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Barnabas - Benevolent Brother Backing from Behind

Today’s spotlight is on an unassuming brother who often goes unmentioned in sermons. His name is Joses Barnabas, and the Bible tells us that his name means “son of consolation/encouragement” (Acts 4:36). This man is unlike his more articulated and reputable counterpart Paul, but he is one who was always faithfully there when needed, and whose acts of benevolence and support contributed much to the cause of Christ. We shall look into 3 passages to see what he did that makes him a role model for us, what are the effects of his actions, and how we can adopt these into our Christian lives. 

1. Benevolent

Following his introduction in Acts 4:36, we learn in verse 37 that he sold his land and brought the money before the apostles for distribution among the saints. Unlike the couple Ananias and Sapphira, who were hesitant to give all the sales proceeds, Barnabas did not keep back any of it, but donated all of it. Sometimes, we read in the news about how the rich and powerful are more tightfisted than those who are less privileged; Barnabas belong to a group of wealthy Christians who were selfless, and who went the extra mile to ensure that others had no lack (Acts 4:35). Not only did he 有钱出钱 (“got money give money”), but he also有力出力 (“have strength give strength”), as he was involved in many mission trips with Paul. 

Our inaugural secondhand items distribution held last December was a success due to the generous contribution from both our church members and members of the public. Benevolent projects like this (and some are in the works) will benefit those who are in need and bring glory to God (Matthew 5:16). We should be involved in these events as we are reminded that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

2. Encourager

After Saul was converted by the other Ananias (a disciple in Damascus) and returned to Jerusalem, the disciples were terrified of him, having heard of his prior notoriety of throwing saints into jail. Barnabas was the one who stood up to help him – he brought Saul to the apostles and recounted his conversion. His actions reassured not only the brethren there, but also encouraged Saul to speak boldly about Jesus (Acts 9:28-29). Imagine the consequences if Barnabas did not do what he did; we might be missing a huge chunk of the New Testament, and many congregations that we read of in the book of Acts would not have been formed!

Indeed, our littlest actions can make a huge impact on the lives of others in ways we do not realize. It may be inconvenient for us, sometimes even embarrassing (particularly in our Asian culture) to perform small acts of love and encouragement to others. I am pointing the finger at myself as well, for often I failed to display or say positive things to even my own family members. But if we just remind ourselves that someone might be struggling in their faith, and require our helping hand or uplifting words, we should be there to assist them, for we are not only aiding them but ourselves too! (Matthew 25:34-40)

3. Supporter

John Mark, who was supposed to minister to Paul and Barnabas, left mid-way during their first missionary trip. Hence, when Paul wanted to revisit the churches which he planted to see their growth, he was opposed to bringing John along. Barnabas, on the other hand, insisted and supported Mark’s inclusion. This worked out even better for the spread of the gospel because they ended up going on 2 separate mission trips. Barnabas gave Mark a second chance, who in turn also contributed to another book in the New Testament (the Gospel according to Mark). Eventually, we also see that there was reconciliation between Paul and Mark, the former calling the latter “profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

It is easy to condemn others for their mistakes or wrongdoings, but it is even easier to deny them another shot, based on their past mistakes. Some may approve of a robber’s return to society, but how many will allow him to handle the company finances? Paul himself had been rejected by others (see previous point), but he could not see past Mark’s failure at that time. I can’t imagine how much stress and disappointment both Barnabas and Mark underwent during that period. Do we also sometimes fail to back people up and show a lack of support for those who are trying to do their best? Let us all be more tolerant and empathetic to first-timers or those who are “rusty.”

Wouldn’t it be great for a congregation to be full of Barnabas-es, who are not only actively evangelizing, but edifying one another too? Let us be benevolent and supporting, watching out for one another as this wonderful brother did.


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