Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation

Go Home

December 2016

A Christmas Parable

By GARY ALLEY

Now listen, you rich men, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you… Your gold and silver are corroded and will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire…The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you…You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence…You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. 

James 5:1-6; 4:17

We all know the story.  A rich man dies and goes to an afterlife of suffering.  He returns to warn his equally avaricious “brother” about the torment to come.  These rich men have spent their lives worrying about “the bottom line” while ignoring the needs of those around them.  They have grown wealthy by their tightfistedness to the detriment of others.   While they might have lived by the letter of the law, never breaking a commandment of commission, their guilt lies in what they did not do—sins of omission.

Since its publication in 1843, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has become synonymous with Christmas tradition in the West as a morality tale that challenged the 19th century industrializing world which was forgetting its humanitarian mores.  Its miserly protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, a recognized byword in English literature, today, for penny-pinching parsimony, had lived a selfish life, in pursuit of gain, with no compassion for those under him.  In Dickens’ novella, seven years after the death of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s former business partner, Marley’s spirit appears to Scrooge on Christmas Eve warning Scrooge of his awaiting eternal doom.  Contrary to Marley and Scrooge’s successful trade of accounting, Marley preaches to Scrooge about what true “business” involves:

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again.  Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all my business.  The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

“At this time of the rolling year,” the spectre said, “I suffer most.  Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode!  Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!”

If Scrooge will not change his stingy and uncharitable ways, he will be destined to an endless afterlife of wandering, bound by heavy shackles created by his own deeds.  The gold and silver he hoarded in this life, and did not share, he will carry for eternity; Scrooge’s stockpile of precious metals will be forged into chains that will weigh down his every step in the life to come.

But, fortunately, Scrooge does atone, and his life, and those around him, are changed for good.  The story teaches that one person’s choices can bring life or death, not just for himself but can also affect the community surrounding him.  These personal decisions include not only what they do to others but also what they choose not to do to help others.  After its dark and foreboding beginning, A Christmas Carol happily ends with repentance and redemption, punctuated with the well-known Tiny Tim-ism—“God Bless Us, Every One!”

Whether Charles Dickens realized it or not, A Christmas Carol was predated by “A Christmas Parable.”  In Luke 16, two parables, in fact, are spoken by Jesus about rich men.  These parables offer different riffs on the ethical chord of A Christmas Carol—our temporal choices involving others can have eternal consequences.  

Luke 16’s first parable tells the story of a financial manager who is accused of wasting his boss’s wealth and will soon be fired.  To create job opportunities after his looming dismissal, the manager gives his boss’s customers a significant discount on their debts.  Not only is the manager’s boss impressed by his ingenuity, Jesus also affirms the manager’s strategic generosity.  Taking this example, Jesus declares a larger principle from the parable’s punch: “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings (Lk 16:9).”

The second parable in Luke 16 is about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus who lived outside the rich man’s gate.  After some time, the rich man and the beggar die and enter the afterlife—the rich man suffers in Hades and the beggar is comforted at Abraham’s side.  The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn the rich man’s five brothers so they will not be eternally tormented like him.  Abraham says to the rich man, “If they do not listen to Scripture (Moses and the Prophets), they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead (Lk 16:31).’” 

What the rich man did wrong and what the beggar did right is somewhat muted in the story.  A simplistic reading could argue for riches being a sin and poverty a virtue.  But life and Scripture teaches us that it’s always more complicated than that.  It can be inferred from the story that the rich man neglected the beggar who sat outside his mansion’s gate day after day.  But it could also be understood that the rich man made a practice of mercifully feeding the beggar his left-over food.  That would explain why Lazarus sat outside the rich man’s gate, attesting to their symbiotic relationship.  Perhaps, the parable is saying that the rich man did both—he gave the scraps from his table to Lazarus but never truly invested in him as a friend. 

If this were the case, could we interpret this parable of the rich man and Lazarus through the earlier parable of the shrewd manager?  “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings (Lk 16:9).”  Instead of Hades, would the rich man have dwelt at Abraham’s side if he had made Lazarus a friend?

When we share with those in need, we are investing in eternity. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Lk 12:33-34).” 

Not only are earthly actions towards others important, Scripture portrays these actions as coming forth from our hearts, like gold coins spilling out of a treasure chest.  In the Hebrew tradition, the heart is the mind; it’s the place we think and make decisions.  The heart-mind is our moral compass.  We can only truly define whether we are wealthy or impoverished by the status of our hearts—how full or empty are our “treasure chests”?  Jesus says that our hearts will decide to inhibit or enable the flow of generosity based on our spiritual health and not because of the extent of our funds. 

