In a recent JTerm course at Gettysburg Seminary I had the joy of revisiting one of my favorite ancient Christian texts, the Didache (also known as “The Teaching of the 12 Apostles”; the full text is available here). The text is an early Christian baptismal catechism that explains to those who are about to be baptized the commitment they are making when they agree to be baptized. Now granted, some people may be a little frightened by the strong emphasis in the document about “works,” but the point the Didachist is making is worth exploring further: our baptismal covenant will impact how we live our daily lives.
What is striking to me in the Didache is how often the text speaks of the commitment to those who are poor (see, e.g., 1.5-6, 3.5-8, 5.2b). My favorite text (which I explored in this entry shortly after joining ELCA World Hunger) tells the catechumen to “Let your gift sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give it.”
In the earlier post I pointed out that the Didachist ultimately assumes that the gift will in fact be given (so give!). My recent thinking was directed to the command to know the person to whom you give (for the Greco-philes, the word used here is ginosko, the word that implies relationship). Too often we are content to give money without getting to know the people to whom we give. In my own life I know that too often I have been happy to throw money at a problem (and I am not discouraging this, money is part of the solution) but wary about really engaging the lives of those who are poor. This ancient text challenges me to invest even more deeply in the lives of those who are poor and marginalized. What have you done lately to better know those to whom you give? What tips can you give us? Leave a comment!