One of the great arts of life is the inventive use of nicknames. For many, it is simply a play off of one’s existing last name. Nash becomes Nasher, King becomes Kinger (yes, that was my nickname growing up), Murphy becomes Murph, Sullivan becomes Sully and Fitzgerald becomes Fitzy. Original? Perhaps not. Effective? Definitely a yes.
Acts 4 gives us a glimpse at the life of the early church.
Those with much were selling it off and helping those with financial needs. This wasn’t mandatory; it was a voluntary act of kindness within the context of the church.
Joses (or Joseph) was a Jewish man in the church. Being a Levite he was forbidden from owning property in Israel, but evidently did in Cyprus.
He too took property, sold it off and gave it to church ministry to help those in need.
(Act 4:36-37) And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,
Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
It’s interesting that the Apostles gave Joses a nickname, a new name by which he was now known by; Barnabas.
The meaning behind the new name is given for us in Scripture; the son of consolation.
Consolation is defined as the act of being consoled (obviously) or comforted.
Besides consolation, the Greek word behind it is also translated as comfort and exhortation (encouragement) a number of times in the Bible.
For an example of the word usage, Jesus promised that He would send us another comforter (the Holy Spirit) after His departure.
(Joh 14:16) And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
We get the idea, based upon his actions; the Apostles gave Joseph a nickname that fitted him. One who is always looking out for others, looking for an opportunity for a kind word, kind gesture, something to build others up. One who would come alongside, put his arm around and help one through a difficult time.
I once heard a bad joke about terrorists in the church. They were identified as: Bin Lying, Bin Arguing, Bin Fighting, Bin Complaining, Bin Missing, Bin Procrastinating, and Bin Backsliding.
For some, these might be apt descriptions but it wasn’t for Barnabas.
If you were given a nickname based upon your conduct, what would it be?
Ryan King is pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Westville.