Contrary to A Christmas Carol, Marley’s ghost is not necessary to remind of this truth.  According to Jesus, it’s not about the messenger but the Message.  “If they do not listen to Scripture (Moses and the Prophets), they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead (Lk 16:31).’”  Let’s go out of our way this season to help others, to build relationships, and to make friends.  It’s not good enough that we “mind our own business,” because, as followers of Jesus, humanity is our business.  As Father Rick Thomas often said, we can’t share the Good News if our lives are the bad news.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.  1 Tim 6:17-19

 

Charity Report: 2016 Year in Review

Jerusalem Cornerstone is not a large organization. We are a handful of people that love God, 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 assets.

We believe that God has called us to help those who are struggling, those who have fallen through the cracks. Every day we come across people that have been rejected by the world, those forgotten by their families, friends, neighbors, and governments.

JCF does not have a brick and mortar building. We have a simple staff in Israel that receives modest stipends. Our workers embody your prayers and gifts.

This year, 115 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. Thank you for your faithfulness towards the Lord’s work and His Word.

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 the needs of their families, single mothers, sick, elderly, new immigrants, youth, and children. JCF’s average monthly support: $500

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 three times a week for classes and trips. There are art and cooking activities led by professionals.  And they have started a long-term theater workshop.  JCF’s average monthly support: $500

House of Light (HOL) is an Israeli Arab Christian ministry led by Anis and Nawal Barhoum that provides 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. In the future they hope to have a half-way house to disciple former inmates who accepted the Lord while in prison.  HOL owns farming land and is hoping to grow their own food for those in need and, perhaps, one day, build a Christian Center on the property.  JCF’s average monthly support: $500

Israeli Social Services.  JCF partners with an Israeli social worker in Jerusalem who refers cases of families in difficult financial, emotional, and medical situations. Many of these are individuals from broken homes with very little income and unable to work due to health reasons. We’ve been able to help more than 15 families this year.  JCF’s average monthly support: $700

Little Hearts Preschool is a unique preschool where Jews, Arabs, and the nations come together to form a unified community in Messiah. It also strives to provide a quality trilingual (English, Hebrew, Arabic), faith-based education at an affordable cost for locals.  JCF’s donation is helping fund scholarships for needy families.  JCF’s average monthly support: $500

Refugees from Iraq and Syria. "An estimated 11 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of the civil war in March 2011. Now, in the sixth year of war, 13.5 million are in need of humanitarian assistance within the country. Among those escaping the conflict, the majority have sought refuge in neighbouring countries or within Syria itself. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 4.8 million have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, and 6.6 million are internally displaced within Syria. Meanwhile about one million have requested asylum to Europe."  More

In November 2014, JCF began to pursue open doors in aiding some of these refugees who had fled.  Since then, JCF has partnered with the Nazarene Church’s work among Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan.  During 2015 JCF gave $52,150 towards refugee needs like food, clothes, blankets, heaters, school tuition, medicine, rent, and transportation costs. During 2016 JCF gave $35,600 in aid.  In particular, JCF has recently begun to focus its efforts on aiding refugees who have started immigrating to the West.

Holocaust Survivors Fund: Around 200,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel, of whom a significant percentage struggle with poverty.  Over $1200 was given this year through JCF towards helping Holocaust Survivors.

Lifegate Development School is a special needs educational institute for Christian and Muslim Arabs in the Bethlehem area. It provides education, medical care, therapy, and home care programs for 350 to 400 children and adults.  JCF gave $1600 towards bolstering Lifegate's faithful staff in 2016.

During 2016, JCF gave $1000 toward scholarships for needy Muslim children who attend a Christian school in the Gaza Strip.

