When you search for Bible verses about refugees you realise that the Bible doesn’t actually use the word ‘refugee’. But throughout scripture you do hear God’s heart for how we should treat strangers.
The Old Testament charts the story of the Israelites, the people of God. At various points in history the Israelites were a displaced people, finding themselves trapped as slaves in Egypt or exiled from their promised land.
Because of this, you’ll find many references throughout the Old Testament to knowing how it feels to be a foreigner or a stranger in a new land. This leads to lots of verses that reveal God’s heart for how we should treat strangers, foreigners and refugees.
Bible verses about refugees, foreigners and strangers
These quotations from Leviticus and Deuteronomy reveal clear teaching and instruction on how we are to treat foreigners and strangers.
“If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.” Leviticus 25:35
“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. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 19:33-34
“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
This teaching was challenging in the days of Moses and remains just as challenging today. We are told to help and support foreigners, to not mistreat them and to defend them. Most challenging of all, we are told to love them as ourselves. Why? Because, as God reminds us here, our ancestors were once foreigners too.
The Old Testament is clear: we can’t just love those we find it easy to love. We must love everyone, whether a friend, neighbor, foreigner or stranger.
Bible verses about refugees that teach us to be generous with everything
Later on in Deuteronomy, we find a detailed passage encouraging us to be generous with all we have.
“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.” Deuteronomy 24:19-22
Once again God is reminding His people, our family, that they were once slaves in Egypt. Knowing that the people of God were once the oppressed foreigners, exiled from their own land, should make it that much easier for us to be endlessly generous with all we have.
We never know someone’s full story and God’s commandment here to be generous encourages a beautiful way of life – one where we give generously of our possessions, our time and our love to everyone we meet.
God’s promise to us is that our generosity will be met with a blessing from Him. As we live generous, selfless lives, where we commit to loving others as ourselves, our good Father blesses the work of our hands.
We must be kind to strangers
“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.” Matthew 25:35
This famous verse in Matthew is another important teaching to guide us in our response to refugees, strangers and foreigners.
One of the most stirring encouragements throughout scripture is to be as Jesus was to others. To be kind to strangers, to forgive easily, to be generous, and to always demonstrate God’s love.
Living as Jesus lived can feel intimidating but it’s important to remember that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit in us. We can be patient, gracious, kind and loving because of the Holy Spirit who works in and through us.
We are all citizens of heaven
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20
Philippians 3 contains perhaps the most important teaching on how we approach the subject of refugees.
In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul makes the important point that we are all citizens of heaven. No matter our race, our nationality or our language, ‘our citizenship is in heaven’.
Paul’s challenging point here encourages us to think of ourselves as heavenly citizens first, before all else. This is a powerfully unifying stance.
If you let what Paul is saying here percolate through you it can really challenge your identity and how you think of yourself and then of others, too. Can we really consider anyone a stranger or a foreigner when we are all citizens of heaven? We also find this theme in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19
Here in Ephesians, Paul gives us a glimpse into what it means to be part of a heavenly family. He teaches us that we are all members of Jesus’ family and household. We are all joined together and in that joining we all become a dwelling place for God.
Unified and together as one family we can carry the very presence of God, the creator of our universe.
Photo by Hester Qiang on Unsplash