Plants, like animals, use several lines of defense against pathogen attack. Prominent among genes that confer disease resistance are those encoding nucleotide-binding site-leucine-rich repeat (NB-LRR) proteins. Likely due to selection pressures caused by pathogens, NB-LRR genes are the most variable gene family in plants, but there appear to be species-specific limits to the number of NB-LRR genes in a genome. Allelic diversity within an individual is also increased by obligatory outcrossing, which leads to genome-wide heterozygosity. In this study, we compared the NB-LRR gene complement of the selfer Arabidopsis thaliana and its outcrossing close relative Arabidopsis lyrata. We then complemented and contrasted the interspecific patterns with studies of NB-LRR diversity within A. thaliana. Three important insights are as follows: (1) that both species have similar numbers of NB-LRR genes; (2) that loci with single NB-LRR genes are less variable than tandem arrays; and (3) that presence-absence polymorphisms within A. thaliana are not strongly correlated with the presence or absence of orthologs in A. lyrata. Although A. thaliana individuals are mostly homozygous and thus potentially less likely to suffer from aberrant interaction of NB-LRR proteins with newly introduced alleles, the number of NB-LRR genes is similar to that in A. lyrata. In intraspecific and interspecific comparisons, NB-LRR genes are also more variable than receptor-like protein genes. Finally, in contrast to Drosophila, there is a clearly positive relationship between interspecific divergence and intraspecific polymorphisms.