps”, cleanse
the passage to the “home”, give an outlet to the Divine Light of love. Let us
feel how the windows of our “home” are opening and fresh air is entering inside;
our inner Light is kindling stronger; it is difficult for it to find room in
the chest and it pours out to all surroundings: to the friends, to the trees, to
the flowers, to the birds, into ambient space, giving to all peace, joy, and
Let us remember some person which was unpleasant to us in something until this
moment. Let us see that he has the same Light in his chest, but it is still
blocked. Feel sorry for him/her and send him the small ray of our love. Let us
love this person as he is, because God gives to everyone a possibility to become
To this theme of meditation the question of the apostle Peter to Jesus and the
answer of Jesus are appropriate: “How many times should I forgive my brother
who sins against me? Until seven times?” “I do not tell you “until seven times”,
but until seventy times seven” (Matt 18:21-22).
One should always bring the Golden Rule in the life of the group. “…Whatever you
desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them” (Matt 7:12).
This Rule can help to solve occurring conflict situations and to choose this or
The Golden Rule may also become the theme of a particular lesson.
As an illustration, one may use the story about a king and a servant from the
Gospel of Matthew. A king, being moved with compassion, forgave to his servant
the debt, but the servant did not forgive the debt to his follow-servant and
cast him into prison, forgetting in what situation he just was.
One may discuss this story and give different examples from his own life. It is
possible to express thought that sometimes it is very difficult to forgive and
understand. For that — efforts and work on oneself are needed, but not anger,
condemnation, and striving for changing others.
Only through self-analysis, through efforts to change oneself does the
development of souls go. The gaining of the soul’s qualities comes from the work
on oneself, which should not be put off, because in the future new tasks will
appear which need to be solved as well.
In discussions on spiritual subjects it is useful to give examples from the
lives of adolescents. In order for adolescents to become interested in narrating
about their faults, one should explain that all our problems are a school for us.
Sometimes we cannot realize what is good and what is bad until we face with it.
And if we now, at lesson, share our faults, without the fear of being condemned,
then we get benefit from such communication. First, by narrating about our bad
deed, we take off this weight by repentance. Second, the life experience
accumulated by us may help our friends to find correct decisions in the similar
So that adolescents do not get the desire to condemn others during such
discussions and during other circumstances, one may talk about: “Whether we have
a right to condemn others?”
We all go through our lives falling, stumbling, and making wrong deeds. This can
be illustrated by the story from the Gospel. Once a “sinful” woman was brought
to Jesus in order for Jesus to condemn her. But Jesus told people who brought
her and demanded that she be prosecuted by a court, “Who among you is without a
sin, let him throw the first stone at her” (John 8:7). Soon, around Jesus and
the woman there was no man. The stone was not thrown. So, let us before raising
a hand or opening a mouth to condemn, think about whether we have a right for
that? Whether we are blameless? Take the place of that man which we want to hit
whether by a word or a thought. Would we like that the same will be done to us?
It is usually difficult to do all this, because we commonly be in anger in such
moments. Hence, one may switch to discussion about the essence of anger, about
Evil can never be exterminated by evil. Evil gives birth only to even more evil.
Only love can cleanse one from evil. As an example, we can consider the story
about Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, who was turned to righteous life.
A tax collector Zacchaeus lived in the town Jericho. He offended people robbing
them, taking from them more taxes than the law prescribed. But Jesus, when He
came to this town, did not even condemn Zacchaeus, but wanted to stay in his
house. Such unusual behavior of Jesus changed Zacchaeus in a split second. The
love of Jesus led Zacchaeus to repentance (Luke 19:1-10).
It is possible to conduct the following meditation: let us recall some situation
when we condemned somebody. Replay this situation and imagine that God looks at
our anger, at our spite and laughs at us being angry— in many cases we are
clumsy just as that man whom we are angry with. Let us try to understand this
man, send him the rays of our love emanated from our spiritual hearts.
