The other day I was re-reading the stories of Jesus miraculously feeding the 5,000 in Mark 6 and then feeding 4,000 in Mark 8. Immediately after the second incident, as they travel by boat to their next destination, Jesus tries to make a point to the disciples and uses yeast as a metaphor. Missing his point altogether, the disciples presume that Jesus’ reference to yeast is actually an allusion to his frustration with their failure to have packed enough bread for the trip.
Jesus’ response—“Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? (Mark 8:17)—suggests a reasonable degree of exasperation. The disciples just watched him supernaturally provide for thousands of people with almost nothing, but it’s as if they already forgot, and they’re already back to worrying about what to eat. I imagine Jesus banging his head up against the side of the boat and asking the Father if he was sure these were the apostles he wanted to entrust with the Church.
We’re not so different than the disciples, though. No matter how many times we’ve seen God provide for our needs, we are fixated on our own economic security. Especially in a time when the economy is down and unemployment is up, many Americans—and many American Christians—can scarcely think beyond their own economic well-being. That makes a national conversation on immigration pretty difficult right now, both in local churches and in Congress.
That’s not because, as we often hear, that immigration is bad for the economy, but because people mistakenly believe immigration is bad for the economy. In politics, perception is much more important than fact. Economists almost all agree immigration—and specifically illegal immigration—has been really good for the U.S. economy on the whole. Because immigrants contribute as workers who primarily do work that complements (rather than competes with) the work most American citizens want to do, and because they contribute as taxpayers, as consumers, and as job-creating entrepreneurs, most Americans are better off economically as a result of immigration. But most people don’t know that: in fact, 74% of Americans believe—mistakenly, according to economists—that illegal immigration weakens the U.S. economy, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll.
For Christians, though, I would argue the economics of immigration shouldn’t be quite so important. We are explicitly commanded by our Lord not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear (Matthew 6:25-34), and I think it’s fair to extrapolate that we should also not worry about whether or not we will be able to afford an iPhone 4S or a vacation on the beach or a daily $4 latte. Unlike the rest of the world, who worry about their finances, we are to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness (or, as some think is a better translation, his justice) and entrust our basic needs to God, who knows exactly what we need (Matthew 6:34), and who is certainly not so small that the presence of immigrants in our country could ever limit his provision.
That’s incredibly freeing as we think about immigration and any number of other issues. Jesus gives us permission (and really, a command) to forget about the questions of “do immigrants make me more affluent?” and to focus on the more important, biblical question: “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).
Matthew Soerens is the co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2009) and the US Church Training Specialist at World Relief. His blogs appear here on Mondays.
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
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