So many people who say they follow Jesus have ulterior motives. There was a time and this might still be true when people came to Church to either meet men or women, sponge on the vulnerable or to network for personal gain. Although this happens everywhere in secular circles, to do so in a Church is extremely sinful because many believers have experienced abuse and are still recovering from some form of trauma or the other. Our Lord in a roundabout way warned people against taking advantage of others by quoting loosely:
Mk 10:19 “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
Taking a life, taking illegal intimacy, taking possessions, taking away one’s character, taking away one’s finances and dishonoring ones parents is taking such advantage … and unscrupulous characters do just that! Today we are going to look at a man and tomorrow at a couple and see the one having godly motives and the other having wicked motives with reference to the spiritual grace of giving. The first comes from:
Ac 4:36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
1) Joseph the Cyprian. What is interesting about Biblical names, places and facts is that many are able to be traced. This was the case with Joseph. He was well known to some of the Apostles. Commentators debate his actual name with some suggesting Joses which was a rendition of Josiah. If Luke uses the name Joseph under inspiration, that is good enough for me. He is a real person and more, he is a follower of the Lord Jesus.
2) Joseph came from Cypress. There was a huge amount of Jews on this Island, as there was throughout the known world. For economic reasons many Jews relocated to other lands. In some cases it was because of the Roman Empire and work whilst others set up businesses in other lands. Cypress was roughly 80 kilometers from Turkey and 96 kilometers from Syria. The culture was heavily influenced by the Greeks due to Roman occupation. It seems as though Joseph was not a native Cyprian. Perhaps his parents moved there whilst he was a child.
3) Joseph the Levite. This means he descended from Levi, one of Abraham’s sons. All priests were Levites but not all Levites were priests. One needed to be born within the Bloodline of Aaron to be a priest. It is most unlikely that Joseph was a priest, even though he was found to be in Jerusalem.
4) Joseph called Barnabas by the apostles. As Jesus nicknamed James and John, so the apostles nicknamed Joseph, Barnabas. The name Barnabas means “sons of prophecy” … so it is not unnatural for the name to mean to “Son of Encouragement” in the First Century as the prophets, apart from warning the people for God, brought encouraging messages from God to the people.
5) Joseph seems to be a single man. He gave up his property for the cause of Jesus and together with Paul and his nephew John Mark were missionaries. On Paul’s first missionary journey, they stopped over at Cypress (See Acts 13). It is possible that Barnabas had family there.
6) Joseph a land owner. The land he own might have been purchased or inherited from his parents. It seems as though this land was agricultural land because it was called “a field”. He might well have been a farmer or descended from a farming family. This land was on the Island of Cypress. Whether he had an agent sell the land or whether he went to the Island to sell the land we don’t know … but what we do know is that he … brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. “The money” implies all of the proceeds received from the sale. Like others, he brought the money and placed it at the apostles’ feet … that is for them to use to help the needy within the Kingdom of Jesus.
(1) As a Levite Joseph seems to have been a spiritual man. He understood that Jesus was the promised Messiah and trusted Him and His sacrifice for personal forgiveness and salvation. This means that his knowledge of the Old Covenant pointing to the New Covenant made sense, was believable and was God fulfilling all Messianic Prophecies in Jesus. Children growing in Church and Sunday School might not come to faith at a young age, but from personal experience I recall when coming to faith, being reminded of so much I was taught as a child and young teenager in Church and Sunday School. If you have children and teenagers, encourage them to attend these graces. That which is lodged in the recesses of the mind may well result in their conversion at a later date. It did with me.
(2) Understanding why Joseph was nicknamed “Son of Encouragement”. The naming seems to have existed before he sold the land and brought the money to the apostles. Giving to encourage was in his blood and heart. He was rich in pocket because he was rich in faith and because he was rich in faith he was able to be rich in pocket to the needy. Because he was a man blessed by God, he was able to be a blessing to others. He could be an encouragement, not because it was his nature and gifting, but because of what God gave to him … eternal life!
(3) Joseph (Barnabas) the missionary. We will deal with him again later in Acts, but note today, as a commentator said … “A mission opens for those who make great sacrifices for Christ.” He gave up his all for Jesus and the people of Jesus. This sacrificial act set him free to be a missionary without ties, demands and normal accountabilities. If you have time, re-read this Daily Note and consider the type of person God uses for mission and pastoral ministry. Are you one He can use?
7) Why mention Barnabas here, especially in the context of giving?
(a) To show the total dedication and sacrifice needed to serve God unhinded in Kingdom business.
(b) To show the difference to what follows in chapter 5. We will be shocked in chapter 5 … so God places Joseph before Ananias and Sapphira to show us what true spirituality is.
Lord, help us to be like Joseph the Levite. You might not call us to give up all to serve You, but give us a giving heart filled with love, grace and kindness. Amen.