“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”

Luke 14:28-30

Hope. In Spanish, hope is “esparanza.”

It is perhaps not a coincidence that the verb for wait looks like a close relative of hope, “esperar.”

Waiting and hope seem to go hand in hand, don’t they?

We wait on the Lord and we hope in the Lord.

This week the president said that he will keep the government shut down for weeks, months and possibly even years unless Congress appropriates $5.6 billion to construct a wall at our southern border. More than 800,000 federal employees have been affected by the shutdown, in addition to federal contractors – and their loss of a paycheck affects untold businesses where they would otherwise spend their income buying goods and services.

The president has also implied that he may use some type of executive power in order to build the wall at our southern border, in spite of opposition and objection to the wall’s construction by a majority of Americans. Polls show that anywhere from 54 to 66 percent of Americans do not support the wall and/or do not consider it a priority at this time.

The environmental and human impact of this wall is yet unknown – there have been reports that birds and animals would be adversely affected – possibly irreparably and irreversibly – and that property owners would lose their land and their ability to fully use and enjoy their property. In days of yore (actually, just a few years ago), it would be anathema for a Republican president to advocate for the government using eminent domain to usurp the property rights of individuals in this way. There also was a time when Republicans treasured the natural beauty of our nation and many considered it to be a gift from God to be cared for and the party believed in stewardship and conservation.

We have watched draconian policies enacted over the last six months that have resulted in the deaths of at least two small children who fell ill and died while in US custody after receiving what is alleged to be inappropriate and insufficient medical care. We know that there are thousands of children living in what are called “tent cities,” separated from their parents and possibly permanently affected by the trauma from the separations and callous policies and practices set forth by this administration. There have been reports that some of these children may never be reunited with their parents after the parents were deported, effectively rendering these children orphans and wards of the state.

“Without consultation, plans are frustrated,
But with many counselors they succeed.”

Proverbs 15:22

In the two weeks since the shutdown began, at least three people have died at national parks, their causes of death believed to be at least partially related to the government shutdown. Many are calling for the parks to be closed while the government is shut down to ensure the safety and welfare of the public. Those with firsthand knowledge of the dangers and risks inherent in some of these parks have suggested that with a lack of staff, they will not be able to respond to emergencies and may not be made aware of life and death situations for an extended period of time.

The most concerning aspect of all of this government shutdown and border wall conflict is that it doesn’t have to be like this. We are not facing a crisis on our southern border. Nothing has radically changed at the border that imperils our national security or the health and well being of the American people.

While there may be immigration issues to address, these should be considered and responded to thoughtfully, deliberately and wisely.

Then-candidate Donald Trump declared when he was running for president that he would build a wall and that Mexico would pay for it. That was his campaign promise.

At the time, there were many opponents to the wall – and opposition has continued to grow against the building of a wall at our southern border. The National Parks Conservation Association is opposed to the building of the wall and it has expressed concern about the short and long term impacts of such a wall. Mexico has quite clearly communicated that it will not be footing the bill for Trump’s wall.

This may be one of the most blatant examples of a broken campaign promise in the history of modern campaigns and elections. As a candidate, Donald Trump whipped crowds into a frenzy with a chant about Build the Wall and a call and response asking who would pay for it, with the crowd responding “Mexico!”

Trump: “Who’s Going to Pay For the Wall?”

Crowd: “Mexico!”

Trump: “Who?”

Crowd: “Mexico!”

Three words.

Read his lips.

Three more.

Mexico Will Pay.

Donald Trump has stated that he is a Christian. As a fellow Christian, I can’t help but wonder if Donald Trump has counted the cost of his proposed wall. Has he really thought this plan out – or is this just an unreasonable demand from an unreasonable individual? Why is he so insistent on the immediate building of this wall in this manner – and why is so unwilling to work with others and so willing to cause harm to federal employees, all for the sake of his border wall?

Has President Trump spent time in prayer seeking God’s wisdom as he serves as America’s president – with regard to the border wall, child separation policies – or any of the other issues our nation is facing?

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved 
even in his sleep.”

Psalm 127:1-2

God’s Word teaches us that we should wisely consider our actions before we take them. God’s Word also teaches us that we should seek wise counsel in our deliberations. While many Republicans support common sense immigration policies, the party is not unified in its support of a border wall and not under the terms and conditions set forth by President Trump at this time and in this manner, essentially holding the federal government hostage to pay for a wall that he had previously claimed would be paid for by Mexico. It does not appear that President Trump has sought counsel from a diverse group of experts and authorities. Instead, it appears that he only seeks counsel from those who will tell him what he wants to hear. As evidenced by the recent firings and resignations, it appears that the president may not be interested in the opinions and counsel of those who contradict his plans. This is not wise leadership – it is megalomania.

Some estimates place the final cost of the wall at nearly $22 billion, with a three year timeline for construction. The Department of Homeland Security memo from which that estimate was obtained also indicates that the government sought environmental impact waivers that would allow it to avoid study and consideration of the impact to the environment and surrounding land areas. Some estimates have the final price tag at closer to $25 billion, and that would not include ongoing costs for maintenance and repairs.

Here is a Fox News article written by a statistician that analyzes the actual cost to build and maintain the wall, as well as the intangible costs to our nation if we build a wall like the one proposed by President Trump at our southern border.

If these internal figures from the Department of Homeland Security are correct, then the $5.6 billion is about 1/4 the actual total cost of the wall’s construction over the next three years. Which means that there may be additional appropriations requests of about $16 billion in the months ahead.

We must ask ourselves as a nation if this is a cost we are willing and able to pay at this time – and if this endeavor is in the best interest of our nation or if it is merely a president determined to satisfy his base and right wing radio and television personalities who questioned his actions.

