“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus,
whom the apostles called Barnabas
(which means “son of encouragement”),
sold a field he owned and brought the money
and put it at the apostles’ feet.”
Acts 4:36-37 (NIV)
Barnabas earned the nickname Barnabas because he was always helping needy people. He did his work in such a way that not only were people’s needs met but their spirits were lifted. He comes into view in Acts when he sold a piece of property he owned and gave the proceeds of the sale to the benevolent fund of the Jerusalem church.
There are certain people who, simply by their presence, make you feel encouraged concerning your problems in life. Barnabas was blessed with that wonderful disposition.
When Paul was converted and sought to join the church in Jerusalem he was rejected—until Barnabas took him aside, learned his story, and brought him by the hand to the church leadership and pled his case. So Barnabas took this former feared enemy of Christians and got him involved in ministry to the saints in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-29).
So, Barnabas was willing to risk his wonderful reputation by introducing Paul to the church as a fellow Christian. It was a bold thing to do, as Paul had formerly been a fearful opponent of Christianity. Barnabas was courageous to do this. The church saw Paul as a renegade Jew—a possible hypocrite seeking entrance into the church only to turn on it. Barnabas risked everything to publicly call Paul a fellow believer and friend.
After Paul had retreated to the safety of his home city of Tarsus—because of Jewish persecution—it was Barnabas who brought him to Antioch and another field for ministry (Acts 11:25f).
Then when Barnabas and Paul were planning the first great missionary journey, Barnabas encouraged his young cousin John Mark to join them (Colossians 4:10). Sadly, when the going got tough, young John Mark deserted the mission and returned to Jerusalem and the safety of his mother’s home (Acts 13:13).
In Acts 15:37 we see Barnabas working to give John Mark a second opportunity to succeed in missionary work. Paul disagreed, and the two great men parted ways. Both had great gifts and calling, but Barnabas was determined to once again create an opportunity for a man to succeed.
Can you act like a Barnabas to some wounded Christian who needs to be spoken to with a gentle tone and in a warm and loving manner? Look around you today, consider the people who worship with you Sunday. There will be some who would profit from a phone call with a word of blessing. A card could be mailed to a shut in. A gift of money might be given to a family where the husband is out of work. Opportunities abound to be a “son of encouragement”. Go out today and be a Barnabas!