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The deceptions of temporal life hide from men the true life in the present.

And Forgive Us Our Debts As We Forgive Our Debtors

Some children were brought to Jesus and he saw that his pupils were sending them away. He was grieved at this. and said: It is wrong to send children away. They are better than anyone, for they live according to the will of the Father: they are indeed in the kingdom of heaven. Instead of sending them away you should learn from them, for to live in the Father's will you must live as children do.

They do not abuse people, do not bear ill-will, do not lust, do not bind themselves by oaths, do not resist evil, do not go to law with anyone, acknowledge no difference between their own and other nations; and so they are better than grown-up people and are in the kingdom of heaven. If you do not become as children and refrain from all the snares of the flesh, you will not be in the kingdom of heaven.

Only he understands my teaching who recognizes that children are better than we, because they do not infringe the Father's will.

Only he who understands my teaching understands the will of the Father. We must not despise children. They are better than we, and their hearts are always with the Father and are pure in his sight.

Not one child perishes by the Father's will. They perish only because men entice them and draw them away from the truth. Be careful therefore not to lead a child away from the Father and from true life; for he who leads a child away from purity does evil. To lead a child away from goodness, to tempt him, is as bad as to hang a millstone about his neck and throw him into the water. It is hard for him to get out, and he is more likely to drown. Equally hard is it for a child to escape from the temptations into which a grownup man leads him.

The world of men is unhappy only because of temptations. Temptations are everywhere in the world; they always were and always will be, and man perishes on account of them.

So give up everything, sacrifice everything, in order to avoid falling into temptation. If a fox is caught in a trap it will wrench off its paw to escape, and the paw will heal and the fox remain alive. You too should be ready to give up everything in order not to sink into temptation.

Beware of the temptation to break the first commandment: not to be angry with people when they injure you and you wish for revenge.

If a man has injured you do not forget that he is a son of the same Father and is your brother. If he has offended you go and appeal to his conscience face to face. If he listens to you, you are a gainer and have found a new brother. If he does not listen to you, take two or three others with you to persuade him, and if he repents forgive him. Forgive him always, even if he offends you seven times and seven times asks for forgiveness. If he will not listen to you then tell the congregation of those who believe in my reaching, and if he will not listen to them, still forgive him, and have nothing more to do with him.

For the Kingdom of God may be compared to this: A king began to settle with his vassals. And they brought to him a man who owed him a million and had nothing to pay with. And the king would have had to sell the vassal's land, his wife, his children, and the man himself. But the vassal begged mercy of the king, and the king had mercy on him and forgave him all his debt. Now this same man went home and saw a peasant who owed him fifty pence. And he seized the peasant and began to throttle him, and said: Pay what you owe me. And the peasant fell at his feet and said: Have patience with me and I will pay you all. But the other showed him no mercy and put him in prison, to stay there till he paid everything. Other peasants saw this and went to the king and told what the vassal had done. Then the king called the vassal and said to him: Wretched man, I forgave you all your debt because you begged me to, and you should have forgiven your debtor as I forgave you. And the king was angry and handed the vassal over to be tortured till his whole debt should be paid.

And the Father will deal with you in like manner if you do not with your whole heart forgive all those who are to blame in your sight.

You know that if you have a quarrel with a man, it is better to make it up with him without going to law. You know that and act accordingly, because you know that if you go to law you will lose more. So it is with all anger. If you know that anger is an evil thing and separates you from the Father, then get rid of the anger as quickly as possible and make peace.

You know that as you become bound on earth, so will you be bound before the Father. And as you free yourselves on earth so you will also be free before the Father.

Understand that if two or three are united on earth in my teaching, all that they desire they already have from my Father. Because where two or three are joined together in the name of the spirit in man, that spirit of man already lives in them.

Beware also of temptation under the second commandment: about men changing their wives.

Some Orthodox teachers once came to Jesus, and trying him, said: May a man put away his wife?

He answered: From the very beginning man was created male and female: that was the Father's will.

Therefore a man leaves father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and the husband and wife unite in one body. So that his wife is for a man the same as his own flesh. Therefore a man must not break the natural law of God and divide what is united. In your law of Moses it is said that you may put away your wife and take another, but that is wrong. According to the Father's will it is not so. And I tell you that he who casts off his wife drives both her and him who unites with her into depravity. And by casting off his wife a man spreads dissoluteness abroad.

