President Obama was on the road quoting the Bible again. This time he was equating Mary and Joseph to illegal aliens and strangers. He could have made his case about being kind to strangers without mutilating the Bible in the process. As we’ll see, Mary and Joseph were not strangers. They were born and raised in Israel.
Every Christmas season, liberals make some socialistic appeal to Scripture in an attempt to support their arguments for bigger government.
Jesse Jackson and Hillary Clinton claimed that the Christmas story was about a “homeless couple.”
In 1999, Jackson stated that Christmas “is not about parties, for [Mary and Joseph] huddled alone in the cold stable. It isn’t about going into debt to buy extravagant presents; the greatest Gift was given to them although they had no money. It is about a homeless couple, finding their way in a mean time.” ((Jesse Jackson, “The Homeless Couple,” Los Angeles Times (December 22, 1999).))
Barbara Reynolds, a former columnist for USA Today, followed Jackson’s narrative by scolding the “Christian Right” for opposing government welfare programs: “They should recall,” she writes, “that Jesus Christ was born homeless to a teen who was pregnant before she was married.” ((Barbara Reynolds, “These political Christians neither religious nor right,” USA Today (Nov. 18, 1994), 13A.))
The homeless have now become tragic illegal immigrants who, according to President Obama (or whoever wrote his speech), are like the former “homeless couple” Mary and Joseph.
Here’s what President Obama said:
“‘If we’re serious about the Christmas season, now is the time to reflect on those who are strangers in our midst and remember what it was like to be a stranger,’ Obama said during an immigration town hall in Nashville.
“Obama reminded them that the Christmas season was about a ‘soon to be mother’ and ‘a husband of modest means’ who were looking for a place to stay, but there was no room at the inn.’”
Mary and Joseph weren’t the strangers. They were the citizens. The Romans were the strangers. An oppressive foreign power had occupied their country and oppressed its citizens with taxes. The Romans even enlisted Jewish citizens to collect taxes for them. For example, Matthew (Matt. 9:9-10; 10:3; Mark 2:14) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) were Jewish tax collectors for the Romans. Zacchaeus got rich from the work.
In the same speech he said, “I think the good book says, you know, ‘Don’t throw stones in glass houses.’” There’s no such verse in the Bible. ((“George Herbert wrote in 1651: ‘Whose house is of glass, must not throw stones at another.’ This saying is first cited in the United States in William & Mary College Quarterly (1710). Twenty-six [years] later Benjamin Franklin wrote, ‘Don’t throw stones at your neighbors, if your own windows are glass.’ ‘To live in a glass house’ is used as a figure of speech referring to vulnerability.”)) But when you’re making stuff up, who cares what the Bible really says and means.
The political side of the Christmas story is about government oppression as these makes make clear:
- Mary went to live with her cousin Elizabeth upon hearing about her pregnancy and “stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home” (Luke 1:56).
- Joseph had a job as a self‑employed carpenter (Matt. 13:55).
- An edict from the centralized Roman government forced Joseph and Mary to spend valuable resources to return to their place of birth to register for a tax (Luke 2:1-7). Joseph’s business was shut down while he took his very pregnant wife on a tax-raising scheme concocted by the Roman Empire.
- Typical of governments that make laws without considering the consequences, there was not enough housing for the great influx of traveling tax payers who had to comply with the governmental decree (Luke 2:1).
- Mary and Joseph had enough money to pay for lodging. The problem was inadequate housing, not a lack of funds. The fact that “there was no room in the inn” (Luke 2:7) did not make them homeless or strangers.
- If we follow liberal logic, any family that takes a trip and finds a “no vacancy” sign is technically homeless. But let’s not give the government any ideas.
- Joseph and Mary owned or rented a home. It was in their home that the wise men offered their gifts: “And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11).
- If Mary and Joseph were homeless, it was the private charity of the wise men that helped them not a government welfare program.
- Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were a family on the run in their own country when Herod, another oppressive government official, became a threat to them (Matt. 2:13–15).
The Advent story, in addition to being a demonstration of God’s love toward sinners, is also about how taxes hurt the poor and government decrees can turn productive families into the disenfranchised by enacting and enforcing a counterproductive laws.