Laid at the Apostles' Feet

As Luke tells the story of the blessings and corresponding challenges faced by the early Church, Barnabas serves as a positive model of a faithful disciple. His example shows in particular what it means for individual Christians to participate in true community.

Barnabas has three things to teach us: first the general truth: Living as God’s people means that it matters how you use your resources. As one fellow put it, “A man isn’t truly sanctified until his wallet is.” Second, the particular truth: Living as God’s people means using your resources for the good of the Christian community. Third, the particular truth that God’s people direct their giving to God’s appointed leaders.

First, we see Barnabas’ generosity as he sells a piece of land, and lays the money at the Apostles’ feet. Of course, most of us would say that if we really needed to sell something for our Christian brothers and sisters, we would do it. But then we tend to set a very high bar for “need”. No one in our congregation is starving, or homeless, or anything like that. But Barnabas doesn’t wait for this level of need, because godly giving does more than simply meet needs. Did the Jews who came for Pentecost “need” to stay and hear the apostles’ doctrine? Not in the same way that someone “needs” food or clothing. Barnabas didn’t see a pressing “need” to sustain life; he saw an opportunity to bless the Church. And if you are looking for opportunities instead of needs, you will find many more of them.

Second, consider where Barnabas directed the fruit of selling his land. There were many poor in Jerusalem, there were many civic needs, and indeed, the usual place for gifts was the temple. But when the Holy Spirit prompted Barnabas to give, he gave to the Church, to the Christian community.

Today, we are surrounded by charities, ministries, and opportunities. Even in a time of recession, people are giving. But when people make other entities besides the Church their priority for giving, they are not using Barnabas as their model. Instead, they are choosing to place their hope for change in this world in other places, and through other means than the Bride of Jesus Christ, and this should trouble us. As he gives his gift to the Church community, Barnabas shows us a better way, and reveals his heart for Christ and His bride.

Third, Barnabas begins for us a new custom of laying his gift at the apostles’ feet. When you lay something at someone’s feet, you are honoring their authority. David describes the temple as the footstool of God, the place for God’s feet. When you give your tithes and offerings at the temple, you are laying your gift at God’s feet. Now, the early disciples are doing something radical: they are claiming that God’s feet have moved, and so Barnabas leads the Church to lay her offerings at the apostles’ feet.

This is why we bring our gifts to the local Church as the ordinary place for tithes and offerings to be given. If you want to give more, above and beyond, you are free to give wherever you wish, but the biblical pattern and the biblical priority is for our gifts to be brought and laid at the feet of God’s chosen leaders.

So as we consider the generosity of Barnabas, we should remember these three things: Christians use their money to honor God. Christians use their resources to bless their Christian community. Christians do this through the leaders of the Church. This means asking these questions of our wallets: Am I generously using my resources in a Christian way? Am I prioritizing the Christian community with my giving? And finally, am I honoring the authority of Jesus by laying my gifts at the feet of His appointed leaders? Barnabas’ example is both encouragement and exhortation to us, leading us to lay everything we are and have at the feet of Jesus.

Posted on Thursday, June 27, 2013 by CJ Bowen