Bible is an immigration handbook

In recent days, high ranking federal government officials have quoted from the Bible to justify current U.S. policy and practice on issues concerning immigration. I, for one, am pleased they are reading and quoting the Bible on such matters. However, we all need to know the whole picture the Scriptures present to us concerning immigration. It has a lot to say. In fact, the Bible has been referred to as an “immigration handbook.”

In the old testament, more than three dozen times God mandates three categories of people to treat with great love, kindness and respect. They are the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. Most Christians embrace the mandate to care for the widows and the orphans. However, a much smaller number of Christians embrace the mandate to care for the stranger. We tend to forget that we were once strangers in a strange land. Therefore, we are, according to Scripture, required to embrace the stranger. In fact, in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and other books of the Bible we are repeatedly told to treat them as one of us.

The Bible contains advice on how people are to act once they are in a land and others enter. One of the first instructions is found in Deuteronomy 10:17-19: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Deuteronomy has long been a basis for the treatment of the uprooted, refugee, asylum seekers and immigrants. It includes numerous statements on how God’s people are to care for the stranger in the land. In Deuteronomy 14:29 we read, “The levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work that you undertake.”

Deuteronomy 23:7: “You shall not abhor any of the Edomites, for they are your Kin. You shall not abhor any of the Egyptians, because you were an alien residing in their land.” Deuteronomy 24:17: “You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widows garment in pledge.” The old testament closes with an admonition from God through the prophet Malachi, who, in Malachi 3:5, repeats the words of the Lord of hosts, “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.”

This is a very strong statement against exploitation of undocumented workers and day laborers and against people and governments who mistreat the strangers in the land. Therefore, I am pleased our governmental entities are studying the Bible on matters of immigration. It offers much guidance as a “handbook” on the subject. We need to make sure we are reading the Bible in its entirety, however, if we are to use the Scriptures for guidance. My hope and prayer is that Congress will create laws that bring our country more in line with these biblical standards.