“And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Acts 4: 36, 37 Barnabas is one of my favorite characters in the New Testament. Could you imagine being remembered by your community as a son or daughter of encouragement? What an impact a person who lived out a life of encouragement would have within their circle of friends and acquaintances. What if we knew someone who was a son of encouragement? Could you imagine how strengthening that would be when we are going through hard times?
The Greek word translated encouragement can also mean consolation, but when we are hurting, to be encouraged or consoled are identical. I have wondered how many times the New Testament church was facing discouragement only to have Barnabas stand up and calm the fears of the congregation. To be a son of encouragement, I would think, is a selfless way of life. A selfish person finds little time to console or encourage their fellow travelers on this earth. Luke points out that Barnabas not only talked a good talk when it came to encouragement, but he was willing to live it out in his life. Did you notice that the money was brought to the Apostles and given to them to use as they saw fit for the good of the community? His contribution was unselfish and had no strings attached; he was simply looking out for the needs of his fellow man.
I’d like to jump ahead to the conversion of Paul. He was converted on the Damascus road and was now preaching in that city, and as would become common for Paul, he was stirring up controversy and opposition. As a result he fled to Jerusalem, but the Christian community was suspicious of him. “And when he had come to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples, and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But, Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that he had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.” Acts 9: 26, 27 Barnabas was willing to lay his life on the line by trusting in Paul. While everyone else had rushed to judgment that Paul was a spy or worse, Barnabas believed in him and introduced him to the Apostles and as a result, Christianity was changed forever.
Paul and Barnabas became a touring evangelistic team until they had a disagreement over taking John Mark with them on one of their missionary tours. On the previous tour Mark had become homesick and overwhelmed by the problems they were facing and abandoned Barnabas and Paul and returned home. Barnabas was willing to give him a second chance but Paul would have nothing to do with it, so they separated, Barnabas taking Mark to Cyprus while Paul chose Silas to accompany him.
It is one of the great tragedies of Scripture to see this great team break up, but if Barnabas had not been willing to stand up for the young discouraged Mark and give him the encouragement he needed, we probably wouldn’t have the Gospel of Mark. It is important for us to see God’s hand at work even when we think things are not going the way they are suppose to.
Barnabas was a son of encouragement and he put his money and his life in God’s hands while carrying out his ministry of strengthening the discouraged and leading the lost to Christ. Because of Barnabas, Paul is introduced to the church and John Mark is given a second chance. We need Barnabas’s today more than ever. We live in a world that hangs onto its sanity by a thread and sometimes listening to the radio or television you wonder if there is a sane person left in politics, the media or big business. We truly need men and women who are bigger than the pettiness of fawning over celebrities and worshipping pop culture. We need people who stand for values, honesty and compassion who put the good of others ahead of selfish ambition and greed. We as Christians must wake up and get our priorities straight if we are to become a beacon of hope and encouragement in a very confused society.