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The Didache 29 – Be Hospitable, But Do Not Support Idleness

Posted: July 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Didache | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

This series is reflecting on the Didache if you want to read it separately.

But receive everyone who comes in the name of the Lord, and prove and know him afterward; for you shall have understanding right and left. If he who comes is a wayfarer, assist him as far as you are able; but he shall not remain with you more than two or three days, if need be. But if he wants to stay with you, and is an artisan, let him work and eat. But if he has no trade, according to your understanding, see to it that, as a Christian, he shall not live with you idle. But if he wills not to do, he is a Christ-monger. Watch that you keep away from such.

This is not speaking about support of a prophet or bishop, but rather about one who comes invoking the name of the Lord. Be hospitable, especially to the traveler. But don’t support idleness. Paul wrote similar warnings to the Thessalonians. If a person stays, they should work.

It strikes me that we’re pretty good today about justifying our refusal to help, for whatever reason. But we’re not very hospitable. We don’t assist the wayfarer as far as we are able. I’m not really any better than anyone else. True hospitality requires effort and risk. Our culture doesn’t really teach it. That probably means we need to practice harder.

2 Comments on “The Didache 29 – Be Hospitable, But Do Not Support Idleness”

  1. 1 mike said at 9:03 am on July 9th, 2009:

    …..this can be a “tricky” exercise….its repeadly been my experience that many of the people i have helped ($$$) fall into a catagory i label “Users”…just recently a “homeless” man i befriended began showing his true colors soon after i was “hooked “…im so disappointed in him for using me…but..should i be?…should it matter what his motives are as long as mine are well meaning?…does’nt that make me an enabler of sorts…when does doing good to others become the wrong thing to do……..i think on these things.

  2. 2 Scott said at 8:29 pm on July 9th, 2009:

    I would easily agree that if you are in a close, ongoing relationship with someone who is gripped by something that is destroying them and those around them, it would not be good and indeed would be unloving to act in such a way as to enable or perpetuate the destructive behavior.

    That’s a close, ongoing relationship, though. Not a casual one. We do not live in and have not been shaped by a culture that teaches hospitality. Our culture certainly does not teach it in the way that the cultures within which Christianity was born did. And I would argue that virtually any idea of hospitality that used to be part of our cultural framework has vanished. My parents tended to pick up “strays” (for lack of a better word) and it was expected that visiting family would always stay with one another. To do otherwise was almost an insult. While I mostly absorbed the latter, I feel I tend to react more like our current culture would have us react to others. My wife didn’t even grow up with that much exposure to hospitality of the sort scripture describes.

    And so it’s hard for us. I believe my wife is better at it than I am. I’ve watched her act in gracious and hospitable ways — sometimes out of the blue — too often to think otherwise. But it rarely comes entirely “naturally”.

    I’ve vaguely remember a story about a bishop sometime in the early centuries of the church. I believe I was mowing the back yard of our old house listening to a podcast by someone. I don’t remember any names, either of the bishop or of the person in the podcast I was listening to. It would have been at least a couple of years ago. Anyway, the story went something like this:

    The bishop was walking along the street with one of his priests when a beggar accosted him and asked him for some money. The bishop indicated that the priest should give him some money from their funds. The priest tried several times to say something, but the bishop kept cutting him off. As they were walking away, the priest told the bishop that he wished the bishop had listend to him. Apparently the priest knew the man and knew he was lazy and would spend the money unwisely and on things that he ought not. The bishop told the priest, “If he spends the money we gave him to feed his passions, the sin is his. But if I refused to give him what he asked when I had it to give, the sin would have been mine.”

    My memory is weak enough that I’m sure I’ve mangled the story somewhat. Nevertheless, it has stuck with me. I don’t live up to it by any means, but it does seem to me to say something important.

    I will note that I have a tendency to be faster to judge or to withhold my aid from those I don’t particularly know than I am from those I know, even when I know someone well enough to know that perhaps I should do something other than what they want. I’ve also noticed that an awful lot of the time when groups I’ve been with have encountered the hard things Jesus has to say about money, we’ve tended to look for reasons he couldn’t have really meant what he seemed to be saying.