In all the explosive debates on illegal immigration, the Bible has found itself front and center, and you can bet there are two sides to the argument.
Last week in Washington, religious leaders and lawmakers met to discuss illegal immigration and the ethical responsibility to illegal immigrants. “Southern Baptists respect and strongly support upholding America’s laws, he said, but they ‘also recognize a biblical mandate to care for ‘the least of these among us’ (Matthew 25:34-40), to care for the ‘strangers’ who reside in our land (Leviticus 19:34; Hebrews 13:2) and to act justly and mercifully (Micah 6:8),’ Land told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law” (Douglas, 2010). The Southern Baptist Convention leaders favor a guest worker program, which some lawmakers oppose.
The opposition came armed with their verses as well, “Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, read a quote from Romans 13:1-7 that crystallized the argument for enhanced border security and strict enforcement of existing federal immigration laws: ‘Let every person be subject to governing authorities…I suspect we will hear today that it is somehow immoral or unethical to enforce our nation’s laws and that we should ignore our laws,’ Smith said. ‘For those who want to take this approach, there is just one problem: the Bible contains numerous passages that support the rule of law'” (Douglas 2010).
The SBC is commended for the desire to practice the Gospel and to determine if it is guiding this lofty decision. Leviticus 19:34 says, ‘The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God’ (NASB). While the verse commands to love one another, it in no way negates the rule of law; one may argue that love would uphold the law.
The Book of Leviticus examined in whole is clear; God established His Law and the feasts Israel was to celebrate and in each tenet, God makes clear that aliens as well as natives are expected to follow God’s Law. An alien was not allowed to join Israel unless they followed the Law God set forth-including circumcision.
Allowing immigrants to enter the country illegally and then have the government take care of them has nothing to do with the Gospel and the two should not be mingled. The Church (all faiths) is responsible for taking care of the poor-not the government. God commanded the people in Leviticus 23:22 to leave the corners of their fields un-harvested for the poor and the foreigner. The tithe and offerings donated to the priests cared for the poor, orphans, widows and aliens. The New Testament Church practiced this as well, in Acts 6:1 the Hellenistic Jews complained their widows were overlooked but the native Hebrew widows were being cared for. The disciples immediately remedied this and made sure the alien widows received care. The Jews appealed not to the government but to the Church.
The Gospel does mandate to take care of those in need, and we all must do our part, however, it is an individual mandate. It was not until the New Deal over fifty years ago that the federal government began distributing welfare.
God did not command the government to enact a tax to take care of the poor. “The poor are never reduced to passive recipients of charity; the able bodied are required to work in exchange for benefits…the poor are to retain their dignity as competent and responsible people who are capable of helping themselves” (Colson & Pearcy, 1999). This would support the guest worker program-as long as it is through legal means.
A balance exists somewhere between the two ideals, take care of the poor, but in doing so the rule of law is not to be infringed. Illegal behavior cannot continue to be rewarded under the guise of the Gospel.
Colson, C., & Pearcy, N. (1999). How Now Shall We Live? Wheaton, Il: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Douglas, W. (2010, 07 15). McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved 07 15, 2010, from Denver Post: 2010