And his pupils said to Jesus: It is too hard to be always bound to one wife. If that must be, it would be better not to marry at all. He said to them: You may refrain from marriage but you must understand what that means. If a man wishes to live without a wife, let him be quite pure and not approach women: but let him who loves women unite with one wife and not cast her off or look at other women.

Beware of temptation against the third commandment: about being forced to fulfill obligations as a result of taking oaths. The tax-collectors once came to Peter and asked him: What about your teacher- does he pay the tax? Peter said: No, he does not. And he went and told Jesus that the tax-collectors had stopped him and had said that everyone was bound to pay the taxes.

Then Jesus said to him: A king does not take taxes from his sons, nor do they have to pay them to anyone else. Is that not so? So it is with us. If we are sons of God we are bound to no one but God, and are free from all obligations. But if they demand the tax from you, then pay: not that you are under obligation to do so but because you must not resist evil. Otherwise resistance to evil will produce worse evil.

Another time the Orthodox together with Caesar's officials went to Jesus to entrap him in his words. They said to him: You teach everyone according to the truth. Tell us, then, are we bound to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Jesus understood that they wished to convict him of not acknowledging the duty to Caesar. And he said to them: Show me what the taxes to Caesar are paid with. They handed him a coin. He looked at it and said: What is this on it? Whose is this image and inscription? They said: Caesar's. And he said: Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, but that which is God's-your soul-give to no one but God. Money, property, your labor, give to him who asks them of you. But give your soul to no one but God.

Your Orthodox teachers go about everywhere making people swear and vow that they will fulfill the law. But by this they only pervert people and make them worse than before. It is impossible to let the body put the soul under obligation. In your soul, God is; and you cannot make promises on God's behalf to other men. Beware of the temptation to break the fourth commandment about judging and executing people and calling on others to take part in these judgments and executions.

The pupils of Jesus once went into a village and asked for a night's lodging but were not admitted. Then they went to Jesus to complain, and said: Let lightning destroy these people!

Jesus answered: You still do not understand of what spirit you are. I do not teach to destroy people but to save them.

Once a man came to Jesus and said: Bid my brother give me my inheritance. Jesus said to him: No one has made me a judge over you, and I judge no one. Neither may you sentence anyone.

The Orthodox once brought a woman to Jesus and said: See, this woman was taken in adultery. Now by the law she should be stoned to death, but what do you say about it?

Jesus answered nothing, and waited for them to bethink themselves. But they pressed him, and asked him what he would adjudge to this woman? Then he said: Let him among you who has no fault cast the first stone at her. And he said nothing more.

Then the Orthodox looked within themselves and their conscience smote them, and those in front drew behind the others and they all went away. Jesus remained alone with the woman. He looked round, saw that there was no one else, and said to her: Has no one condemned you?

She said: No one!

Then he said: Neither do I condemn you. Go, and in future do not sin.

Beware! The temptation against the fifth commandment is for men to consider it their duty to do good to their fellow-countrymen only and to regard other nations as enemies.

A teacher of the law wished to test, Jesus and said to him: What must I do to obtain life?

Jesus replied: You yourself know what to do: love your Father, God, and your brothers, His sons, whether they are your fellow-countrymen or not.

And the teacher of the law said: That would be well if there were not different nations, but how am I to love an enemy of my own people?

And Jesus said: There was a Jew who fell into misfortune. He was beaten, robbed, and left on the road. A Jewish priest passed by, looked at the injured man and went on. Then a Jewish Levite passed, looked at the injured man and also passed by. Then there came a man of another, a hostile nation, a Samaritan. This Samaritan saw the Jew and pitied him, not thinking of the Jews' contempt for the Samaritans. He washed and bound up his wounds, took him on his own ass to an inn, paid money for him to the innkeeper and promised to call again and pay for him.

See that you too behave like that to foreigners and to those who despise and ruin you. Then you will obtain true life.

Jesus said: The world loves its own but hates God's people. Therefore men of the world-priests, preachers, officials-will harass those who fulfill the Father's will. I am going to Jerusalem and they will torture and kill me, but my spirit cannot be killed and will remain alive.

Having heard that Jesus would be tortured and killed in Jerusalem, Peter was sad and took Jesus by the hand and said to him: If that is so, you had better not go to Jerusalem.

Then Jesus said to Peter: Do not say that. What you say is a temptation. If you fear tortures and death for me it means that you are not thinking of what is godly-of the spirit-but are thinking of what is human.

And having called the people and his pupils to him Jesus said: He that wishes to live according to my teaching let him forsake his fleshly life and be ready for all physical sufferings: he who fears for his physical life will ruin his true life, but he who disregards his fleshly life will save his true life.

