What the Bible Says About How to Treat Refugees

12 verses about loving immigrants, refugees and displaced people.

Immigration continues to be one of the most politically polarizing issues in America. The topic of immigration policy has been a staple of recent presidential debates, and has even divided some members of the Church.

After recent terrorist attacks, new debates have arisen about how America and other wealthy nations should accept refugees from the war-ravaged nation of Syria.

The issue of immigration reform is nuanced, and policies are often legislatively complex. But the wisdom of the Bible is both simple and timeless.

Here are 12 passages that discuss how Christians should treat immigrants, refugees and those in need of help.

Love Refugees As Yourself

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Leave Food for the Poor and the Foreigner

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10)

God Loves the Foreigner Residing Among You

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

The Sin of Sodom: They Did Not Help the Poor and Needy

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)

Do Not Oppress a Foreigner

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

Do Not Deprive Foreigners Among You of Justice

"So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:5)

Do Whatever the Foreigner Asks of You

“As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name. (1 Kings 8:41-44)

Leave Your Door Open to the Traveler

No stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler (Job, discussing his devotion to God) (Job 31:32)

Invite the Stranger In

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)

We Were All Baptized By One Spirit

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14)

Have Mercy on Your Neighbor

He asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:29-37)

Top Comments

Jacob Hutcherson


Jacob Hutcherson commented…

Hate to see anyone have to go through this. I'd love to see the church rally together to do everything possible to help the refugees. That said, I absolutely do not think our government should. The guidelines in the bible are for the church and individuals - not guidelines on how to run a country. The government is in place to defend and protect americans, and I don't think helping refugees accomplishes that in any way.

Jonathan Cowan


Jonathan Cowan commented…

Greatly appreciate this article. The Law does call for the love and care for the foreigner as well as the foreigner to abide by the law of the land. One law for the foreigner and the natural born citizen. We must have compassion with wisdom. Love and wisdom go hand in hand.


Dennis Michael


Dennis Michael commented…

Context....so important. We take in thousands of refugees from all over the world but when a political party uses their power to control the system and pick refugees from a specific region for political goals rather than true humanitarian. The Christian population in the Syrian region have been facing genocide yet almost no Christian refugees have been brought in. At the same time thousands of Muslim refugees have been brought in. Refugees get immediate citizenship status with the right to vote. Unlike immigrants that have not achieved citizenship. So let not use them as political pawns and find true resolutions to humanitarian issues.

George James


George James replied to Dennis Michael's comment

Especially those who want us DEAD!

Ryan Clark


Ryan Clark commented…

(For the record i am pro Jesus, pro people, pro life, pro salvation, pro refugee screening, i am a US citizen:)

This article omitted one area of scripture I believe is important. I want to ask some questions in light of Acts 17:

For context:

Paul was in Athens waiting for Silas and Timothy. Paul's spirit was "provoked/distressed" when he saw Athens was full of idols. Paul and the early church were living in a hostile anti-christian climate. So, fast forward..

Paul is invited to introduce his theology on the Areopagus/Mars Hill in Athens speaking to a pluralistic group of philosophers. Paul then speaks to their ignorance of God in light of the altar marked "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD."

please read below

Acts 17
24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

My question:
Why would God allow wars to forcibly displace Syrian and Iraqi Christians and Muslims other than,

Acts 17:27 "that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;" ?

My worldview is constantly being defined by scripture and constantly challenged by competing voices.

I have chosen to allow Jesus' last commandment (the great commission) to become my greatest concern.

Should the government screen better for our safety, yes! Should refugees who are terrorists be let in, no.

What about the risks?

May we not turn a blind eye to our current and possible future neighbors in order to preserve ourselves and think that we're better off without risks.

BUT worst case scenario even if some are desiring to enforce their ideology,infiltrate, and cause trouble disguised as a refugee. God is the God who pursued Paul the apostle

My utmost allegiance is to Jesus and His Kingdom's advancement, a kingdom that cannot be shaken, an eternal kingdom. God bless America, America is a temporal place. A soul and heaven and hell are not temporal.

What's on the throne of your heart, the American flag or the old rugged cross?

May every tribe and tongue and every nation come to know His saving grace. Whether we go or they come to us. May the Lamb receive the reward of His suffering.

