By: Michael Simmelink
I’ve received compliments before on being independent. It usually connotates that I am able to take care of myself – that I have the capability to be my own man. I stand on my own two feet without a crutch.
The more I’ve been in contact with fellow college students, I have realized that I just don’t buy it anymore. I’m not really my own man in many ways. My parents are paying for most of my college that scholarships and grants don’t cover. I didn’t have to pay for my van. If I ever need more clothing, medicine, toiletries, or microwavable snacks, all I have to do is shoot a text back home and it’s taken care of. Doesn’t that sound pretty dependent? It seems to me that independence is not really a tangible thing for most college students, but I hypothesize it can be true of all people. At best, independence seems to be a curtain pulled over our eyes so we don’t have to see just how dependent we really are.
There’s something about the Midwest work ethic that causes us to want to inflate ourselves to fulfill this ideal of independence. It’s a source of pride when you or your family has it; it’s an instigator of shame when you don’t. This shame can be seen directed towards people who receive government welfare or charity from churches. Families don’t want to take the church’s turkey for Thanksgiving. They grocery shop at slow times so no one sees them pay with food stamps. Being stuck at the poverty line is tough, but being labeled as dependent is worse.
I’m not overly supportive of the current system of government welfare. It rarely empowers its recipients and it seems to suggest if we throw enough money at a problem, it will be fixed. However, I’m also not fond of the critics who say something about welfare creating “a dependency culture.” People are looked down upon because “they can’t take care of themselves,” or “they don’t want to work hard enough to provide.” Sure, I agree that welfare is broken and nobody wants to have people dependent on a government check, but this isn’t about bureaucracy.
Christians have to be careful about how we view dependency. That word cannot automatically be associated with the political realm because it will invariably lead us to think that our independence from government handouts means we can take care of ourselves altogether. We can work hard. We reap what we sow. We earn it.
That word cannot automatically be associated with the political realm because it will invariably lead us to think that our independence from government handouts means we can take care of ourselves altogether.
Stop and think. Do we really understand what it means to need Jesus as the Savior of humankind? Dependency can be harmful in a lot of earthly ways, but it is entirely necessary as we ponder what Christ did on the cross and out of the tomb.