by Michael E. Brooks
“And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36-37, NKJV).
It surprised me when I first priced land in Bangladesh. I was accustomed to low prices for most goods, particularly those made locally, and assumed that property values would reflect the poverty and economic circumstances of the nation. That was a false assumption. I should have considered that Bangladesh is the most densely populated nation on Earth, with a huge number of landless people. Real estate is in extremely short supply, and it is definitely a seller’s market. The cost of usable land there rivals that of property in many of our premium locations in the United States.
It is a cliché that “they aren’t making any more land”. As population increases, demand for the fixed supply also increases and values rise. This means that real estate is one of the most reliable and desirable possessions or investments that a person can acquire. It has always been so.
“And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other” (Genesis 13:10-11).
It seems to be natural for humans to appreciate and desire land. Many people enjoy the feeling of ownership, the beauty of specific locations, and the feeling of permanence and “home” that a house or parcel of land can afford. Masses dream of someday owning their own property, developing it according to their tastes, and enjoying it.
I have not always appreciated Barnabas’ gift of land to the church as I now believe it should be appreciated. Barnabas had fulfilled the above described dream. He owned land. It was his, to use as he chose. Yet he gave it up, voluntarily and apparently cheerfully. He did not sell it for profit, or trade it for a more desirable location. He gave the purchase price away, to feed and shelter people whom he barely knew. What a sacrifice! What love! What Christianity!
Barnabas had found that which was even more valuable than land. He understood that the fellowship of believers in Christ is a far more desirable treasure than real estate. Jesus had compared the Church to treasure hidden in a field, and to a pearl of great price (Matthew 13:44-46). Barnabas actually believed him.
He also believed the Savior’s promise, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).
No one, reading the Biblical account of Barnabas’ life, can doubt that he was abundantly rewarded for his faith, love and generosity.
Some have attempted to prove from the record of Acts 2 and 4 that the economic model of the Church should be communal living. It is more accurate to interpret these stories to teach unselfish giving. Barnabas stands as a great example of liberality. He also demonstrates correct priorities. Given the choice between Church and private possession, Barnabas knew which was the true treasure.
Barnabas believed he had a greater treasure than land.