One may also discuss the nature of evil. Usually one does wrong, evil deeds
because he perceives outward things incorrectly. From his point of view, he
performs deeds for the welfare. One may narrate the story about Saul who was, by
his religious beliefs, the worst enemy of Christians, but having recovered his
sight, understood and accepted the Teachings of Jesus Christ and with the same
vigor began to preach Christianity (Acts 7:58, 8:3, 9:1-28).
One more theme: “It is easy to love people who love you”. The best example of
love towards all is the behavior of Jesus in the last hours of his life on the
Earth. Jesus healed the servant of chief priest to whom one of the apostles cut
off an ear during the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane. Jesus loved and felt sorry
for people who crucified His body because they “do not know what they are doing”.
The new aspect of human relationships may reveal to us a parable about a
Pharisee and a tax collector: “God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of
men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I
fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all that I get”, the Pharisee said.
But the tax collector, standing far away, would not even lift up as his eyes to
heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke
18:10-14). Which of these two people estimated his spiritual qualities more
One may offer such theme: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he
who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). Talking about that, let us
try to answer questions: “What does it mean “humbles himself”?”, “In what he
will be exalted?”
If adolescents are ready to perceive deep spiritual truths, one may develop the
theme: “What benefit is it to a man if he gains the entire world but does harm
to his soul?”
Our bodies can be compared to automobiles in which we perform the travel called
“life”. The way we lived on the Earth predetermines the place for us after the
death of the body. Let us narrate the parable about a rich man and Lazarus. A
rich man had all material comforts in his earthly life. He enjoyed this and did
not think about spiritual. Lazarus, on the other hand, was poor, lived in
poverty, but led a righteous life. When they left their physical bodies, the
rich man found oneself in hell, but Lazarus was taken to paradise. “Father
Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his
finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.” But
Abraham said, “Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good
things, and Lazarus, in like manner, bad things. But now here he is comforted
and you are in anguish” (Luke 16:19-31).
This may be naturally followed by a discussion about what is hell and what is
paradise, about the structure of multidimensional universe, and about the place
of God-the-Creator in it.
To the theme pointed above, it will be appropriate to narrate the parable about
a foolish rich man who spent all his strength, gathering and saving material
boons. Having had gathered tangible wealth, he anticipated a long life full of
pleasures from using his riches, but God said to him, “You foolish one, tonight
your soul is required of you. The things which you have prepared — whose will
they be?” (Luke 12:20). “Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man's
life doesn't consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses” (Luke
12:15). “Don't lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust
consume, and where thieves break through and steal” (Matt 6:19). Here Jesus
stated that only the results of our spiritual work are really ours, that only
these results stay with us forever. Material acquisitions, in contrast, are
temporary. One may have good things, be dressed well, enjoy various material
boons — all this is good and necessary for supporting the physical body in a
good shape, but this should not become the purpose of life, should not be put
into the head of a corner.
Two nice themes may be taken from the story about Jesus and a Samaritan woman.
Jesus asked some water from a Samaritan woman, a woman of slightly different
nationality. This woman was surprised that Jesus, a Jew, did not disdain to ask
her, contrary to other Jews. Jesus did not demonstrate by His behavior that she
is “lower” than He is. Having had drunk some water, He said: “Everyone who
drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I
will give him will never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become
in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14).
First of all, here is a theme about the equality of people in the face of God,
about inadmissibility of arrogance. To this theme one may add the story about
Apostle Philip who converted into Christianity a grandee from Ethiopia. (Acts
The second theme, which follows from the story about Jesus and the Samaritan
woman, is the Divine knowledge, which we can drink and give to drink to others.
And love towards people, about which Jesus said, is the precondition for
understanding the Divinity.
“Be careful that you do not do your charitable giving before men, to be seen by
them, or else you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. The
hypocrites… have already received their reward” (Matt 6:1; 5), “When you make a
dinner or a supper, do not call your friends, nor your brothers, nor your
kinsmen, nor rich neighbors, or perhaps they might also return the favor, and
pay you back. But when you make a feast, ask the poor, the maimed, the lame, or
the blind; and you will be blessed, because they do not have the resources to
repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke
How should we understand this? Literally? Or is it a grotesque stressing of the
meaning which we should attribute to relations between people? A good deed can
be done for receiving praise, and then this is not the true good, but a good
provoked by the expectation of a reward for this. This can be seen very well
with small children: some of them refuse to fulfill a request for the promised
reward. They feel that love needs not to be rewarded materially. But we often
teach children to do something for a material reward, forming a wrong scale of
values in them.
