Barnabas truly deserves the highest commendation for his generous Christian spirit and for his contributions toward the ongoing life and ministry of the early church. Had it not been for the unselfish concern of Barnabas, Paul might never have been accepted in the Jerusalem church, and Mark may have decided to give up serving the Lord. Instead, both men persevered, and more than half of the New Testament was written by them — thirteen epistles written by Paul, and one Gospel written by Mark.
We will remember Barnabas as a man disposed to kindness. He was a man with a warm heart and an open hand.
Barnabas was a faithful friend, a committed encourager, a forgiving brother, and one who gave generously to help the poor. The Bible says, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will [the Lord] pay him again” (Proverbs 19:17). Giving to the poor pays rich dividends.
Consider this story:
A young man was selling goods to help pay his way through school. He had only one coin left that day, and he was hungry.
He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost nerve when the lady opened the door — and so instead, asked only for a glass of water.
She thought he looked hungry, and so she brought him a large glass of milk.
He drank it slowly, and then he said, “How much do I owe you?”
“You don’t owe me anything,” the woman replied. “Mother taught us never to accept pay for a kindness.”
The young man said, “Then I thank you from my heart.”
The boy’s name was Howard Kelly. As he left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and his love for people were stronger, also.
Years later, that woman became critically ill. The local doctors sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists.
Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town from which she came, he immediately went to the room where she lay. Dressed in his doctor’s gown, Kelly went in to see her. He recognized her face, and went back to the consultation room, determined to do his very best to save her life.
From that day, Kelly gave special attention to the case, and the woman recovered and was able to go home. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill on to him for approval. He looked at the bill, wrote something on the edge of it — and it was sent to her home.
She feared opening the invoice when it came. She was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay it all. When she opened the envelope, something caught her attention on the side of the bill.
She read these words: “Paid in full — with one glass of milk.”
It was signed — “Dr. Howard Kelly.”
(This story appears in several places; one is Viola Walden’s 1994 Pardon the Mess: A Collection of Family-Building Thoughts.)
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Generosity, kindness, and giving to those in need are a good investment. It pays rich dividends. When we give water to those who thirst, food to those who hunger, or cloth those who are naked, Jesus said when we do it to the least of these, we do it to Him. The woman who gave a glass of milk to a schoolboy working his way through college was richly rewarded.
Barnabas deserves a spot with other noted New Testament saints—a disciple of Jesus on the level with Paul, John, Peter, and James. We need more people like Barnabas, people who give generously and encourage others to persevere in the faith.
I pray that the qualities demonstrated in the life of Barnabas will more and more be true of each one of us.