Our nation is undergoing an invasion. For many Americans, the images that come to mind are of fences and walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. Those images are followed quickly by the millions of people crossing our borders. While the subject of immigration is emotionally charged, it might be time to see if we can glean some holy wisdom on the entire topic from our Bible.
To start us off, the concept of borders (boundaries) was first established by God Himself. He did so both as a reward and to keep His people from the negative influences of the nations around them.
(Deuteronomy 32:8)1NIV New International Version Translations – “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.”
God’s expectation, also enshrined in our Constitution, is that one key role of government: would be to establish secure borders, know those who come into our nation, and protect us from those who would harm us. This can be viewed as a God-ordained role of (leadership) government.
(Romans 13:1-6) – “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.”
Let’s first understand that the Apostle Paul’s verses above are not a command to follow an ungodly government. When governmental policies result in drugs, the trafficking of women and children, and tens of thousands of deaths on both sides of the border wall, there is a serious problem. We are called to elect God-fearing people who will uphold our Constitution, including the protection of our nation’s citizens and our inalienable rights. We need leaders who love God and respect freedom. Only after we are able to establish such a government, are we then to submit to their leadership, pay our taxes, and become witnesses to the world. God calls us to His Truths first and foremost.
(Acts 5:29) – “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!'”
Illegal immigration occurs when there is no regard for a nation’s laws. It does not matter whether immigration is to improve one’s life or to enrich oneself, to break a nation’s laws is wrong in the eyes of God. It is the role of the government to establish rules so that the immigration process is orderly and secure. In a more direct statement about safety and security, we find these permissions from our Creator:
(Numbers 32:17) – “But we will arm ourselves for battle and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile, our women and children will live in fortified cities, for protection from the inhabitants of the land.”
God permits nations to have border guards, armies, and “fortifications” along their borders to keep those who would harm them at bay. There is the practical expectation that all fortifications would include the use of “gates” through which ALL visitors can be directed. The Bible lists much about this topic2https://www.gotquestions.org/gates-of-Jerusalem.html. You can find a list of one hundred verses on the topic here: https://www.openbible.info/topics/immigration. And yes, even heaven will have a gate! “Not all who wish to enter will be granted access” (Matthew 7:21). It is easy, however, to miss that God defined three groups in His Word that are impacted by immigration. Let’s look at all three in more detail:
The foreigner – The Bible alternately uses the word, sojourner. It is a temporary resident; a stranger or a traveler who dwells in a place for a time. We call them guests and visitors.
(Deuteronomy 15:1-3) – “At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the Lord’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you.”
When visitors’ loyalties remained with their original nation, God called them “foreigners.” Foreigners were those born in a foreign land, not bound to the customs and laws of the land they were visiting. In the verse above, we find an example: tolerance for debt was extended for the citizens of God’s nation but not so for foreigners. Foreigners typically made lousy citizens because their allegiances remained with their homeland.
The immigrant – This pertained to someone who, for a variety of reasons, was seeking to relocate to another nation. Biblical history shows us that people sought sanctuary for many different reasons. One was economic, to find work/food. Other reasons included forced exile, or even seeking freedom, and escaping injustice. There was always an expectation that when someone immigrated, their new nation’s laws would be obeyed, and the cultural values of that new nation would be maintained. God’s cautions were always about absorbing the customs and gods of neighboring countries (Deuteronomy 6:14). Immigrants to God’s nation were to become Godly people, worshipping Israel’s God, Yahweh. When God’s people were in another nation, they were to obey the laws but remain faithful to their God!
The citizen – This last category pertains to the people within a nation who share common beliefs, goals, language, morality, etc. History shows us that when a diverse group of immigrants merges with a group of citizens, a cultural blending occurs. It had been God’s premise that the citizens of His favored nation would share His Covenant with all those who sought to become citizens of His Kingdom. The blending was to produce a better and stronger nation, but not absorb all of the beliefs of the immigrants. History tells us that this rarely occurred. It seems that it is always easier to pick up bad habits than good ones!
The Bible does not give us a comprehensive set of guidelines for immigration. However, God does have a strong opinion about the fairness and safety of the results. These three specific vulnerable groups of people are often highlighted in the same passages as objects of God’s particular concern.