Very often one performs deeds about which he regrets afterwards: betrayal, false
evidence, violation of a promise. Later, the pain of remorse comes, regret about
what was done. In some such cases you know that you act wrong, but something
prevents you from doing right. For example, one says one thing, another insists
on something else, and then confidence in your own rightfulness
is lost in the flow of other’s opinions.
It is important to learn to be firm in your decisions — whether small or big.
The feeling of herd often overcomes us. In a company we often do that which we
never could do by ourselves. The summit, the most impressive example of the
factor of a herd was the persecution of Jesus Christ. “Crucify, crucify Him!” —
yells crowd to Pilot, asking for blood of the One Who brought them His Love, Who
What can help us to strengthen confidence in ourselves, in our abilities? Here
one can use the story about Jesus walking on the sea. Apostle Peter said then to
Jesus: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the waters. He said, “Come!”
Peter went down from the boat, and walked on the waters to come to Jesus. But
when he saw that the wind was strong, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he
cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand,
and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
One can talk about the work on the perfection of the soul — that it is hard, but
this is the work worthy of efforts: “Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is
the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many are those
who enter in by it. How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads
to life! Few are those who find it.” (Matt 7:13-14).
“For they all gave out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, gave all
that she had to live on.” (Mark 12:44). This story about two lepta of a poor
widow may serve as the beginning of the conversation about how we think about
deeds of other people. Often near us live people whose contribution to work or
to something else is unnoticeable and insignificant, but it is done with one's
last bit of strength and with full self-giving. And such impulses in people one
should notice, appreciate, and keep as the precious gifts.
And one more great theme: “There is nothing from outside of the man, that going
into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are those
that defile the man.” (Mark 7:15). No one of even the most disgusting acts of
other people can verily defile; only his own bad deeds and emotions, coming from
man, defile him.
In conclusion, I want to say the following. This article presented the principle
of the interpretation of the New Testament themes and some themes for the
discussions and meditations. Everyone who conducts lessons in children groups
may select from the New Testament material which is needed in particular cases
and give it in the most suitable form.
But it is important to remember that some principles given in the Gospels are
understandable only for the people of the sufficiently high level of the
spiritual perfection. And one should not give such complicated principles to
children because it may cause damage to their development.
For example, “…whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other
also.” (Matt 5:39). But “turning of the other cheek” can be an act following
from one’s strength or from one’s weakness; only the first will be correct .
What concerns warriors, they should have the qualities about which John the
Baptist said: “Who has two coats, let him give to him who has none. He who has
food, let him do likewise. Extort no more than that which is appointed you.
Extort from no one by violence, neither accuse anyone wrongfully. Be content
with your wages.” (Luke 3:11-14).
Or, for instance, the story about Martha and Mary: Mary sat near Jesus’ feet,
listening carefully each word of Jesus, but not helping to her sister about
housekeeping. When Martha asked Jesus to send her sister to help her, Jesus
answered: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but
one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away
from her.” (Luke 10:38-42). But in order to become like Mary one should first
learn how to keep house, should develop in oneself the qualities of a
householder. One should become like Mary not because of laziness and inability,
but having known the work on the material plane, having ceased to be afraid of
any work. (In detail you can read about the qualities of a warrior and a
householder in the article of V.V. Antonov The Laws of Spiritual Development).
Working with children, acquainting them with outer world, broadening their
outlook, giving them the fundamentals of morality, we lay the foundations of
ethics on which they will build their spiritual temples when become mature.
From the aforesaid it follows that in children we should develop habits of work,
cultivate an active position in life. If it so, then afterwards on this well
prepared soil a good fruit from the Divine Word can grow.