Sunday, 19 December 2010

Relevance of Work

Barclay (1976) in his introduction to 2nd and 3rd John, has a portion of the Didachē. It talks about the rules for judging travelling prophets or preachers. One of the key measures was a person's willingness to work amongst the settled congregation. The portion that Barclay quotes says “if he be minded to settle among you, and be a crafts man, let him work and eat. But, if he hath no trade, according to your understanding, provide that he shall not live idle among you, being a Christian” (p 134). The implication is that any who settle should endeavour to work at a trade or help the community. They should not be able to sit idle and expect to live comfortably. However, the community is to provide for them not based on how much they work but according to the communities understanding. The new arrival should give of their skills and abilities, and the community provide for the person's needs. This sounds like an itinerant worker who during the harvest arrives at farms to help with the harvest and then moves on when the harvest is done.

There is another interesting aspect in the assessing of these travelling prophets / teachers. The Didachē clearly says “if he ask money, he is a false prophet,” and “no prophet who ordereth a table in the Spirit shall eat of it,” and “Whosoever shall say in the Spirit: Give me money, or any other thing, ye shall not harken to him” (p 134). It is clear that the prophet or teacher should not ask for money or loggings as part of the ministry although there is an expectation that the community will meet their needs.

It could be argued that this doesn't apply to settled ministry but when I think of some of the churches with high profile teachers who appeal for money / gifts to support their ministry and then live in luxury off those gifts then I see them as in breach of these tests in the Didachē. The Didachē is talking of a minister who wishes to settle or the prophet who speaks to the community. Clearly the Didachē is expecting these people to work ub the community and not to be appealing for money for their survival. Our high profile ministers and prophets will fail this simple test.

In relation to work, it is clear that all must be willing to work and offer their skills to the community. In return, the community offers their hospitality or provides the ability for that person to live among them. The worker gives their skills not demanding payment but in order to contribute. The response from the community is to recognise a person's need and to provide for those needs.


Barclay, W. (1976). The letters of John and Jude (revised ed.). Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.

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