[This is part of a running series on the Didache. See the introductory post for more information — RWB]
1 Πᾶς δὲ ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου δεχθήτω·
But everyone coming in the name of the Lord let be received:
ἔπειτα δὲ δοκιμάσαντες αὐτὸν γνώσεσθε,
When you have examined him, you will know him,
σύνεσιν γὰρ ἕξετε δεξιὰν καὶ ἀριστεράν.
for you will be able to distinguish [whether he is] true or false.
2 εἰ μὲν παρόδιός ἐστιν ὁ ἐρχόμενος,
If the one coming is a traveler,
βοηθεῖτε αὐτῷ, ὅσον δύνασθε·
help him, as far as you are able.
οὐ μενεῖ δὲ πρὸς ὑμᾶς εἰ μὴ δύο ἢ τρεῖς ἡμέρας,
but he shall not remain among you more than two or three days,
ἐὰν ᾖ ἀνάγκη.
if there is need.
3 εἰ δὲ θέλει πρὸς ὑμᾶς καθῆσθαι,
If he desires to stay with you,
being an artisan,
ἐργαζέσθω καὶ φαγέτω.
let him work and eat.
4 εἰ δὲ οὐκ ἔχει τέχνην,
But if he has no craft,
κατὰ τὴν σύνεσιν ὑμῶν προνοήσατε,
take this into consideration according to your understanding,
πῶς μὴ ἀργὸς μεθ ̓ ὑμῶν ζήσεται Χριστιανός.
that nobody who is idle shall live among you as a Christian.
5 εἰ δ ̓οὐ θέλει οὕτω ποιεῖν,
If he will not do this,
he is trading on Christ:
προσέχετε ἀπὸ τῶν τοιούτων.
stay away from such as these.
This is a logical follow-up to Didache 11, which dealt with discerning true teachers from false teachers. This is a further corollary, it seems. Those who come to the fellowship are to be received. If they're just Christians passing through, that's fine. They can hang out for two, maybe three days at the maximum. But if they want to stay with the fellowship, they must have something to contribute.
My sense (as I'm writing this, I haven't thought about it more than when I translated it a few days ago) is that the bit in verse 1 about "examining" is referring to the previous section, Didache 11. In other words, the Didachist is saying, "When you check out this new person -- you know, like I just showed you -- you'll know if they are fellow believers, or if they're not."
If it is a fellow believer who is just passing through, then the fellowship is to help meet the traveler's need as they are able. If the "traveler" wants to make an extended stay, this is a clue that they could be a freeloader whose only interest in Christ is room and board. In that case, the traveler must be put to the test: Is he willing to work for his keep? If he is, then he is to be welcomed. If he is unable, he must be reminded that freeloading isn't an option and they must come to some equitable arrangement.
If the traveler wants to stay, but will not work, he is to be removed from the fellowship and sent along his way.
The word I translated "trading on Christ" could literally be translated "Christmonger". The idea is that this person is using the name of Christ for his own needs. He is no Christian, he only acknowledges the teachings for his own ill-gotten gain. These, says the Didachist, are to be avoided.
It's advice like this that is so practical and sensible that endears me to the Didache.
Next up: Didache 13.