News in Israel and the Middle East

  • For the first time in over a decade, Christmas Eve and the first night of Hanukkah will fall on the same day this year.  More.
  • Israel is still the most economically unequal country in the developed world. The number of poor families is rising, the poor are getting poorer, and while only around 14% of Jews are poor, more than half of Arabs living in Israel fall below the poverty line — and that rate is going up.  More. 
  • Aleppo falls to Assad’s forces in the Syrian Civil War.  After nearly six years of war, the city of Aleppo succumbed to the combined forces of the Syrian government, Russian air power, and Shia militias.  “For four years, the city was split between a rebel-held eastern sector and the government-held western districts. During the summer, the army and its allies besieged the rebel sector before using intense bombardment and ground assaults to retake it in recent months.” More. 
  • Israel on Fire.  A great conflagration of fires crescendoed for a week in Israel from Nov 22nd-28th.  Some of the fires were natural occurrences because of the unseasonably dry weather, while others were set by arsonists.  Overall, there were 39 major blazes around the country with the largest fire happening in Haifa, where 527 apartments were completely destroyed leaving 1,600 people homeless.  75,000 residents, about a quarter of Haifa's population, were evacuated from 11 neighborhoods.  Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu thanked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the assistance of Palestinian firefighters during the crisis. 
  • One of the last founders of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, passed away on Sept. 28th at the age of 93.  Peres, a Nobel Laureate, who had served as Prime Minister and President of Israel, will be most remembered for his diplomatic acumen, pursuit of innovation, and undying vision for peace.  Here is a playful video celebrating Peres’s eclectic history.  Read President Obama’s eulogy of Peres, here.  
  • U.S. President-elect, Donald Trump has promised to move the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  More. 
  • Check out this video of a flash flood while hiking in Israel during the wintertime.  Here. 
  • Jerusalem’s Underground City of the Dead.  Due to high demand for burial, Jerusalem’s largest burial complex approaches a $50 million renovation that will dig deep inside a mountain creating 22,000 additional burial spots.  More.
  • The Tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulcher was recently opened for the first time after centuries.  For more on what they found inside, here. 
  • Ethiopian Judaism nearly identical to that practiced during Second Temple Period.  Researcher Dr. Yossi Ziv has researched Ethiopian Judaism and found Ethiopian Jews' customs and traditions extremely similar to those described in Dead Sea Scrolls, Second Temple Era texts.  More. 
  • Oldest Hebrew mention of “Jerusalem” found on rare papyrus from 7th century BCE?  Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) recently publicized their finding of a stolen 2600 year old inscription purporting to be the oldest known mention of the city of Jerusalem written in Hebrew.  The inscription is “From the king’s maidservant, from Na’arat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem.”  Some, though, question whether enough has been done to prove that it is not a forgery.  More.
  • A Treasure Trove of gold and silver objects dating back about 3,600 years from the Canaanite period has been found in the Tel Gezer excavation center.  More.  Also, a King Solomon-era Palace was found at Tel Gezer.  More. 
  • Rare 3,800-year-old pottery vessel with human sculpture discovered in Yehud.  More. 
  • Israel to open National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel in 2017.  Once complete, the campus will be the world’s largest facility to document the archaeological heritage of the Land of Israel, and will serve as a national center for the collection, conservation, study and presentation of the country’s antiquities. More.

Come See the Land of the Bible in 2017 with Yoni Gerrish and JCF Biblical Study Tours

  • Tour with Augustine Christian Academy from Tulsa and Chicago (Mar 4 – 19, 2017)

  • Tour with Pastor Charlie Bing from New York (Mar 25 – Apr 5, 2017)

  • Tour with Pastor Hylan Slobodkin from Seattle (May 3 – 17, 2017)

  • Tour with Pastor Doug Baker from Los Angeles (June 10 – 24, 2017)

  • Tour with Pastor Carl Johnson from Minneapolis (Sept 6 – 18, 2017)

  • Tour with Dr. Larry Ehrlich from San Francisco and Chicago (Oct 28 – Nov 11, 2017)

  • Tour with Tom and Eliza Henderson from Denver (Nov 11 – 22, 2017)

 For more information on how you can join one of these tours, here.

 

Come Learn Biblical Hebrew in Israel this Summer

Randall Buth and the Biblical Language Center (BLC) will be offering a 4 week beginners course and a 4 week intermediate course for Biblical Hebrew in Israel.  The beginners class is designed specifically for students with little or no background in Biblical Hebrew.  BLC's classroom is a fun and interactive environment with instruction and activities all conducted in Hebrew.  For more information, here.

 

 

 
There are approximately twelve needy and very lonely Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem who have been receiving loving care and companionship from an aid organization with whom we partner.   These Survivors receive monthly checks to support them economically and receive regular volunteer visitors, which is also very important to them.  A very nice program was begun to link boys from a local institution for disadvantaged children and youth, to some of these Holocaust Survivors.  This has greatly benefited both the teenage boys and the elderly survivors.
 
Loneliness is a huge problem to people who have lost all their family and often their spouse.  Visiting some of these Jerusalem Survivors regularly ourselves, we know how important this program is which supplies both financial and emotional support.  
 
The donations of JCF have been used in part with help to maintain the ongoing expense of supporting these survivors in Jerusalem with monthly help in form of coupons for food items.  The other part has been used to cover maintenance problems in their homes. For example, when our staff visited a 90 year old Survivor, her small, modest apartment was quite dark owing to a broken slatted shutter which could not be raised and had been like this for more than a week.   Having received the gift from JCF, we were in a position to immediately arrange its replacement.  One of hermost  terrible memories is from her home town of Yasi in Romania where she suffered terribly from violence and terror.  She lost most of her family and witnessed people being pulled out of their homes and killed.  She finds it very difficult to talk about those memories. She is suffering from many health problems, does not have children, and lost her husband many years ago.  Visits from Christians like us mean the world to her.