You may or may not be aware of it, but there is a belief being promoted among some who claim the name of Christian, that Matthew 6:33 means you can not be a nationalist.
Nationalism is simply a description of being proud of your nation or nationality. In political speak it means you believe in a strong nationalistic identity. It is not the same as imperialism, fascism, or totalitarianism. It is simply a patriotism, not an aggressive behavior that some politicians spin it as.
The belief that Matthew 6:33 means you can not be a nationalist is often thrown out in political arguments that Jesus’ words “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” means you can not at the same time want to put America first, or any country for that matter, in national activities.
If you follow American politics you likely have already seen through this mishandling of God’s Word as an attempt to misinterpret Scripture to promote socialism. To claim that Matthew 6:33 means you can not seek, have, or claim a strong nationalistic identity is another way of saying you can not say you are Christian if you wear a MAGA hat or in England they are saying that you can not say you are Christian if you vote for the Brexit candidate.
Matthew 6:33 was one of the first Bible verses I memorized as a new Christian because it is a principle Jesus gave to offer personal guidance in practical biblical living, as is all of the teaching from the Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, and its lessons on worry.
When it comes to this topic of nationalism, I want to share three points with you to help you see through the misuse of some verses so you can confidently stand on truth.
First, there is no sin in being a citizen of a country. We are citizens with nationalities and I know of no sin in that. Having some healthy pride about your nation or nationality is not a sin. It is perfectly biblical for a follower of Christ to seek both the Kingdom of God and to seek the betterment of their kingdom on earth, because we can chew gum and walk at the same time.
Philippians 3:20 says that “our citizenship is in heaven” but we are still on earth. The verse doesn’t mean we can’t chew gum and walk at the same time, it means though we have citizenship here, our real lasting citizenship is there.
Revelation 19:9 says that our marriage is in Heaven “with the marriage of the Lamb” but we have spouses on this earth. The verse doesn’t mean we can’t chew gum and walk at the same time, it means though we have intimate relationship here, our real lasting intimate relationship is there.
The Bible frequently uses these types of contrasting terms to communicate so that “rightly dividing” (2 Timothy 2:15) it and comparing it “precept upon precept, line upon line” (Isaiah 28:10) will keep us from inserting our own misunderstanding into it.
We see from Acts 16:37-38 and Acts 25:26-27 that the Apostle Paul was quick to claim his citizenship with Rome. Surely if the Bible, the Apostles, or the Lord was anti-nationalistic why would he claim his citizenship? Of course the answer is that Jesus or the Apostles never dis-acknowledged, or condemned, or even withdrew their own citizenship on earth.
Second, the Bible clearly supports the whole system of nations because we are asked to support it and not fight against it except as it fights against God.
We have examples of righteous men involved in and leading in various aspects, roles, and functions of nations. Jospeh, Moses, Daniel, and Nehemiah are a few that come to mind. If it wasn’t for men and women with righteous intent and involved in government in modern times, evil would reign unchecked.
Romans 13:1-7 is an excellent theological discourse on how God ordains nations and their governments to protect its citizens from evil and harm.
In 1 Timothy 2:1-3 we are told to pray for national leaders, adding that “this is good and acceptable in the sight of God” and in 1 Peter 2:13-17 we are exhorted to recognize and honor nations and their leaders.
It’s kind of hard to think that nationalism, liking your nation or nationality, is an unbiblical or bad thing when the Bible supports it. Your political views might not like nationalism, but you can’t honestly use the Bible to support a socialism global governing view.
Third, we should know that the Bible speaks positively about nations having borders and defining those borders with walls. Nations are God’s idea and their beginnings go back to the dispersing of people groups following the Tower of Babel, and that was meant for their own good.
The entire book of Nehemiah is about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem so it can be a nationalistic country again, a city-state.
Nehemiah even had opposition to building a border wall from those who want Jerusalem to remain weak and unprotected. The text portrays the bad guys as being against border walls, because Nehemiah 4:1 states “when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.”
God said build the walls of Jerusalem in Psalm 51:18 and in Nehemiah 2:17 we have a direct statement that not having walls brings about distress in the nation.
We have a story found in Judges 11:17-18 that references a time in the Israelite’s history where Moses wanted to cross the borders of the country of Edom and then Moab on way to Canaan, but both kings refused passage. Moses could have ignored them or mustard up the arms against these nations and took the shortcut through these borders but he chose to respect their national borders.
By way of a parenthetical comment, let me point your attention to Leviticus 19:33-34, since we’re talking about borders. The same people who think Matthew 6:33 is an anti-nationalism verse also hold out Leviticus 19:33-34 as a proof text for open borders and the abolishment of illegal entry into a country.
The verse simply says, “if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land” and that clearly states that they are sojourning, moving along, going through, it means they are there temporary. In today’s immigration debate Leviticus 19:33-34 would more closely apply to someone who is on a temporary visa for work or travel, but not an illegal with no regard for national laws or sovereignty, and certainly not someone intending to infiltrate a country permanently although illegal.
We have all heard the sound bites from globalist politicians and protesters who claim Christians are anti-immigration for wanting to build walls, but the truth is we are all supportive of legal immigration.
I don’t know of any of us or any Christian citizen who would withhold help, a bottle of water or food or a blanket from someone in need even if they admit to being in our country illegally.
However, helping, giving water, food, or a blanket is not equal to advocating for open borders and taking a contrary position as that of our God in not respecting borders and in encouraging national distress.
Our Only Safety
Our only safety in discerning truth from error when voices are clamoring for our allegiance, is God’s Word. The enemy of Christ is serving up thoughts, beliefs, and political views with a mingling of poison, just enough to deceive, destroy, and kill.
We are living in difficult times, and one of the issues that is making it so difficult is those who claim to be with us but are not. It is those who share half-truths and partial Bible verses without the Spirit of God that make these times more challenging for us to refute and to discern.
Satan came to Jesus in the wilderness to tempt Him and he did that with the same half-truths and misused verses of Scripture, and our response is to be the same as our Savior’s…“It is written” (Matthew 4:4).