Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:36-37)
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:6-7)
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)
“Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people…But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. (Matt 6:1, 3-4)
The generosity of new converts to the Church in Acts 4 is impressive; so much so that some have suggested serious Christians should relinquish all worldly assets to a communal system. However, if we focus on the gift of Joseph/Barnabas in Acts 4:36-37, we see another picture.
Joseph’s gift is described as proceeds from the sale of a field he owned – not the sale of his family home, relinquishment of his livelihood, or pledge of all future personal energy. The highlighting of his nickname Barnabas or “son of encouragement” suggests he gave cheerfully what he had decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion. The first verses in Acts 5 feature Ananias and Sapphira, a couple whose giving appeared motivated more to impress others than by generosity.
If the examples of Barnabas, Ananias, and Sapphira are paired with Jesus’ teaching on giving in Luke and Matthew above, we have further insight into how to cultivate a heart of generosity.
Our first consideration is the generosity of our Father in Heaven who gives to us so we can give generously. An equally important consideration is our motivation. If our giving can be motivated by the desire to be seen by others, Jesus says giving should be in secret.
Barnabas’ joyful gift shows secret giving isn’t the only way for Christians to give in a godly way, but secrecy can temper the impulse to parade our generosity.
Recall when you have given joyfully and generously toward building the kingdom of God. Journal one or two of these memories and thank God for His generous provision for you as well as how He used your resources in the lives of others.
By Kathleen Petersen