Tuesday, 8 February 2022
having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:37
This is now the final verse of Chapter 4. The previous verse introduced Joses, also named Barnabas. It noted he was a Levite from Cyprus. Of him, it next says, “having land, sold it.” The word translated as “land” signifies a field, particularly a field that produces a crop.
Of this event, Bengel notes, “This must have been outside of the land of Israel, in which the Levites had no portion.” This is incorrect. He is basing this on this provision of the law –
“The priests, the Levites—all the tribe of Levi—shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and His portion. 2 Therefore they shall have no inheritance among their brethren; the Lord is their inheritance, as He said to them.” Deuteronomy 18:1, 2
This is stated several times and in various ways within the law. Its meaning is not that Levites would own no property within Israel, but that the tribe of Levi would have no allocation of land within Israel. The land was divided up among the other tribes, and then Levitical cities were interspersed throughout those divisions.
However, the provisions of the law allowed for anyone to buy and sell the land. It was just not to pass between tribes permanently. An example of those of Levi (specifically the priests) owning their own land is found in Jeremiah –
“And Jeremiah said, ‘The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 7 ‘Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you, saying, “Buy my field which is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it.”’ 8 Then Hanamel my uncle’s son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Please buy my field that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is yours, and the redemption yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.” Jeremiah 32:6-8
Anathoth was one of the Levitical cities of Israel. There were such provisions found for buying and selling land and houses, but the main point was that the borders of each tribe were to remain fixed, not transferring between tribes based on inheritances and the like. As for the land sold by Barnabas, it next says, “and brought the money.”
It was his right to own the land, it was his right to sell the land, and when it was sold, it was his right to do as he wished with it. There is nothing compulsory in this event. This is a completely voluntary occurrence in all ways. With this being the case, it tells what he chose to do with it, saying, “and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
This is in accord with what is said in verses 34 and 35. It appears that Barnabas was chosen as an example simply because his life will be highlighted in Acts as the church expands and moves into Gentile areas. He will become a traveling companion of Paul and together they will set out with the message of hope that began in Israel and then spread outward from there. This account is a way of introducing him into the ongoing narrative.
Life application: As far as giving within the church, there is very little to prescribed what should be given or how it should be given. The two main verses that are to be considered are –
“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
“Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.” tGalatians 6:6
That is pretty much it. There are no other prescriptions that apply to all of the church concerning the matter. If you have been told, or if you are being told, that you should tithe, you are being misled in doctrine. Tithing is a precept of the Mosaic Law. It is not mentioned as a precept under the New Covenant. To mandate tithing would actually violate Paul’s prescription of 2 Corinthians 9:7.
In the church, you are admonished to give cheerfully – without consideration of amount. There is freedom in the church, not the bondage of the law.
Thank You for the freedoms we possess in Christ, O God. You allow us to come to You without the heavy and burdensome constraints of the law. In this, we can worship You freely and with a grateful heart for all You have done for us. You have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Praise God for this pure state of fellowship and reconciliation. Amen.