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June 2012

Where Do You Store Your Stuff?

By Gary Alley

We all have treasure.  It might be a million dollars or only a pair of shoes.  We treasure what we possess, because it’s our stuff.  And if we treasure our stuff, we have to guard it.  That’s why we have locks, vaults, and passwords.  Therefore, quite often, our stuff preoccupies our lives, whether we want it to or not.  Storing our stuff and protecting our possessions takes a lot of work.

Not surprisingly, Jesus spoke about the treasure of “stuff”.  He once was approached by an audacious individual who insisted that Jesus get involved in his family feud over their inheritance.  Jesus rebuked him and instead warned him to beware of greed, telling him that one’s quality of life is not derived from an abundance of “stuff”[1].  To make his point, Jesus told this parable.

 Once upon a time, there was a wealthy man whose land grew a bountiful crop.  He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”  Then he said, “This is what I will do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.”

Almost everyone who was listening to Jesus’ story up to this point, would probably have thought that this wealthy man was a God-fearing, pious person, since many places in scripture speak about God blessing one’s crops if they obey His commandments. 

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands… The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land…The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to (Deut 28:1,4,8).

Jesus’ listeners also probably would have considered this man to be an astute administrator like Joseph who prudently saved up grain from prosperous times to alleviate future famine in Egypt.

 During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully.  Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities.  In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it.  Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure (Gen 41:47-49). 

 And maybe, up to this point, Jesus wanted his listeners to think of this wealthy man as righteous and sensible, the ideal example for all to model.  But then the story turns.

 The wealthy man said, “I will say to myself, ‘Self, you have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy—eat, drink and have a good time.’”  But God said to him, “You fool!  This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”  

 This is how it will be with whoever stores up (treasure) for themselves but is not rich toward God. (Lk 12:13-21)

What makes this wealthy man a fool, rather than wise and practical?  Is it wrong to “save for a rainy day” or to prepare a pension for retirement?  Is Jesus saying that we should not enjoy life and the fruit of our labor?  In order to decipher Jesus’ parable, we must understand that last verse—this is how it will be with whoever stores up (treasure) for themselves but is not rich toward God.

 The admonition to not store up treasure for ourselves is easily enough understood, especially in relation to Jesus’ remark to the greedy brother—“life does not consist in the abundance of stuff (Lk 12:15).”  But what does it mean to be “rich toward God”?  In the ancient times, would that entail burning expensive sacrifices to God?  Many, like John Piper, have often spiritualized its application, so they might interpret it to mean “moving toward God as our riches” and “using earthly riches to show how much you value God.”  In practice, John Piper and others might then apply this principle as generously tithing to a church or giving toward a ministry.  While giving towards ministry is an important work today, what was the original context that Jesus was speaking from?  To answer that question we need to continue reading Luke 12.

 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them.  And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!

 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.  For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.”  (Lk 12:22-30)

Notice, the wealthy man focused on what he would eat and drink, even building bigger barns to guarantee his future prosperity, yet his prudent worry could not increase the length of his life.  In fact, he died sooner than would be expected considering his protective wall of wealth.  Jesus, on the other hand, teaches that life is fragile; there is only so much one can do to save, protect, and preserve one’s stuff.  Ultimately, our daily provision is a gift from God.  Jesus continues in Luke 12,

 “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  Sell your stuff [2] 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 12:31-34)

With regard to the wealthy man, we can now understand Jesus’ statement, “this is how it will be with whoever stores up (treasure) for themselves but is not rich toward God (Lk 12:21).”  The fatal flaw of the wealthy man is what he did with his stuff, his treasure.  Instead of seeking and receiving God’s kingdom by selling his stuff and giving to the poor, the wealthy man tried to use God’s blessing of prosperity to enhance his own life.  Being “rich toward God” is using the stuff that God has given us to help others who are in need.

Jesus’ command here in Luke 12:33 is the same as his request of the pious rich young man in Matthew 19:21, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your stuff[3] and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”  "Storing up treasures in heaven” is an ancient Jewish idiom for giving to the poor, helping those in need.[4]  When we invest our treasure in people, we invest in eternity.  Therefore, let us follow the words of Jesus and store our stuff not in barns but in the broken and forgotten.

[1] My translation for “τῶν ὑπαρχόντων”(Lk 12:15).

[2] My translation for “τ ὑπάρχοντα”(Lk 12:33).

[3] My translation for “τ ὑπάρχοντα” (Mt 19:21).

