In our adolescent years, we are often told of the need to become "independent." Get a job. Buy your own clothes. Maybe even cook your own food.
No doubt, in keeping with divine principles, young adults will leave the nest of "home" and eventually build a "nest" of their own.
Yet, from a biblical point of view, no individual ever really becomes "independent." The thrust of the word suggests the ability to stand or operate on our own — a feat which no one has ever been able to accomplish.
Think of just a few things on which we rely for subsistence.
We Depend Upon Family
William Ross Wallace (1865) famously observed: "the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world." There is great truth in that.
The family unit is the most basic earthly "security net" there is. Its influence spreads far and wide, giving our societies a sense of stability and structure.
By contrast, the deterioration of the family will inexorably tend toward the deterioration of society (e.g., morally, financially, emotionally, etc.).
Accordingly, the care of the family is tantamount to the care of the entire world!
In light of this, family dependence, including the responsibility we sustain toward our family and the responsibility our family bears toward us, is frequently addressed in scripture. Paul wrote,
"for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children" (2 Cor. 12.14).
The verb, "lay up," translates the Greek, thesaurizo. It alludes to putting wealth into a "treasury, or storehouse" (Vine, 358-359). The present tense suggests an ongoing process.
Hence, while children do eventually leave the direct supervision of their parents, parents nonetheless will continue to set provisions aside for the welfare of their children. A responsible parent never ceases to care for their offspring.
On the flip side, children must learn "to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God" (1 Tim. 5.4). The dependence goes both ways. Paul wrote,
"if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim. 5.8).
He further stipulated that if any "believing man or woman" was related to a widow (or widows), they were required to "relieve them" (i.e., give aid to them; 1 Tim. 5.16).
Indeed, the dependency that exists between the family and the individual is virtually life-long. And the man who manages to become totally "independent" of his family makes himself an "orphan" — a pitiable wretch, prone to experiencing "trouble" (KJV, "affliction") and misery (Jms. 1.27; cf. Lam. 5.1-3).
We Depend Upon Brethren In Christ
The co-dependence and fellowship of other Christians consumes the life of the godly individual. We worship together several times a week (cf. Acts 2.46-47; 20.7). We lovingly share our earthly blessings with one another (cf. Acts 4.32-35). We edify one another in the furtherance of the gospel (cf. Acts 5.42).
Because of our mutual faith and devotion, we are determined to "consider one another (lit., mind down; meditate, give deep attention and care to…) in order to stir up love and good works" (Heb. 10.24).
In his famous object-lesson for his disciples, Jesus taught the need for brotherly co-dependence. He said,
"you call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" (Jn. 13.14).
Of course, washing feet was only one example of serving the disciples. In service to their brethren, the disciples of Macedonia and Achaia sent a portion of their material wealth to the poor brethren in Jerusalem (cf. Rm. 15.26). Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus "refreshed" Paul's "spirit" when he was in the midst of hardship (1 Cor. 16.17-18). Onesiphorus did the same, serving Paul in "many ways…at Ephesus" (2 Tim. 1.18, 16-17).
Indeed, brotherly service can take many forms.
What's more, serving our brethren is a highly commendable task. Its rewards are many. In fact, to serve the brethren is tantamount to serving Christ himself (cf. Mt. 25.31-40; Prov. 19.17), and such service shall be added to our heavenly "account" in the day of judgment, for "God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward his name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Heb. 6.10; cf. 1 Peter 4.10-11; Heb. 13.16).
No doubt, brethren in Christ depend upon one another in nearly all areas of life. Our own salvation is "dependent" on brotherly co-dependence!
We Depend Upon Nature & Nature's God
Even a castaway, isolated from the rest of humanity, learns that he is never really alone, and never really "independent." We may learn to grow our own crops and make our own clothes; we may even learn to build our own shelter and start our own fires; but we still must depend on the laws of "seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night" (Gen. 8.22; cf. Mt. 5.45) in order to survive.
And, surpassing all that, every breath we take depends on the Creator of all things, for he alone sustains this world through "the word of his power" (Heb. 1.3; cf. Col. 1.16-17; Acts 14.17). As Paul affirms: "in him (Jesus) all things consist" — i.e., stand together, or, are held together — (Col. 1.17). Without divine assistance, the universe itself would go to pieces and be completely dissolved.
We all depend upon God for the continuation of life.
Take responsibility for your life. To do otherwise is to ruin your self-worth and potential.
But let us remember never to arrogate to ourselves a sense of self-sufficiency, independent of all those whose care and provision have made us who we are.
Vine, W.E. Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1985.