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.


W Dean Shook


W Dean Shook commented…

It seems the author is missing some very important aspects of this, Clearly, then, what it means to be a “stranger” is to be a foreigner. In the case of the children of Israel in Egypt, they were invited and, at first anyway, were honored guests. Later, they would be oppressed by a generation who “knew not Joseph.” But they were certainly not trespassers. They were certainly not in Egypt illegally. They were certainly not breaking the laws of the land by being in Egypt. In fact, they were commanded not to offend their hosts in any way (Genesis 46:28-34).

You can't " cherry pick " scripture and make it mean what you think it should mean, if kept in context, your only telling the half of the story you WANT to tell, lets have this conversation in truth and integrity,

So, clearly “stranger” does not equal “illegal alien.” Even when the term “alien” is used in the Bible, it seems to have the exact same meaning as “stranger.”

God loves the stranger, we’re told. You should, too. They should be treated with respect and dignity. They should'nt be mistreated. That’s the clear message of the Bible – treat law-abiding foreigners and aliens with love and compassion.

And we should expect them to fully assimilate into our national culture.
just the same as they were required to do for thousands of years, all over the world, it maintains world order !

Remember, Deuteronomy 27:17: “Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen.”
Remember this: Peter 2:13-17 and Titus 3:1, urge citizens to obey secular authorities, because they hold godly agency, whether the individuals in charge are personally characterized by godliness or not. This conduct of good citizenship is one means of revering God. Earthly governors “bear the sword” on behalf of those under their authority — for instance, preserving law and order, fighting off invaders, and meting out punishment to those who break the law.

Gary S. Pomeroy


Gary S. Pomeroy commented…

Remember, even Heaven has a wall a gate and there's extreme vetting !

Maria K. Verderaime


Maria K. Verderaime commented…

So shall I go through and quote all the verses about breaking the laws....about obeying the 'laws of the land'...how about Roman's 13 that discuses the role of government...ie...protecting their citizens. Yes, we have to love everyone...'Hate the sin not the sinner' and if it is in our ability, help people, be kind....however, the Bible is very clear about obeying the laws of the land .The Word of God is for individuals and the Church...not for governments.

Adam Lane Hill


Adam Lane Hill commented…

I can assure every one of you that God is a perfect God and a God of order at that, He Himself ordained Trump and put Him in office because point is God knew He could use Trump to put a stop to the hypocrisy, unfortunately not all of it, but He is working everyday his very best. God knows that His people perish for lack of knowledge, Sodom and Gamorrah fell because of practicing wickedness day and night, the multitude of sins was an unjust balance and God is a just God so He cannot tolerate what will never give Him glory. Bare in mind God loves everyone, even the foreign peoples all over the Earth beside that of His people Israel, however God expects us as followers, as His people to do His law in our Countries, if we do not have a just legal system then it is not pleasing too God, God clearly knows the ramifications of failed law, He does not think as the world thinks or society, He reigns as the King of Kings and rules over all the nations of the world, whatever comes in between His righteousness or His will, it is wrong and to accept willfully what is against His Divine perfection is sin in itself. We know that just letting anyone and everyone in our Country that does not enter legally puts our Country in a position to receive people that desire to do us harm. No matter how long it takes to become a legal citizen it is needed to help keep our Country safe from criminals, not people that are good people that are immigrating too our Country, God bless them and we want to be that Country of refuge for them, it's our hearts greatest desire, however, if they are not legal then how is that fair too all them that came in legally and went through the process to be citizens of this Country? It is displeasing to the Lord once again for an unjust balance, He would not desire us to be luke warm otherwise He will spew us out of His mouth, though that scripture is talking about something else, scripture has many pieces too knowledge and so we know if God is opposed too an unjust balance? A Luke warm believer? He is opposed to anything that is against perfect justice right? Understand, it's not that we don't love these people that are coming into our Country as Christ gives us command to do so, and as long as they care and respect God and us enough too enter in the right way, we welcome them with loving arms and we want this to be their home, but when your breaking the law and are disrespecting perfect law which is not of God. Deep down so many know this yet they reason it out in their own minds. Colossians 3:25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.

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