Who Is My Neighbor?

There’s a new Golden Rule in some parts of America, and it goes something like this:

“Do unto others according to the amount of taxes they pay to your government.”

I saw a link on my Facebook feed where a Tea Party group is enraged because illegal immigrants were given government EBT cards to purchase food. Various groups scream on social media with headlines designed to inflame instead of inform.

“Those are taxpayer dollars!”

“We have vets who go homeless while illegal immigrants are housed. It’s not fair!”

All this (predominantly Right-Wing) fury makes me wonder.

I think of someone the Right often claims as one of their own: Jesus. Specifically, I think of when the lawyers and religious leaders came to Him asking “What is the most important commandment?” The story is captured in Luke’s Gospel (chapter 10, starting in verse 25ish)

He boiled it down to “Love God with everything, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

One of the lawyers looked for the loophole in this broad and sweeping command. Luke writes, “He, wishing to justify himself, asked ‘Who is my neighbor?'”

Great question. Jesus answers with the story of the Good Samaritan who encounters a victim in need. The Samaritan goes out of his way to take care of someone his culture said was his enemy. Jesus asks, “So who was the victim’s neighbor?” The answer the lawyer gives is: “the one who shows mercy.”

I for one would like my government, my society, and my country to be known for mercy.

The argument I hear is, “Well, why not let citizens be charitable instead of giving away tax dollars and American money to all these people?” It’s the same argument for doing away with or cutting back welfare and other forms of aid to the poor. Why can’t we let individuals and faith-based organizations give and serve, so that our government can use the money to take care of America’s other pressing needs?

Sure! That would be great… if enough people were doing it that government didn’t have to step in. But that’s not happening. Not enough individuals or charitable organizations are stepping up to the plate. So it’s either let people suffer because they’re not Americans, or because of their supposed and presumed bad life choices, or because hey life sucks and not everybody wins.

Or we can show mercy.

Mercy is costly. Mercy takes away from our resources to meet the needs of another. Mercy doesn’t focus on who “deserves” it.

Yeah, it’s your tax dollar. Sure, there’s a lot our government could do better. Of course I want immigrants to follow legal methods. No, when you boil it down to an overly simplistic question, I don’t think it’s fair that a veteran might go homeless while someone who’s not even a citizen gets cared for. Sure, I do wonder whether we’re feeding people we’ve detained while sorting out what to do with them, or handing over a bunch of electronic money without any concern for who we’re giving it to.

But Jesus didn’t say, “Suffer the law-abiding citizens to come unto Me.” He didn’t tell a tale of the Good Taxpayer who ensured his denarius was spent only on his nation’s citizens. I have a hard time picturing Christ flipping tables where detained illegal immigrants are being served food, or chasing the immigrants out of Wal-Mart.

And I remember the symbol of hope Ameica is to many on distant shores (and across distant borders). The plaque on the Statue of Liberty doesn’t say, “Give me your wealthy, give me just your best and brightest, give me those who have no needs and no worries.”

It doesn’t say, “Give me your tired, your poor, your outcasts… so I can send them back, rejected.”

There are better ways, perhaps. Reforms are needed, and a balance has to be found between a secure border and an open welcoming society.

But I feel like this pic from the Left calls the Right out on a political and philosophical disconnect.


Let us not be those who, wishing to justify indignity and indifference, ask “And who is my neighbor?”

3 thoughts on “Who Is My Neighbor?”

  1. For me it’s a matter of practicality. Only 4% of the world’s population lives in the US. If we opened out borders that number would double within weeks, stopping only when quality of life reached third world levels and civil war was rampant. The US is a wealthy country and can afford to donate to others, to our neighbors. But we can’t do it in a way that damages our own economy or the act is self defeating. If the borders are not controlled, and policies are not updated to international norms, the US will just be another poor nation that can’t help anyone. Sometimes the right thing is a hard choice.

  2. I am standing and shouting, “AMEN!” I know we’re in the minority here, David, but I’ve written the same thing on my own blog and on Twitter. And where are the Christian leaders saying the same thing? Amen again, my brother.

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