Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. – Acts 4:32-37
Some people say that all the church ever talks about is money. Perhaps that is the case in some instances. Truly, however, the Bible is full of references to and teachings about money. Treasure in a field. Silver coins lost and found. Servants entrusted with various amounts of money. Instructions on giving. Jesus himself says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
There are also plenty of other issues the Bible addresses: greed, lust, sin, fear, love, faith, prayer – to name just a few. On this occasion, however, Luke sets up a story (Acts 5) about money and greed with this beautiful example of generosity and encouragement on the part of Barnabas – whose name means Son of Encouragement. He sells a field and brings the money to the disciples who are able then to distribute it to those who had needs.
In those days, moreover, the needs were often very real. The fledgling church actually did have it’s share of affluent and influential persons. But there were also people who had nothing, and who – because of their faith and confession – were outside of the realm of the rich and famous. They would need help in difficult times.
When Barnabas comes along and puts a large amount of money at the disposal of the disciples he was not only setting a good example. He was providing real aid in the face of people’s needs. His act of generosity will trigger two quite different responses. Some will be encouraged to be generous, thankful, and deeply touched by Barnabas’ act. Others, however, will try to offer a counterfeit copy of this act of genuine generosity.
The question for us is how we might respond to someone’s act of kindness, generosity, sacrifice, or love. Will we try to gain attention and fame by showboating a similar act of our own? Or will we thank God for such a person, and simply look for the opportunity to give a gift God puts at our disposal? It may be that our gift will never be as spectacular, outwardly generous or remarkable as anyone else’s. But we all give only what we have received. If we have been given the opportunity to do good and be generous, may we do so to God’s glory and other’s good.