Barnabas' Choice

Youth Sunday School Lesson – 11/15/09

When I read over the story for our class this week, I was a little dismayed at first. Barnabas? You’ve gotta be kidding me, right? Most of us who attend church regularly will have no idea of who he was to begin with. In a way, that is a good thing this week because we should be constantly striving to learn more from God’s Word, and anytime we uncover something new from the Bible, it is important. I challenge you to read your Bible daily, because I can promise that you will learn something helpful each time you choose to study it.

The young Christian church after Pentecost was a church struggling to meet its needs and pay its debts. In order to do so, the church as a whole depended on the goodness of each member to provide for their daily needs as well as those of the church in general. This worked very well, for we read in Acts 2:34-35: “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”

This is not a confirmation that a government or society based upon Communism is a good thing, although the theory of communism was expressed by Karl Marx as ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.’ The only form of government ordained by God is a Theocracy, which is what the children of Israel had in place when they entered the Holy Land under Joshua. A Theocracy has God in charge from the top down, and we will see a return to this form of government when Jesus returns.

But back to our story – Barnabas was the surname the disciples gave him. He was known as Joses and he was from Cyprus. He was Hebrew and traced his lineage to the priestly tribe of the Levites. A surname is a last name; therefore if you met him on the street you would know him as Joses Barnabas. Barnabas means ‘son of consolation’ and this is an example of his character the disciples saw in him. If you look up the word consolation, you will find that it means, “One that consoles; a comfort”. Obviously the disciples saw something in his personality and daily life that moved them to call him by this name.

Barnabas, we are told in the verses, had a piece of land that he owned. He had a choice to make. He could have simply not brought up the fact that he owned the land, or he could have said that he wanted to keep the land for himself. No one was forced to give up their possessions and turn them over to the disciples. By the surname they had given him we know that he must have already done a lot of other things for the church by that point. No one would have thought less of him and there was no arm-twisting going on or a requirement that new believers give to the church. However, Barnabas followed the Holy Spirit in his heart, and he sold the land and brought the money to the disciples. He made his choice to help the church in the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus by doing so.

We can contrast his choice by reading about another couple’s choice within the first verses of the next chapter. Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, also sold a piece of land and brought the money to the disciples. However, they chose to keep back a portion of the money they received for themselves, but did not tell anyone they were doing so. They wanted honor and glory for performing a good deed, even though they were not telling the whole truth. The Bible tells us that they chose to lie about it instead. As a result, the judgment of God fell on them, and He punished them severely.

Barnabas was blessed by God for the choice he made. No where in the rest of the book of Acts does it mention that he regretted his decision or ever found himself in need. The next time we read about him he is defending a new convert named Paul from the perceptions of the church that revolved around a problem with his checkered past. God rewarded Barnabas by giving him a discerning spirit in matters like that.

So what can we learn from the choice made by Barnabas? When we compare his choice to the one made by Ananias and Sapphira, we can see that the choice he made was legitimate and came from his soul. He gave to the church with an honest heart and a genuine desire to further God’s work, not out of a desire for personal gain or glory.

I doubt if any of us will be required to sell our possessions in this day and age and give them to the church. But by the same token, the young people in our class will be needed by the church down the road to become preachers, deacons, Sunday School teachers, or to serve God in some other capacity. Will you be ready for the challenge? Will your choice be made out of honesty and sincerity as a means of furthering the Gospel of Christ in our world today? It is definitely something worth thinking and praying about. Why not start today?

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