St. Barnabas Healing the Sick by Paolo Veronese, c. 1566, via Wikimedia Commons
We are told in the Acts of the Apostles, so aptly named, that Barnabas “was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” I am not sure there is any greater thing that could be said of someone. If such a description were to be found on my tombstone I would be pleased.
The same chapter reveals that it was Barnabas who went to Tarsus to look for Saul and upon finding him, brought him to Antioch to meet with the nascent church and to teach. This occurred after what must have been an uneasy introduction by Barnabas of Saul to the apostles in Jerusalem who were reluctant to meet with the former persecutor of Jesus’ followers. But Barnabas prevailed as he told of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus and how he became one, known now as Paul, to proclaim the good news.
We learn of him in another part of the Acts of the Apostles that he “sold a field he owned, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostles.” Barnabas evidently also had a significant role in sending relief to people suffering from famine in the days of Claudius. The descriptions of Barnabas’ stewardship of human relationships and finances seem to indicate that he was a bold risk-taker for the sake of the Gospel.
My life has been graced by many beautiful and deeply faithful people over the years who exhibited profound acts of stewardship in Christ’s name, not unlike that of Barnabas. One day a member of one of my former parishes asked to see me. He said that he was selling his home in the neighborhood down the street from the parish and moving to another several streets over. He had bought the second home while the first was yet to be sold. He then said that while saying Morning Prayer the week before, he was reading about the behavior of people in the book of Acts and particularly the story of Barnabas selling the field. Praying through that piece of scripture, he came to realize that if he could afford another home without selling the first, he must not need that income. He believed the Spirit was calling him to give to the church whatever he realized from the sale of the first home. I was stunned. But there is more.
This parish had three members who had fallen on hard times and were finding it very difficult to make ends meet month to month. He wanted to help there too. We worked out a plan where the rent would be paid for each of those families for the next year as they got back on their feet. He would remain anonymous, but I got to be the messenger. You can believe I was looking forward to those visits.
Like Barnabas, this gentle steward of God’s grace as I got to know him better over the years, was acting out of a deeply rooted faith that was grounded in Jesus’ death and resurrection. He believed that the only appropriate way to respond to the gift of God’s embrace of him and the creation was with thanksgiving. He too was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.
Bishop Skip Adams
The Right Reverend Gladstone B. Adams III was elected and invested as our Bishop on September 10, 2016. Read more about him here.