READ: Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10)
The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:34)

Of late, there has been much talk about protecting jobs for Singaporeans. Efforts have been made to ensure that local workers get fair treatment when companies employ or retrench their staff. This is encouraging, as it is only natural that a country should look after its own citizens well, and ensure that they have opportunities to work to provide for their families.

But, as in many other countries, this issue can be a sensitive one. How much should a country give its citizens priority in employment? How much should it restrict the employment of foreigners, who can play an important role and contribute to a country’s economy? Words like “discrimination” and “protectionism” are among the many featuring in this age-old debate.

Indeed, it is an issue that the Bible addresses.

In fact, if we dig into the Word of God, we’ll find a surprisingly even-handed approach to the subject of locals versus foreigners.

Caring for Fellow Believers

On one hand, the Bible instructs us to take good care of our own—those in the community of believers in Christ.

“As we have opportunity,
let us do good to all people,
especially to those who belong to
the family of believers.”
(Galatians 6:10)

“Anyone who does not
provide for their relatives,
and especially for their own household,
has denied the faith and is
worse than an unbeliever.”
(1 Timothy 5:8)

The early church took these instructions seriously. The community spirit was very strong, as the book of Acts demonstrates. The Christians “sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (2:45) and “shared everything they had” (4:32). “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there was no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need” (4:33–35).

Caring for Foreigners

On the other hand, the Bible also makes clear that we are to take care of the foreigners among us. Right from the Old Testament, God built their concerns into the law that the Israelites were to follow:

“The foreigner residing among you
must be treated as your native-born.
Love them as yourself,
for you were foreigners in Egypt.
I am the LORD your God.”
(Leviticus 19:34)

“Do not oppress a foreigner;
you yourselves know
how it feels to be foreigners,
because you were foreigners in Egypt.”
(Exodus 23:9)

Interestingly, the instruction in Leviticus 19:34 was for foreigners to be “treated as your native-born”. In the eyes of the Creator, who made each and everyone of us, we are all equally loved and valued. Jesus himself demonstrated God’s heart when He reached out to Gentiles and Roman soldiers while preaching mainly to the Jews. There is no discrimination in God’s kingdom.

Caring for All

In many churches today, membership appears to give us privileges. That’s not wrong, at least in the sense that we are to look out specially for those among our community who are needy. But equally, we are to care for those outside the brethren, too. The church cannot become an exclusive country club that cares only for its own.

An English Archbishop, William Temple, famously said: “The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.”

May we gain a deep understanding of God’s heart today, and learn to care compassionately for those in our community of believers as well as for those outside.

Lord, You love us as Your people.
And You showed Your love for foreigners, too
—for we were once alien to You,
yet by Your grace
You accepted us into Your family.
Give us the compassion and wisdom
to care for all whom You love.

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About the Author: Leslie Koh

Leslie Koh spent more than 15 years as a journalist in The Straits Times before moving to Our Daily Bread Ministries. He’s found moving from bad news to good news most rewarding, and still believes that nothing reaches out to people better than a good, compelling story. He likes eating (a lot), travelling, running, editing, and writing.