Acts 4:34-37 – “…as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus, Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
It is amazing how imaginative church people can be when they are challenged to be creative so that they can give more. Throughout the years, I’ve seen this giving frenzy happen as we’ve raised money for capital campaigns and mission offerings. And I’ve seen us illustrate the parable of the talents from Matthew 25 as the church has offered money to each attendee, small group, or member, suggesting that they use it to generate more. Sometimes, people were encouraged to pool resources or to be creative with what they already had. Over and over, I have seen Christ followers put the resources, possessions, and gifts they have, to work in some really remarkable ways.
Let me share what this can look like. Below is a non-comprehensive list of the innovative giving ideas I have witnessed and been blessed by throughout the years:
· Uber drivers have used seed money to buy gas and donated all their tips to the church.
· Students have chipped in to buy car wash supplies and raised hundreds of dollars through donations.
· A few guys rented a lawn aerator and went through their neighborhood charging people to get their lawn ready for summer.
· One lady bought ingredients to make cupcakes and sold them at her kids’ school.
· Several church families combined for a massive garage sale and gave all the proceeds to a building program.
· One person offered a sports car that had been sitting in the garage, and another donated expensive artwork that had been in the basement for years.
· One man cashed in an old collection of coins and donated the proceeds to a mission trip.
· A couple downsized to a different home so that they could give thousands of dollars for a capital campaign at their church.
· People have sold baseball cards on eBay and clothes to a second-hand store.
· Math and English teachers have donated their time to tutor grade school children, giving the profits to the church.
· Businessmen have donated trucks for transporting supplies for our food pantry and shuttles to provide transportation to elderly church members.
· Families have donated land for ministry use or sale.
· People in the food industry have donated pizzas by the hundreds and ice cream bars by the thousands.
· A man with a motorcycle charged kids in his neighborhood a dollar a ride and donated everything to the church.
· A single mom who cuts and styles hair donated all her tips for a month to a mission.
There are many more examples I could list, but you get the idea. Most Christ followers really work at giving offerings and tithes from their income. But there are ways to multiply our giving through means other than our income. When we think creatively, there are myriad ways we can turn our resources into more income for the kingdom, and generosity becomes a joyful form of worship.
This seems to be what was happening in the very first church in Jerusalem. The church was growing, the gospel was spreading, and the financial needs were increasing. So people like Barnabas started thinking, “Hey I’ve got a field I could sell and give the proceeds to the church.” Imagine the joy when he came to the fellowship and announced that God had blessed his transaction with a large profit to help with the mission of the church. We don’t know exactly how great the gift was, or how many people were blessed, or how the money was used. But we do have this story and I think it has been preserved in our scriptures so that we can learn from it. Consider three Barnabas lessons:
1. Take inventory of your possessions. Most of us, regardless of our income level, have items we no longer value, but that someone else would want. This is why we see garage sales everywhere. We should thank God for providing such an overabundance of possessions and then admit that we have many things that we don’t need. What extra things do you have? Why not worship by selling them so that you can give more to the cause of Christ?
2. Pledge and pray. When you identify objects that you are willing to part with, dedicate them to God and ask him to bless your faith by multiplying these resources for his kingdom. Make sure you follow through with your commitment. Don’t try to lie to the Holy Spirit (See Acts 5:1-11 for details). Why not worship God in faith and trust? He has given you more so that you can give more.
3. Encourage others. Finally, I do not think it is any coincidence that the meaning of Barnabas’ name, “son of encouragement,” is a description of what he did through his gift. There is nothing as encouraging as giving sacrificially and “spurring on to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24) through our own examples. Why not worship through creative giving by leading the way in your small group, your circle of friends, or your ministry team to find exciting ways to increase your offerings to the church?
These questions are not rhetorical; they are meant to be acted upon. So, what will you do in light of this great story from Acts?
Pastor Mike Baker