While many Americans support sound and common sense immigration policies, it is a minority that stands with the president in the building of a border wall with an unknown – but exorbitant cost – and who support taking the federal government hostage in a shutdown until the appropriations are made.

At this time, it appears that President Trump is playing a massive game of “chicken” with the Democrats and he is waiting to see which side will blink first. The Democrats have essentially said that they will not negotiate with someone who appears to be holding the federal government hostage through a governmental shutdown that he said he would be proud to shut down during a televised meeting with Democratic House and Senate leaders in December.

The problem with negotiating with people like this is that once they manage to intimidate and threaten cooperation on one issue, they are empowered to continue to make unreasonable demands and issue dangerous ultimatums that could cause grievous harm to innocent victims. The rhetoric and the risk escalate and the individual making demands is emboldened to demand more and is seemingly never satisfied and ever more dangerous. Today, it is $5.6 billion for the wall. What might it be tomorrow? Which one of his campaign promises might he demand Congress fulfill – or face another government shutdown?

A majority of the American people do not support the building of a wall in this manner and under these conditions. Many Americans do not support the current iteration of the border wall and have expressed concern about the long term impact of such a wall on the environment and land owners. This is irreversible and permanent – it will forever alter the landscape of our nation. Indeed, what if we cannot fund the full $25 billion the wall may cost – or if the maintenance costs become prohibitive and excessive?

As Christians, we are to count the cost of our actions and to do so with an abundance of counselors who we seek for wise advice, impartial guidance and direction. It does not appear that President Trump has done either of these and it appears that he is acting capriciously, causing unnecessary harm to our nation, the federal government and the nearly one million people who serve the American people in public service as federal employees and contractors.

It is time to end the brinkmanship and it is time to allow for honest and reasonable debate on the issue of the border wall, while concurrently reopening the federal government and putting federal employees back to work.

Let’s engage in honest and realistic dialogue about our nation’s immigration policies. Let’s hold town halls where constituents, property owners, environmental experts, immigration experts, policy makers and residents can ask serious questions.

We need facts and figures on this wall. How much will it realistically cost to build and maintain the wall? What are the potential consequences of building this wall to animal habitats, the environment, property owners, migratory patterns of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects and waterways? What are the pros and what are the cons of the border wall?

America needs to count the cost and really consider whether building this nearly 1,200 mile wall is in the best interest of our nation. Our nation’s leaders must think before they act – they must look further down the road than ten minutes from now.

We need to hear from experts on border security and immigration. We need to discuss the child separation policy of this administration. We must talk about the best approaches and practices for immigration reform. We need to see both candor and conscience as we tackle this challenging but critical issue.

What America needs right now is for the president to act, well, presidential.

Acting like a spoiled petulant child who is pitching a fit because he didn’t get the Christmas gift he wanted is not helping anyone – and it’s hurting all of us. Holding press conferences and opening up cabinet meetings to the press so he can hold court while holding the federal government and nearly a million federal employees hostage is not making America great again. This kind of chaos, conflict and controversy may have worked during the 2016 presidential campaign and it may be a style that President Trump favors, but it is not in the best interest of the American people or our great nation.

This is no way to negotiate, it is no way to govern and it is no way to live.

And it is most certainly not the hallmark of a Christian, a group with which Donald Trump repeatedly identified, apparently in an effort to win their support in the election.

We have nothing to lose by waiting to build Trump’s wall.

We have everything to lose when elected officials act impulsively, foolishly and recklessly.

Trump already broke his campaign promise about the wall when he said that Mexico would pay for the wall and Mexico clearly stated their nation would not absorb the cost of this wall.

Today, nearly a million Americans face not receiving a paycheck because of the government shutdown initiated by President Trump and specifically and exclusively related to the border wall. The entire federal government is affected by this shutdown, including national parks, tax refunds, assistance programs and much more. The entire nation is waiting to hear what will happen next, watching the tennis ball travel back and forth across the court dividing Republicans supporting the wall and the rest of the nation.

Tonight, we wait. Tonight, we hope.

Estamos unidos en la esparanza.

We are united in hope.

In the words of President Reagan, it is time to tear down this wall.

Question

What do you think should be done about the proposed wall at our southern border?

Do you support a border wall?

How does your faith influence your beliefs on a border wall?

Challenge

Do a concordance or word search in your Bible or Bible App for sojourner and/or neighbor. Look up a few verses that you find in your search.

How does God call us to treat the sojourner? How does he command us to treat our neighbors?

Who are our neighbors?

How does the idea of a border wall reconcile with how God calls us to treat sojourners?

Do you think that our nation’s leaders have fully calculated the cost of a southern border wall? If not, do you think that they should calculate the cost before building the wall?

Do you support the government shutdown? Why or why not?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we pray for our nation and our leaders. Please give them the wisdom they need to make decisions as they serve our country and community. Please bring unity to our nation again. Help us to listen to one another, to treat each other the way we want to be treated, to show dignity and respect to others, including those with whom we disagree.

Lord, help us to be the people you call us to be and help us to seek Your truth and Your will and to act with grace, love and great mercy, things that each of us need. We pray for the employees affected by this shutdown – for their families their finances and their individual needs and concerns.

We pray for safety for the people who are affected by the shutdown – tourists, recipients of federal assistance, those in need of help from their government and all Americans.

And we pray for all those already affected by these immigration issues, particularly the children and people at our southern border and the families who have lost children in ICE custody to death or separation. God, please help our nation at this most difficult time and give people who have great power great wisdom to guide their steps and to benefit and bless our nation. In Jesus’s name we pray, Amen.

“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”

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