(Deuteronomy 27:19) – “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow. Then all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’”
(Psalm 146:9) – “The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”
It is easy to see that in today’s world of drugs, crime, human trafficking, and the importation of cheap labor go directly against many of God’s commandments. God’s view is that all life matters to Him. Whether a temporary visitor or someone seeking permanent citizenship, God expects equal and fair treatment of everyone. God also expects all people to obey His commandments and the laws of the nation they are entering! The citizens also remain bound to God’s commandments too. No free pass for anyone.
(Deuteronomy 24:14) – “Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns.”
(Malachi 3:5) – “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.
There are many Bible stories about people being forced across borders. Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt. David escaped the violence of King Saul and sought asylum among the Philistines. Daniel and his friends were exiled from their homeland. They all worked for their sustenance by serving a foreign government. Even Jesus himself, as a small child, was forced to flee, escaping to Egypt (Matthew 2:16-18). When famine hit, Abram (later Abraham) and his family left their homeland at God’s instruction (Genesis 12:10). His son Isaac and grandson Jacob would also move because of famine. Naomi and her family were motivated by hunger and left the land of Judah.
What our Bible tells us is that compassion and immigration go hand in hand. In every Bible story, we find what is often missing in our approach to our own immigration policy today. There was always a work requirement for those who could work to participate in their own care and keeping. Yes, God wanted the generosity of His people to feed those who were hungry. God never asked the government to usurp this role in society. That was what the concept of “gleaning” was all about.
(Leviticus 23:22) – “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.’”
It might be interesting to add here a Bible story about a smuggler or a terrorist that immigrated into a nation. But those are few and far between. That was what the guards and armies were established to handle. Our creator assigned the physical protection and the spiritual health of a nation to its leaders. He then said to those who became citizens to follow His Laws and uphold His Truths. God’s blessings were to make them fruitful. God knew that when the human heart was generous, His people would provide for the widows and orphans, those who could not work. God calls us to let those who seek asylum “glean in our fields.” We are to be witnesses to them, demonstrating the saving grace only our God can provide. That was always God’s master plan. You know, the “Light on the Hill.” When a nation’s leaders use immigration to enrich themselves at the expense of others, God sends the prophets! His judgment is always next. God has watched Satan’s trickery before. The ultimate test of leadership will always be whether a nation’s people move closer to Him! The survey group, Gallup, says just the opposite is happening in our nation today.
Should we then conclude that God wants our nation to open its gates, take down its borders and let tens of millions of people into our country? Unfortunately, both that question and a direct answer are missing from God’s Word. There is, however, an interesting test you can apply. First, our nation cannot physically hold all the people in the world. But why do they keep coming? It is because “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We are one nation, under God! Many, however, are being enticed for nefarious purposes, only to become cheap labor and victims in our land. Too many are dying from drugs, gangs, trafficking, and profiteering to call our nation’s immigration system a Godly plan. To assure that our Constitution’s preamble has any hope of surviving for future generations, God calls us to first, remain a nation committed to law and order and the protection of our beliefs in the one true God. “GATES” and “BORDERS” have existed from the beginning of humankind as Adam and Eve found out the hard way. Therefore, it is reasonable to ask that immigrants seeking entry, allow us to defend our concerns for maintaining our own national identity (who we are), our nation’s economic health (financial stability), and national security (safety). That is what God’s Covenant is all about!
- Are you willing to share your net worth with the people of the world?
- Ideas to Explore: Be honest now, to have open borders, our nation would consume all its wealth to house and feed all the people. How much are you willing to give up?
- Is it reasonable to ask that people wishing to become citizens, learn our language, obey our laws, and gain a skill through which they can house and feed themselves and their children?
- Ideas to Explore: What is your opinion about adopting their laws from other countries? Do you agree that a parent can kill their child or spouse simply because they disobey? That, by the way, is a right guaranteed in some countries. Exactly what cultural blending is acceptable to you, religions, foods, morality, laws, etc.?
- Should a politician/leader obey a nation’s laws?
- Ideas to Explore: Is it OK for leaders or special interest groups to ignore laws and do what they want? Why don’t people use the present constitutional process to change the laws they don’t want?
- Do you believe benefit programs should have a “work requirement” component?
- Ideas to Explore: Should social programs be permanent? (Note: Social Security is not a social or welfare program. Beneficiaries have trusted the government and paid in their money, saving for their retirement.) Unfortunately, our leaders have given away those savings to people who have not contributed.
- 1NIV New International Version Translations