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December 2010

The Righteousness of Giving

By Gary Alley

The teachings of Jesus are not easy.  They can be hard to understand, difficult to accept or more often than not, tough to follow.  

We can miss the crux of Jesus’ teaching when his words become commonplace, taken out of context, and compromised in our post-Christian culture.  In a society that preaches hard work, self-help, individual success, and assumed eventual prosperity, the words of Jesus can come out muffled, sounding idyllic or disconnected from reality.

For instance, charity, or giving to those in need, can easily be overlooked as a key precept of our faith.  While we are bombarded with countless commandments in the Bible to provide relief for the weak and the poor, charity in our 21st century world is often perceived as nonobligatory on our faith, optional extra credit for a good Christian.  In fact, charity is one of the three pillars of faith that comprised Jesus’ Jewish heritage (see Matt 6:2-4, Charity; Matt 6:5-6, Prayer; Matt 6:16-18, Fasting).

In the time of Jesus, charity or “giving alms to the poor” was equated with the term “righteousness” (in Hebrew, tzdekah).  You find a similar refrain in Jesus’ teachings:  “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them…but when you give to the needy (give in secret).  Then your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matt 6:1-4).”  Jesus promises there will be a reward for those who help the needy.  Proverbs 19:17 is the basis for that promise: “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and [the LORD] will reward him for what he has done.”

This concept, that when one gives to the poor they are actually giving to the LORD, was understood as if the giver was depositing money in Heaven’s bank safe.  In Second Temple period Jewish literature we find: “Help a poor man for the commandment’s sake, and because of his need do not send him away empty.  Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost.  Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it will profit you more than gold.  Store up almsgiving in your treasury, and it will rescue you from all afflictions (Ben Sira 29:9-12).”

So too, Jesus echoes those words: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matt 6:19-20).”

According to the Bible, charity to those in need is an investment in eternity.  Unlike financial speculations here on earth, a gift, a sacrifice, an offering to another human being made in the image of God, is a rock solid asset in God’s eyes.  Charity is a core component of righteousness.  We might often think of righteousness as only an ethereal, spiritual experience when we are justified by Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross.  But as we learn from Jesus’ words, righteousness has a wider scope of meaning; it encompasses our daily walk with God as we engage those around us and give liberally to those in need (2 Cor 9:6-7).

JCF Study Tours

 

Bethlehem, the Birthplace of Jesus

Join Yoni Gerrish and the JCF staff on a tour in 2011 that investigates “The Backgrounds of Jesus’ World”.   See JCFtours.com for details

One of the last stops on our journey into Jesus’ world was the first stop of his life—his birthplace, Bethlehem.  This is also the home of King David and his shepherding family.  Today, you can still find sheep and goats grazing in the surrounding fields where the angels proclaimed the birth of the Messiah over 2,000 years ago.  Besides visiting the caves under the Church of the Nativity (see right) where tradition teaches that Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, the modern day craftsmen of Bethlehem are renown for their olive wood carvings.  In the vicinity of ancient Bethlehem are the enormous holding pools that King Herod built to store water that was channelled from Hebron to Jerusalem.  According to the ancient historian Josephus, Herod was buried near here in his fortress, the Herodium.  In 2007, Herod’s desecrated tomb was discovered after 25 years of searching by Prof. Ehud Netzer.

 

Charity Report: Year in Review 2010

Thank You

Jerusalem Cornerstone is not a large organization.  We are a handful of people that love God’s Word, His people, and His land.  While there are many other non-profit groups working in Israel and the Palestinian Territories with a greater financial support and human resource base, at JCF we believe that God has given us a special calling despite our limited assests.

JCF is not a massive aid distribution center, nor an endowed multimedia teaching ministry, nor a high-powered marketing machine.  As in the story of Elijah awaiting God’s presence, we are not the powerful wind, the momentous earthquake, or the raging fire (I Kgs 19:9-13).  We are a still small voice speaking to one hurting person at a time.   God has called us to help those living in Israel who are struggling, those who have fallen through the cracks.  

We call ourselves Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation (JCF), a title which sounds strong and impregnable.  But our accompanying verse reminds us of both our humble origin and our divine calling: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone (Ps 118:22).”  Everyday we come across stones that have been rejected by the world, those forgotten by their families, friends, neighbors, and governments.  It is from these stones that God chooses to build his living temple (I Pet 2:4-9).  

So too, JCF is a living organism, without a brick and mortar building.  We have a simple staff in Israel that receives modest stipends.  Our workers embody your prayers and gifts.  And yet, JCF is more than us who are serving in Israel—it is YOU.  Every time you read our newsletter or browse our website you are supporting us.  When you lift us up and pray for those we are helping, we are empowered by God’s Spirit for another day.  You are JCF’s great cloud of witnesses; you are our “foundation”.  

This year, 153 different people have given towards the work and staff of JCF, and we are honored to serve as God’s ministers of those funds entrusted to us.  We currently have around 1400 addresses on our mailing list.    As you may have noticed from our newsletters over the past decade, JCF provides a different perspective on the Holy Land, from its human interest stories to its biblical teaching.  Not only does your support aid the needy, it also enables JCF to provide our unique insight into the world of Jesus.  Thank you for your faithfulness for the Lord’s work and His Word.

Who JCF Has Helped in 2010

House of Light is an Israeli Arab Christian ministry led by Anis and Nawal Barhoum that provide spiritual and social aid to both Jewish and Arab residents.  JCF specifically aids House of Light’s prison work which visits and disciples current and former prisoners.  JCF’s average monthly support: $400

 

 

Club for the Blind is an Israeli social service to the blind residents of Tiberias which was dormant before JCF’s involvement.  The club has around 30 members and meets weekly for classes and trips.  Due to club’s increased activity, the Israeli government has approved funds to remodel their building.  JCF’s average monthly support: $700

Beit El is a Messianic Jewish Ethiopian Congregation in Jerusalem with more than 100 members.  They struggle to make ends meet while standing as faithful witnesses for the Gospel within Israeli society.   JCF’s funds typically go towards their families’ needs.  JCF’s average monthly support: $350

 

 

SOS Children’s Village Graduates Association are former graduates of a Palestinian Children’s Home in Bethlehem that has saved the lives and futures of countless orphaned children since 1968.   JCF partners with these SOS alumni by investing in their lives and education as they enter adulthood.  JCF’s average monthly support: $500

Besides these four areas, JCF has responded to the needs of individuals, families, and children who have been in dire need, helping with their bills, including medical, food, clothing, transportation, and shelter.

 

News

Where will you be this summer?  Join Randall Buth and the Biblical Language Center staff in Israel and learn how to read the Bible in Hebrew.  See www.biblicalulpan.org for more details.

 

 

Prayer Requests and Praise Reports

  • David Kopp and Erin Swenson.  David, the son of Chuck and Liz Kopp will be wedding Erin in Jerusalem on Dec 30th.  David is an Aviator Captain in the United States Air Force stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina. 
  • Randall and Margret Buth. In California till Dec 29th.  Pray for their safe flight and return into Israel.
  • JCF Charity.  That there would be provision for the families, children, and workers.
During October, Yoni Gerrish is guiding the Foursquare Church’s Global Leadership Training Network during their conference and visit to Israel. These leaders of the Foursquare denomination with more than 8 million members worldwide will be gathering in Israel to pursue strategic opportunities of training and consultation. There is no better place to gain both a local and a global perspective of Scripture than from within the land of the Bible and the Gospel.
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