[4] Ben Sira 29:9-12; Tobit 4:7-10

Charity Report: Your Gifts Helped these Individuals, Families, and Ministries during April and May 2012

Funds from JCF helped provide for needs within Beit El, a Messianic Ethiopian Congregation in Jerusalem such as an unemployed pregnant woman, another dependent woman whose mother recently passed away, and families in need of baby essentials.  Pastor Tal asks for prayer for Ethiopian Jews who are one of the poorest communities within Israel.  Racism towards the Ethiopian community continues to be a problem as well.

Special Request for Summer Camp Funds: If you would like to help send a deserving child to a Messianic Jewish camp this summer, we are accepting donations.

Crossroads is a drop-in center for teens at risk in Jerusalem.  They provide a place for teens to feel at home, where they can relax and hang out, get snacks if they are hungry, receive therapy if needed, plus guidance and support in areas of education and employment.  One evening a week Crossroads offers an organized cooking program where teens are invited to participate in the preparation of cooking and eating healthy meals together.  JCF helped pay for the groceries for their cooking program.

Judy, a Christian Arab from Jericho, was one of 20 students who were chosen because of their academic excellence to join a school trip to France.  Each family was asked to pay $600 towards the trip, while a sister school in France is covering the rest of the costs. JCF helped cover a portion of Judy’s trip.

Bettie, a Christian Arab from Jericho, has five children.  Her husband is a teacher.  Their family has incurred debts due to family health problems.  Her husband had a heart attack at the age of 34, underwent open heart surgery, and has required much medication to stabilize his heart.  Their oldest daughter, who is 13, had an eye accident several years ago and has had to undergo three surgeries.  Now, Bettie has found a cyst on her ovary.  JCF helped pay for her ultrasound.

Emily is an orphan from Bethlehem.  Because of her low social status as an orphan, she is the second wife of her Muslim husband.  She survives on approximately $100 a month.  Emily is expecting her first child and, due to her husband’s neglect, needs to buy basic baby supplies. JCF helped her buy a baby bed but she still needs to pay for future hospital expenses.

JCF helped host a lecture by Yanky Fachler, an expert on Zionism, at Narkis Street Congregation in Jerusalem. Yanky’s parents fled Nazi Germany to the United Kingdom where Yanky was born.  His lecture, “God’s Little Errand Boys,” told the story of four remarkable Christian clergymen who helped the Jews reestablish their nation in 1948.  Listen to his lecture here. 

If you would like to contribute towards JCF's charity work, donate here.


Yony Buth, son of Randall and Margret Buth, will wed Munira Rose of Tanzania on June 24th at Narkis Street Congregation in Jerusalem.  Yony is a veteran pilot for Coastal Aviation of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Munira is a recent graduate of telecommunications engineering. 

Randall Buth and the Biblical Language Center staff will be hosting BLC’s 15th annual Summer Biblical Hebrew Courses in Israel (June 17-July 27, 2012).  In Fresno, California, BLC will also be leading the second Koine Greek Instructors: Fluency Workshop (July 22-Aug 1, 2012).

Umar Mulinde, a persecuted Ugandan pastor, recently spoke at Narkis Street Congregation. This past Christmas, after church services, Umar was attacked by Muslim extremists who doused his face and body with acid.  In the weeks following, he suffered devastating damage as the acid ate through his body and into his head.  He is currently in Israel receiving ground-breaking treatment, which has staunched the acid encroachment, though with the removal of one eye, and ongoing facial reconstruction.  Listen to his testimony at Narkis Street Congregation here.

There are currently around 60,000 African refugees living in Israel.  Since 2006, these refugees, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have entered Israel looking to escape war and find opportunity.  JCF has regularly supported work among the refugees, though recently, racism is growing within Israeli society and attacks are happening against the refugees.  Read about Kay George Kong’s story, a Sudanese refugee, who was a part of the JCF community in Jerusalem till his return to Sudan last year.  George studied Biblical Hebrew and Greek with the Biblical Language Center during his four years here.


Prayer Requests and Praise Reports

For Dalia, Yoni Gerrish’s wife, as she faces six more weeks of chemotherapy and then six weeks of radiation.

For Pastor Umar Mulinde’s health and protection for him and his family (see above)

For the African Refugees in Israel (see above) and specifically, George Kulang

Biblical Language Center’s Summer Biblical Hebrew Courses in Israel (June 17-July 27, 2012) and Koine Greek Instructors: Fluency Workshop (July 22-Aug 1, 2012)

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.