In Donald Trump’s world, there are winners and losers. From his
words, he seems to lack as sense of mutuality. Thus, his slogan-like call for
“America First” should not surprise anyone. But, what does this mean? What does
it mean to him? What does it mean to the U.S.? And, how does God view the idea
of “America First”?
This is my third installment in a series. These entries explore
words from the President’s inauguration speech. Some of the words have deeper
implications than he might have considered. My purpose is not to criticize
Trump. My purpose is to provoke thoughtfulness.
Trump said, “From this day forward, it's going to be only America
first. America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on
foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”
In Matthew 20:1-16, the parable about the laborers in the vineyard
transmogrifies winners and losers into a communal gathering. Each person
receives what they need. Is the parable about salvation? Yes. Is it only
about salvation? Probably not. Faith connects with every aspect of life. If
faith in Christ were only about salvation, then Christians could set aside
faith matters in daily living. One could do as one pleases and trust that God
has no ethical or behavioral expectations on a Christian’s life. Scripture does
not support this hedonistic interpretation. Instead, the Bible is explicit;
faith connects with action (James 2:14-17). God has expectations (Micah 6:8).
What about the laborers in the vineyard? Were the people who
showed up to work all day losers because they did not earn a greater wage than
those who arrived at the end of the day? What about this “America first”
mantra? Salvation is for all, not the winners. Life is for everyone, not just
A few chapters after the parable about the laborers in Matthew,
Jesus tells a Pharisee about the greatest commandment. In Matthew 22:37-40,
Jesus says, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with
all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first
commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as
yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Jesus’ comment, “hang all the law,” adds gravitas to a loving
statement. He does not describe some namby-pamby love. This love is
powerful. It transcends boundaries, even borders. Elsewhere he answers the
question, “Who is my neighbor?” In the gospel, the neighbor is a foreigner!
A Samaritan, of all people! Thus, I ask, how is a Mexican different than a
Samaritan, if, in this analogy, Americans are the chosen ones of Israel?
“America first” misses the mutuality of the Christian faith. It falls
far short of “love your neighbor as yourself.”