I wanted a cool nickname. Something like Hoops, but I wasn’t that good at basketball. Or maybe Jet, but I ran the hundred in about twenty-five seconds. Since I can’t run and I can’t hit a three-pointer, Carla calls me Preacher.
Simon got a nickname: Peter, the Rock!
Perhaps because of their fiery fanaticism (Luke 9:52-54), Zebedee’s boys, James and John, were nicknamed “Boanerges” or “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). “Hey Thunder!”
Meet Joseph. He was called Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). The nickname stuck, and Barnabas, the Encourager, is mentioned in the book of Acts more than twenty times, and another five times in Paul’s epistles.
Luke first introduced him in Acts 4, where we read: “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas (which is translated Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36–37, CSB).
Though we’re told that the Encourager was a Christ-follower from the Island of Cyprus, we don’t know if he was born there and migrated with his priestly family to Jerusalem or if he lived on Cyprus in adulthood. We also don’t know if he ever served as a Levite in Jerusalem. And we don’t know anything about the land that Barnabas sold. Was the land in Cyprus or in Judea? What we know is this: he sold some land and sacrificially donated one hundred percent of the proceeds for ministerial use in the early church in Jerusalem.
His gift, and the encouragement that accompanied it, is contrasted to the gift brought by Ananias and Sapphira. “A man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. However, he kept back part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge, and brought a portion of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 5:1–2, CSB).
How much land was sold and what was its value? There are more questions than answers.
Again, here’s what we know. Barnabas gave with an open hand, not a clinched fist. He gave willingly, with no strings attached. His gift was an encouragement to the church and a testimony of God’s goodness and grace. Ananias and Sapphira also gave, but they gave only a portion, and filled with self-centered arrogance, they lied about their generosity. They paid dearly.
“Then great fear came on the whole church and on all who heard these things... Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers—multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:11–14, CSB).
No one is ever going to call me the Rock! The Son of Thunder isn’t likely either. But, how about Barnabas? The Encourager? I hope so.
Dear friend, “encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, CSB).