The following is an attempted paraphrase of the Didache, or the Teachings of the Twelve Apostles, a second-century beginners’ manual for the Christian life. It starts with a lot of teachings about sharing, so the thought occurred to me that it would be great for kids. Thus, I’ve paraphrased it especially with children in mind. This is not the whole document, but just a long enough segment, starting at the beginning, for a blog post, so one or more parts will be forthcoming. You can read a real translation of the original text here.

How to Be a Saint

A Didache for Children

These are the Lord Jesus’s teachings, from his Holy Apostles, for people who need faith:

There are two paths: the path of life and the path of death. There is a big difference between these paths!

This is the path of life: Love God first. He made you! Second, love other people just like you love yourself.

Here is what these teachings look like: First, when people are mean to you, be nice to them anyway. Pray for people who don’t like you. You should be willing even to give up your food for them! It is easy to love people who love you. Even people who aren’t Christians can do that. No, you should love people even if they hate you. Then at least you won’t hate them. Don’t let your body or your feelings keep you from doing the right thing and loving them. True saints don’t even hit a person back when that person hits them. If someone makes you go somewhere you don’t want to go, change your attitude and be willing to go even farther than that. If someone takes your jacket, give that person your sweater too. If someone takes a toy from you, do not demand it back. (You might not be able to take it back anyway.) If people ask for your help, help them without expecting any favors from them. Our Father in heaven wants us to share! The person who gives to others like this is happy. That person doesn’t need to say sorry! The person who takes should be careful though. If someone truly needs what others give, then that person doesn’t need to say sorry either. But if they didn’t really need it, God will know, and they should be sorry. They will be asked why they took it, and they won’t have any good answer. They will be grounded. God will question them. And they won’t get away with it. They won’t be done until they have returned what they took and said they are sorry.

Next, the path of life includes all of God’s commandments, like the Ten Commandments, such as “do not murder,” “do not steal,” and “do not lie.” These commandments are big commandments. Don’t hurt other people. Control your body. Live like a Christian. Go to church and don’t practice other religions. Don’t be greedy. Tell the truth. What you say should always be true to what you do. You shouldn’t hate anyone. Instead, sometimes you will need to correct other people, other times just pray for them, and there are even times when you will need to love other people more than your own life.

Child, run away from everything that’s bad. Don’t let yourself be mad. Anger is where killing comes from. Don’t want what isn’t yours. Don’t argue. Don’t be thoughtless and impulsive. These, too, are the kinds of things that lead people to kill.

Child, don’t let your desire fool you into thinking that you can use another person just to make yourself happy. This leads people to be bad friends. Don’t say dirty things. Don’t stare. These things lead to bad friendships too.

Child, don’t fall for horoscopes or superstitions. This is called idolatry. Stay away from people who think they can use dark magic. That’s idolatry too.

Child, don’t tell lies. If you take the truth from someone, it is a kind of stealing and it leads to stealing. Don’t be greedy. Don’t be obsessed with how you look or how great you think you are. Other people have a right to their things. If you think you are better than others, pretty soon you’ll think you can steal from them.

Child, don’t complain. Complaining leads to ungratefulness toward God. That’s the opposite of sainthood! Don’t be stubborn. Don’t let yourself think about bad things. These things make you forget to be thankful to God too.

Be a humble person, someone who doesn’t think they are better than anyone else. Jesus said that the humble person “will inherit the earth.” Be patient, kind, gentle, quiet, and good. Don’t forget these teachings the Lord Jesus has given you about how to live like a saint. Don’t just pretend to be good or convince yourself that you couldn’t be better. Don’t try to be popular. Just be good and humble. Be thankful for everything. Everything comes from God.