And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.
Now 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 4:32-37
I have some people in my life who act as a Barnabas to me. I thank God for them. They are supportive of me as a person, even though they may not agree with everything I say. I feel quite comfortable expressing my opinion in their presence. I’m confident they will listen to me and offer kind and gracious insights, and if need be correction or other important ideas to consider. They do it with love and always seek to make me better for their input. Sometimes they give extraordinarily generous gifts of time or money.
There are also those who never say an encouraging word; or if they do, it’s couched in implied deficiency. It’s the old, “You don’t sweat much for a fat person,” comment. They have their special place in my heart. It is a guarded place. It is a place of examination but not of immediate acceptance.
I wish I had the same attitude toward those who only speak well of me and to me. Everything is always good. Nothing is ever amiss. But I know better. Perhaps that’s why I keep the comments of those who never speak encouraging words still in my heart – albeit in a guarded spot. Once in a while I examine the flattery of my biggest fans against the arrows of challenge. It’s a good balance.
In the end, however, give me Barnabas. Give me the encourager. It was once said that more pastors die of a broken heart than they do of an over-inflated ego. While the encouragers will seek to build up, they don’t do it to inflate one’s ego. They do it to support the work of God in us.
Those who seek to encourage in such a way should form a league: The Barnabas League. This group would meet regularly to discern where people are in need of a boost of God’s mercy and love, and seek ways to bring that. It may be to a first year teacher who is really struggling to relate to her students and their parents. It might be a staff member of a large church who is not getting the recognition he or she deserves and is being left in the dust of the rapid pace of ministry in a large church. It could be a sole pastor in a small church that is struggling to make ends meet and can’t seem to find people who are willing to engage the community around them with the Good News of Jesus. It could be a pastor’s wife who sees her husband taking too much time away from the family, eating and drinking too much, and doesn’t know how to help him.
As I write this, I’m wondering if anyone would like to be part of such a Barnabas League. Maybe you’re already doing this. Perhaps you’ve offered your words of encouragement, your gifts to further the Kingdom’s cause, your friendship to your church leaders. If so, welcome to the League! I wonder if this could become a “thing” in the life of our churches. God knows we need people of encouragement. That’s why he moved Barnabas to do what he did.
And by the way, this reflects the kindness, grace, love and generosity of none other than our Lord Jesus himself!