US BorderUnited States citizenship is a hot issue. Many people in the world would love to become US citizens. And many people inside of the US are trying very hard to keep them from becoming US citizens.

Now, like almost every other American, I admit that I did nothing to earn or deserve being born in the United States (and thus becoming a US citizen).[1] I also acknowledge that statistically the odds of me being born in the United States were not in my favor.

I was born in 1983. According to the United Nations 2012 Revision of the World Population Prospects,[2] there were 646,453,000 people born between 1980 and 1985. Of that number only 18,331,000 were born in the United States. So, I basically had a 3% chance of being born in the United States. This was slightly better than my chances of being born somewhere in Central America (a lower 3%), but slightly worse than my chances of being born in Pakistan (4%). I probably should have been born in China (an 18% chance) or India (a 19% chance).

Almost everyone in the world would admit that there are advantages that come with being a U.S. citizen. As a Christian, I think it is only fair to ask myself, “How am I using those advantages for the sake of the gospel?” and “Will I be held responsible if I do not use those advantages properly?”

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the talents. In the parable, a man puts a certain amount of his wealth in the hands of his servants before going on a journey. We are told that he gives to each of his servants according to their ability. When the master returns, he asks for an account of what his servants did with his money. Those servants that were faithful with what they were entrusted with are praised by the master and then given even more responsibility by the master. The servant who was not faithful has his talent taken from him, and he is thrown into the outer darkness.

Harsh as it may seem, this parable reflects the reality that God expects his people to make good use of the abilities, opportunities, and resources he has given them. I believe that my US citizenship is one of the “talents” God has given me. In light of this, I decided to ask myself hard questions to see if I was being faithful with this particular “talent.” Here are some of the questions I asked myself:

1)    Am I using my money and my ability to generate income for the sake of the gospel? In 2011, the median household income in the United States was $50,054. In 2011, 33% of the population of India lived on less than $1.25 a day; in Kenya 43% lived on less than $1.25 a day.[3] Those of us in the United States are filthy rich compared to the rest of the world. Am I giving faithfully to my local church? Am I giving generously to groups seeking to further the kingdom of God? Are there areas in my life were I can cut back on my spending so I can be more generous?

2)    Am I making good use of my time? Because of technological advances my family does not need to spend hours each day carrying water or gathering fuel to heat our home. What am I doing with that free time?

3)    Am I taking advantage of my religious freedom to share Jesus with my neighbors? I live in a country where it is legal to be a Christian. Am I actively engaging with people who don’t know Jesus or am I am content to just hang out with other Christians? Am I taking advantage of the freedom to share my convictions with others?

4)    Am I participating in the political process in a way that makes Jesus look good? I live in a country that allows its citizens to participate in the political process. Am I participating in a way that promotes peace? That works to defend the poor and the oppressed? That confronts greed? That encourages the love of friends and enemies alike?

Of course, there are many such questions that we should be asking ourselves. These are only a few. My hope is that Christians living in the United States will begin to see that their US citizenship is not primarily a “right” but a “talent” that God has entrusted to them for the sake of the gospel advancing.


[1] If they were still alive I would definitely thank my great-grand parents for hopping on that boat that brought them here.


  1. Ryan,

    It seems that the question that you posed is how a Christian should approach the debate about US citizenship and in particular illegal immigration. Yet it seems that you focused more on how to think through the benefits of being a US citizen. While being intriguing questions to keep in mind this does not seem to deal with the issue proposed in the title of this article.

    You brought out that many “Many people in the world would love to become US citizens.” Now the first question would be is this a true statement, or is it that many people in the world would love to have the advantages that US citizens have. This would imply that if such advantages existed for them at home that they would stay there. Also while keeping this in mind why would someone willingly violate the laws of a particular country in order to have these benefits, this without bringing up if such laws that keep them out are right or not. And this as well as how do Christians from other countries that do immigrate from other nations justify illegal immigration.

    Then there is the second statement about “many people inside of the US are trying very hard to keep them from becoming US citizens.” Is this strictly a question of maintaining law and order, or are their underlying sin issues of racism and convince that drive which laws are made and enforced. For it is known that the number of people that can immigrate to the US is largely driven from which nation that person is coming from Also the enforcement of the laws are eschewed due to the economic benefit of having illegal workers which for a lack of a better description are paid less and have far less rights as a worker. This leads to the question for Christians that are US citizens what is motivating the laws and enforcement of such laws, and in every way that such is sinful how do we repent of such.

    This are just some questions and ideas that I felt are more pertinent to the US citizenship debate and would love to hear you response.

    • Tandre,

      I’ll let Ryan answer your actual questions, but I’ll first get him off the hook on the title. I’m the one who gave it this title, so Ryan’s not to blame for a potentially misleading title. However, I will say that in debates like this we tend to get caught up in making and enforcing laws to govern who’s in and who’s out, and that perhaps a Christian approach would at least begin with assessing what we are doing with our own citizenship. So the post doesn’t work as a full manifesto on the citizenship debates, but it does set the tone for how a Christian approaches the debates.

    • Hi Tandre’,

      Maybe a better title for my post would be “America’s Got Talent”? Maybe not…

      In all seriousness, though, thanks for the questions and push back. I probably should have finished a couple more entries on the issue of immigration before I posted this first blog! You are asking some good questions, and I want to address them. I hope to roll out more posts on issues relating to immigration in the near future.

      In regards to your comment, in saying, “Many people in the world would love to become US citizens” I am implying that the desire for US citizenship is connected largely to the socioeconomic benefits of living in the United States. Right now, the United States (even though it accounts for only 5% of the world’s population) is responsible for almost a quarter of worldwide fossil fuel usage. That fact does not sit well with me. I am not sure I did anything to earn the right to consume so much, other than being lucky enough to be born in the United States. And yes, I do think there are many people that would be perfectly content to stay in their own country if the socioeconomic situation was better there.

      In terms of people willfully violating the laws of a particular country, I think there are lots of reasons why people break the law. Why do people willfully disobey the speed limit on the freeway? Convenience? Why does almost no one pay the use tax when filing their tax return? Greed? I think a lot of people ignore United States immigration laws because they are simply looking for a better life for their family.

      Finally, without giving too much of a future blog post away, I think “illegal immigrants are breaking the law by living in the United States” is too simple an answer for an extremely complex problem. Did American colonial leaders break British law when they signed the Declaration of Independence? Did the United States promote Texans to break the law when they encouraged them to break away from Mexico? Did the United States violate the rights of Mexico when they took the entire Southwest of the (current) United States from Mexico in the Mexican-American war? Did European immigrants violate the laws of the Native Americans living in North America by claiming ownership of land when they arrived here a couple hundred years ago? It seems like the United States might have been founded (and later expanded) in large part by breaking the “laws” of other nations or peoples. I may not have personally taken the land from the Native Americans or Mexicans, but I am reaping the benefits of what they did today.

      I realize that this is an extremely complicated issue. In this first post, my hope was simply to convey the idea that as a Christian my American citizenship should be seen as a “talent” before it is a “right”.