But they did not understand this, and then some materialists came, and he explained to all what true life and the awakening from death means.

These materialists believed that after the death of the body there is no other life. They said: How can anybody rise from the dead? If everybody rose, they could not live together. For instance, there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died. His wife married the second brother, and he died; and she then married the third, who also died, and so on to the seventh. Now how can those seven brothers all live with one wife if they all rise from the dead?

Jesus answered them: Either you purposely confuse things or you do not understand what the awakening to life is. In this life people marry. But those who earn everlasting life and awaken from death do not marry and cannot die, for they are united to the Father. In your scriptures it is written that God said: I am the God of Abraham and Jacob. And this was said when Abraham and Jacob had died from among men. So those who are dead from among men are alive to God. If God is, and God does not die, then they who are with God live always. The awakening from death is to live in the will of the Father. For the Father there is no time, and therefore by fulfilling the Father's will and uniting with him man departs from time and death.

When they heard this the Orthodox did not know what to devise to silence Jesus, and together they began to question him. And one of them said: Teacher, which in your opinion is the chief commandment of the whole law?

They thought that Jesus would get confused in answering about the law.

But Jesus said: The chief commandment is that you should love with all your soul the Lord your God in whose power you are. And the other commandment to love your neighbor follows from it, for the same Lord God is in him also. In this is the substance of all that is written in your scriptures.

And he said further: What in your opinion is Christ? Is he someone's son?

They said: In our opinion Christ is the son of David.

He replied: How then is it that David calls Christ his Lord? Christ is neither David's son, nor anyone's son after the flesh, but Christ is that same Lord, our Ruler, whom we know in ourselves as our life. Christ is that consciousness which is within us.

And Jesus said: Beware of the leaven of the Orthodox teachers. Beware also of the leaven of the materialists and of the rulers. But most of all, beware of the leaven of the self-styled 'Orthodox', for in them is the chief stumbling-block. And when the people understood what he was speaking about, he repeated: Most of all, beware of the teaching of the scholars, the self-styled Orthodox. Beware of them, because they occupy the place of the prophets who declared the will of God to the people. They have of themselves assumed the authority to preach the will of God to the people. They preach words, but do nothing. They only say: Do this and do that. But there is nothing to do, because they do nothing good, but only talk. They tell people to do what cannot be done, and they themselves do nothing. They only try to keep the teaching in their own hands, and for that purpose strive to appear imposing; they dress themselves up and exalt themselves. Know therefore that no one should call himself a teacher and leader.

The self-appointed Orthodox call themselves teachers, and by so doing hinder you from entering into the kingdom of heaven, and do not enter it themselves. These Orthodox think that people can be brought to God by external ceremonies and pledges. Like blind men they do not see that the outside show is of no importance and that everything depends on the soul. They themselves do what is easy and external, but what is needful and difficult-love, mercy, and truth-they neglect. They only wish to appear to be within the law and to bring others outwardly to the law. Therefore they are like painted tombs, which seem clean externally but are loathsome within. They outwardly honor the holy martyrs, but in fact they are just the people who torture and kill the saints. They were, and are, the enemies of all that is good. All the evil in the world comes of them, because they hide the good and put forward evil in its stead. Most of all to be feared, therefore, are the self-appointed teachers. You yourselves know that every other mistake may be corrected, but if people are mistaken as to what is good it cannot be corrected, and that is the case with the self-appointed leaders.

And Jesus said: I wished here in Jerusalem to unite all men in one understanding of true happiness, but the people here are only capable of putting the teachers of goodness to death. Therefore they will remain as godless as they were, and will not know the true God till they lovingly accept the understanding of Him.

And Jesus went away from the temple.

Then his pupils said to him: But what will happen to the temple of God, with all the embellishments people have brought to it to give to God?

And Jesus said: I tell you truly that this whole temple with all its embellishments will be destroyed, and nothing will be left of it. There is only one true temple of God-the hearts of men when they love one another.

And they asked him: When will that temple be?

And Jesus said to them: It will not be yet. People will for a long time be deceived in the name of my teaching, and this will cause wars and rebellions. There will be much wrong-doing and little love. But when the true teaching spreads abroad among all men, then there will be an end of evil and temptations.

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Leo Tolstoy

  • Full name: Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy
  • Russian novelist and philosopher
  • Born September 9th, 1828 and died November 20th, 1910
  • Best known for War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877)

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