Andrew W. Perkins


Andrew W. Perkins commented…

Mr. Carey:

Historically, the United States has provided a refuge for the dispossessed and downtrodden peoples of the world. However, typically these immigrants and refugees came in legally, assimilated to the culture, became citizens, and maintained a thankful loyalty to the Country which provided them refuge. They also accepted the rule of its laws and became part of its order. As such, much of what you wrote pertains. How can it pertain to foreigners who follow an ideology—I will not use the term “religion”—which openly declares “death” to everyone other than themselves, who have pronounced death to the country to which they have been brought, who demand that the host country assimilate to them, their way of live, their belief system, and their laws and openly harass, threaten, and murder those who fail to comply. In such a situation, what you have written does not apply. If you want a Biblical response to such a situation, then you should note 1 Sam 17. What was Israel’s response to a hostile incursion? Was it “hey guys, come on in”? No, but it was a godly resistance to the evil intentions of ungodly men. A right resistance to evil can (and should) be made without hate in the heart. The same Jesus who said “to him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also” (Luke 6:29) also said “if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into” (Matt 24:43). Jesus reiterated one’s right to self-defense. Every person needs to hear the gospel and if the believer is being persecuted personally—key word—for his being a Christian or for preaching the gospel, then it is right to return good for evil and accept persecution, and even death, for the cause of Jesus Christ. However, when an individual or group of individuals set themselves to commit violence against their fellow human beings indiscriminately for the “offense” of not being a member of their group or subscribing to their ideology, then I believe that any person with a basic sense of right and wrong (e.g. Romans 2:15: “the Gentiles…who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness”), including believers in Jesus Christ, are right to take such actions to protect themselves. Do you not know history? “History” is the one-word answer to, and here I will say it, Islam. It is a history of conquest, murder, rape, pedophilia, bodily mutilation, slavery, et al., all of which are endorsed and commanded in the their “holy book.” Therefore the terminology of “radical Islam” is a misnomer; it’s just “Islam.” Only the willfully ignorant can think otherwise. (As is popular today, at this point I will be slandered for “hate” or for “fear” but neither is the case. It’s known, documented history. Every human being has a right to self defense.) The disciple of Jesus Christ should never hate Muslims and should indeed show love for these of his neighbors, but this must also be balanced by what Jesus also said. Indeed we are to be “harmless as doves” but also “wise as serpents” (Matt 10:16). As such I esteem your article as unbalanced and it does not tell the whole story. If one where to act out what your article is teaching, then he should invite a group of unvetted Muslim refugee men, whom he does not know and with whom he has not had previous contact, into his home with his family and declare their allegiance to Jesus Christ and state that Mohammed was a false prophet. Do you think this is unwise? If you would not do this, then I believe it shows how you have only told part of the story, only part of what the Scriptures teach about how to deal with out fellow human beings. If you were present during the context of 1 Samuel 17, my guess is that you would be telling the Israelites to stand down (calling upon Lev 19:33-34) and holding David back and reprimanding him for his sling and five stones. Would you not be an enemy of God’s people in such a context? I AGREE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE WRITTEN but, as your article only tells part of the story of what the Bible teaches regarding our responses to human beings and does not really define “refugee,” it is a half-truth, and carries a dangerous message. If you disagree, then you should remain silent while Muslims continue to commit crimes against humanity and to commit terrorist acts of murder within our borders and in other “non-Muslim” countries. Either that or you should send them an invitation to come to your house and act out their ideology on your family and property while you stand by with a smile and let it all happen. Failure to do so makes you a hypocrite and falsifies what you have written. It sounds “nice” and will grant one a “warm fuzzy” but I doubt either you or any of your readers would feel this same way after witnessing their family members murdered by “refugees.”

George James


Louis Laurasia


Louis Laurasia commented…

This is precisely why Christianity is a dieing religion. Christians have become obsessed with the notion of inflicting suffering on themselves for the sake of others. Jesus suffered for you so you feel obligated to suffer in order to be like Jesus. Christianity has become a religions of masochism where Christians compete with each-other to see who can sacrifice themselves the most. Whoever suffers the most is the most like Christ and therefore must be the best Christian.

What is worse, you have taken to forcing this suffering on others. You are now sacrificing your country, your community and everyone else in it. By forcing our nation to take in these refugees you are forcing everyone else, including Non-Christians, to sacrifice for the sake of them. You are forcing us to sacrifice our culture, our national identity, our national unity and untimely control of our nation for the sake of them. You are in effect dragging us up to your crosses with you and demanding we be crucified with you. Do you really thing that this is what Jesus intended?

I personally left the Church when Christians started using religion as a pretense for forcing refugees/ illegal immigrants on our country, and many other people I know did the same. The direction the Church is taking today is one of madness and self-destruction, and if the US doesn't abandon Christianity it is likely that you will take our nation and our civilization down with you.

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