The book of Acts tells of the spread of the Gospel throughout the then known world and has some super snapshots, showing us the life of the early church. One of them is Acts 4:32-37.
This provides a sharp contrast with the financial crises, cuts and greed so often at work in the world today. It is a picture of shared resources, looking out for those less well off, no one being left in need.
The church at its best today shares resources, gives to those in need within the church family, in the local community and wider world.
This Bible reading also introduces us to Barnabas as one of the Christians who gave generously and shared his resources. The name Barnabas means ‘one who encourages.’
What does it mean to be one who encourages?
To give courage or confidence to; to enable another; to help or support. We can encourage others through our words and actions. Encouragement can be both gentle or firm.
In the Bayeaux Tapestry there is a picture of William pointing a spear at the backside of one of his soldiers and the line underneath reads, ‘William encourages his troops.’
When we read about Barnabas in the pages of Acts, we see him living up to his name as one who encourages.
Barnabas took on the task of vouching for Paul before the church leaders in Jerusalem, when they were suspicious and afraid of him. This took courage on the part of Barnabas and a commitment to see the best in others.
Are we people of encouragement like that? Seeing the best in others, speaking up for them in faith, encouraging others to see the best in them as well.
Later on we find Barnabas rejoicing in God’s work among the new Christians in the city of Antioch and encouraging them in their faith. He is described as a man full of the Holy Spirit and faith (Acts 11:22-26).
Are we people of encouragement like that? Seeing God at work in the world in new ways, rejoicing with others in the good.
Barnabas goes on to involve and accompany Paul in missionary journeys. When one of their co-workers (John Mark) lets them down, Barnabas is the one who forgives and is willing to go on and work with John Mark again.
Are we people of encouragement like that? Giving people a second chance, getting alongside them when they want to make a new beginning?
Barnabas’ story challenges us.
Let’s pray that, with the help of God’s Spirit, we will give of ourselves as Barnabas did: encouraging others through our practical gifts, through our company, through our words of encouragement and faith, through our attitude of forgiveness and hope.
May God enable each of us to be ‘one who encourages.’