Living in Faith, Scripture verses

Being a Barnabas in a “me first” world

By Leigh DeLozier

I’ve been thinking about Barnabas in the New Testament lately. Do you remember Barnabas?

He was one of the apostles and founders in the early church and left a quiet — but wide — mark for us to follow. He was a true-blue friend and seemed to have wisdom about people’s character and motives that others sometimes missed. He was the kind of person to go to bat for someone he believed in, give people a pep talk on their way out the door, and be the first one to offer a hug in celebration or support.

He seemed to thrive on finding people with potential and teaching them so they could grow and learn where God wanted to lead them. Sometimes that meant that the people Barnabas taught and supported became “bigger names” than Barnabas himself. But that didn’t seem to bother Barnabas, because he was more interested in helping people serve God and reach their potential than having the top spot for himself.

What a surprising — and refreshing — way to live.

It’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game and focus on ourselves instead of others. After all, we live in a “me first” world.

What’s in it for me? How can I do better than that person? When will it be my turn?

That’s the mindset the world pushes on us: we should always want to be the first and the best, that things aren’t worth our time and effort if they don’t benefit us.

That mindset is the exact opposite of how God wants us to live as Christ followers.

Many places in the Bible teach us how God wants us to treat other people.

These verses in Philippians make it especially clear:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV)

Paul wrote those verses. I wonder if his friend Barnabas crossed his mind as he penned them.

The name “Barnabas” means “the encourager.” He could not have had a better-fitting name. The Book of Acts tells several stories about Barnabas’ actions and how he made a difference in people’s lives.

Here’s one prime example: When Saul (later renamed Paul) became a Christian and tried to talk with Jesus’ disciples, they were afraid of him. Their fright was understandable, considering that Saul’s most recent job had been hunting down and killing Christians (Acts 9:1-2). The memory was just too fresh on their minds and they thought he might be trying to trick (and trap) them by pretending to be a disciple.

But Barnabas stepped up in Saul’s defense.

But Barnabas took him [Saul] and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:27 NIV)

When no one else believed — or believed in — Saul, Barnabas did. God helped him see beyond what the others saw. Barnabas did this on other occasions too, helping teach and strengthen various people for God’s work. He had a gift for seeing the potential in someone and helping it come to the surface.

So what about us? Who are the Barnabas figures in our lives?

Who is always there to love, encourage and support us, even when the rest of the world seems to have turned away? Who helps bring out the best in us, even if it means less for them?

I can think of several people who have filled this role in my life.

And on the flip side — who have we been a Barnabas for? Do we know someone who needs encouragement or support or help along the way? Can we share advice or perspective to make someone’s journey easier? Can we walk with someone as a mentor through this phase of their life?

God intends for us to love, encourage, and lift up each other. Let’s all take some time to thank God for the people who have been a Barnabas in our lives and what that encouragement meant. And maybe it’s time to ask God who we can be a Barnabas for. We never know how far a little encouragement might go.

Your turn: Who has encouraged you when you needed it most, like Barnabas did for so many people? Share in the comments to help spread encouragement to others.

The world’s “me first” mindset is the exact opposite of how God wants us to live as Christ followers. #followingGod #Christianity Click To Tweet

6 thoughts on “Being a Barnabas in a “me first” world”

  1. Oh we so need this type of teaching in this world we live in. It is a me first society and putting others first does come last so often. To be like Barnabus is to an attribute to be desired. Thanks for sharing this, Leigh. You are a Barnabas person to me and so many others.

    1. Thank you, Barbara. You’re so sweet to say that, especially when you’re such an encourager yourself. I believe you’re right — to be more like Barnabas is a worthy goal. It’s something to grow toward every day. Thanks for stopping by – blessings!

  2. Amen and Amen Ms. Leigh. Too often, the world says (as you point out), “me, me, me.” In fact, the best multi-million dollar proposals I’ve written across my career were focused on the benefits they get, not on how well something worked, etc., but the promise of “If you pick me, you’ll be happier.” Sound familiar? That’s the same things Satan does with temptations. As for Barnabas; because God has so graciously placed so many in my life, I try now to be that for others. The keys to “being a Barnabas”, in my experience, are humility and finding someone who is seeking and will accept “Barnabas'” help. I’m glad you’re one of those “Barnabas people” in my life young lady. God’s blessings.

    1. I love that, JD — finding someone who will accept you as a Barnabas for them, yet being humble about filling that role. You are absolutely a Barnabas to people everywhere whether you realize it or not, sir. Thanks for being such an example of how we can help other people shine. Blessings to you!

  3. I can easily think of Barnabas(es) in my life, but who have I been a Barnabas to requires some thinking – which you’ve inspired me to do! Thank you for the thought-provoker!

    1. Turing our viewpoint to see how we’re affecting others can sometimes be a challenge, can’t it? I’m glad to have started some wheels turning. Thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts — blessings to you!

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