#329 Barnabas: Serving with Generosity 

July 20, 2022

The first recorded action of Barnabas was one of extreme generosity.   

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36-37, NIV). 

Barnabas sold a field he owned and gave the money to the church leaders. He was not the first of the believers to do this (see Acts 4:34), but his name is the first one mentioned in this regard. His action seems to have inspired Ananias and Sapphira to also sell their land (see Acts 5:1-11) but their heart and motives were entirely opposite to those of Barnabas.  The generosity of Barnabas demonstrates traits that all serving leaders do well to imitate.  

Generosity serves by demonstrating sacrifice. 

Barnabas sold the field he owned. This property was likely at his home in Cyprus and perhaps his family inheritance. He likely needed to travel home and then bring the money back to Jerusalem. In any case, in addition to giving the value of the property he gave time and energy. His act of generosity was a sacrifice and reflected the posture of his heart to give. Many leaders are in leadership for what they can get out of the role whether financial gain, prestige, or power. 

But serving leaders sacrifice their own desires and needs to serve those they lead. At times, like Barnabas, this may be a financial sacrifice. But many times, serving leaders sacrifice time and energy or other resources for those who follow. True generosity always demands costly sacrifice.  

Generosity serves by demonstrating sympathy.   

Barnabas was moved to generosity by the needs in the community. There were people who had needs and he had sympathy and compassion for them. He was not looking down on others, but he was looking out for others. His act of generosity shows his heart of sympathy for the needs of others more than his own needs. He recognized that he had possessions that were not intended only for his use but to bless others.  

Many leaders see others as the means to an end, people that can help accomplish the goal or the vision of the organization. But serving leaders do not see ‘workers’ or ‘members’ but they see human beings with their own dreams, passions, and desires. They look at others and see opportunities to bless and encourage. Because serving leaders focus their heart outward, they respond to these needs with sympathy and compassion. They recognize that they have been entrusted with gifts and resources that are intended to flow through them to others.  

Serving leaders give generously to those with genuine needs because they truly care about others and sympathize with their needs.  

Generosity serves by denying self.    

Barnabas sold his land and “brought the money and put it at the apostle’s feet.” In this gesture he gave up the right to determine what happened with his contribution.  The apostles would decide how it would be used in the early church. He wasn’t generous to receive praise. While it’s natural to want others to recognize our good deeds, Barnabas denied himself in this act. His act of generosity shows the focus of his heart which was on others rather than self.  

Many leaders consider being as generous as Barnabas but want to make sure that their name will be announced in the list of donors. Others act with generosity but want to control the outcomes or determine the way others should receive their gift. But serving leaders deny themselves and generously release power to others.  

For further reflection and discussion: 

  • How does the generosity of Barnabas challenge me as a leader? What action can I take this week to be more like him?  
  • When I give, is my generosity sacrificial or do I usually give only what I don’t want or use anyway? What steps could I take to be more generous?  
  • How do I see others on my team? Do I view them as persons who are there to help accomplish my vision or do I see them as humans of equal worth as myself, with their own dreams, desires, and difficulties? How does my view of others impact my leadership?  
  • Reflect on a time when you gave finances or tangible items to others with these questions. Was I able to give without any need for recognition or appreciation? Was I able to release control of the gift fully to the recipient or did I maintain power in the transaction? What do my actions reflect about my heart?  
  • Read Acts 5:1-11, the account of Ananias and Sapphira who also sold their property. In what ways did their generosity contrast with that of Barnabas?  

Until next time, yours on the journey, 

Jon Byler 

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Barnabas served with a team.  

#328 Barnabas Serving with Encouragement

July 6, 2022

If I asked you to name the top 10 leaders in the New Testament church, I doubt that Barnabas would be on the list. Yet, he served the church in amazing ways. He was the catalyst for Paul’s acceptance into the church. Barnabas helped establish the church where followers of Jesus were first called Christians and was on the first team sent into cross cultural missions. He was trusted with significant amounts of money and was a part of the Jerusalem council that provided equal footing for Gentile believers. He played a key role in the lives of two New Testament writers: Paul and Mark. In this series we’ll look at the ways Barnabas served the church and learn from his example.

We first hear about Barnabas soon after the church in Jerusalem was established.  36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:37, NIV)

At the first mention of his name, we find that his real name was Joseph, but he was already called Barnabas by the Apostles because of the way he encouraged others. While we don’t have a record of what Barnabas did prior to this first mention, there are subsequent actions that give us a glimpse of how Barnabas served with encouragement.

Barnabas encouraged by believing in the unaccepted.  

Paul had been the chief persecutor of the church and was intent on killing and imprisoning those who followed Jesus. Even after a radical conversion, when Paul came to Jerusalem the church was afraid of him and would not accept him as a brother. (Read Acts 9:26-27). But Barnabas believed in Paul and leveraged his influence to bring him into the Jerusalem church. Imagine how Paul felt as he listened to Barnabas validate his calling! By believing in the unaccepted, Barnabas served the church by bringing in the greatest apostolic missionary of all time! Serving leaders encourage by believing in the unaccepted.  

Barnabas encouraged by believing in the unproven.  

Soon after the persecution of the church scattered the believers, a small group of Greeks came to faith in Antioch. These Greek believers had just come to faith in what was up to that time an almost exclusively Jewish movement. They were unknown and unproven. The Jerusalem church leaders sent their trusted encourager, Barnabas, to investigate the reports. He “was glad and encouraged them…” (Acts 11:23). Imagine how these believers felt to have a leader like Barnabas accept and encourage them. Barnabas spent a year there developing this fledgling group into the people first called Christians and from where the gospel would expand to the rest of the known world. By believing in the unproven believers in Antioch Barnabas served the church by building the team that would be the base for launching the gospel to the rest of the world. Serving leaders encourage by believing in the unproven.

Barnabas encouraged by believing in the unsuccessful. 

Mark, a cousin of Barnabas, went with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but Mark turned back. He quit! Later, when they were ready to go on their second journey Paul understandably didn’t want to take Mark along, but Barnabas believed that Mark should have a second chance. (Read Acts 15:37-39). Imagine how Mark felt as he listened to Barnabas argue that he deserved a second chance! By believing in the unsuccessful, Barnabas served the church by keeping alive the leadership capacity of the author of the book of Mark. Serving leaders encourage by believing in the unsuccessful.

Barnabas served by believing in people that others found it hard to believe in. And he shows serving leaders the power of that belief in others.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What risks did Barnabas take by believing in Paul, Mark and the new Greek believers in Antioch?  What motivated him to take these risks? What holds you back from believing in these kinds of people?
  • Reflect on the way Barnabas believed in the unaccepted, the unproven and the unsuccessful. Did you ever fit into one of these categories? Was there someone, like Barnabas who believed in you and encouraged you? If so, what can you do to express your gratitude to them?
  • Who in your life right now fits one of those categories (unaccepted, unproven, unsuccessful) and what action can you take to serve with encouragement like Barnabas?
  • How does Barnabas’ encouragement challenge you as a leader? What action can you take this week to be more like him?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Barnabas served with generosity.