On Dependency and Need

We need God – and others – more than we can imagine:

Most folks want to be independent, not needing anyone else. They want to be able to call the shots and determine their own path. They dislike being reliant on others and hope to be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want. They want to be like God in other words.

Sure, many others do know their limitations and their needs. They realise we actually do depend on others a whole lot more than we may know or desire. Unless you are a complete hermit, with some sort of self-sufficient plot of land or veggie patch somewhere, you do need others constantly.

During the final months of my elderly Daisy dog (she made it to about sixteen and a half till we had to put her down), I realised just now how dependent she had become on us. She looked to me for quite simple things, like putting a leash on her and taking her outside so she could do a potty stop. At the very end I had to even help her to stand up and move about.

And of course when my ailing wife was still with me she too became increasingly dependent on me for most things. Whether it was helping her to make and eat foods, or stand up or walk, or take her to her medical appointments, etc, as time went on she was really becoming very much in need of my help and that of others.

And obviously so many others are in this position. A baby is very much dependent on his or her parents. Someone recovering from a bad accident depends a whole lot on others. A newcomer to a foreign country needs help in getting around, learning the language, discovering cultural cues, and so on.

In all these situations, when you are dependent on others, you want them to be dependable. You want them to be there for you, unfailingly and constantly. You want them to give you the help and support that you so very much need. Things are no different in the spiritual realm.

We are all fully dependent on God, whether we know it or not – whether we like it or not. Too many believers still live as if God is not there – except for when they get in a real predicament or tight situation. Otherwise, it is a life of independence.

But the growing Christian knows just how much God is needed every single day. Indeed, as one Christian song rightly puts it, “I need thee every hour.” Without the constant and reliable presence of God to help us every step of the way, we are all toast. We need him desperately.

We need such a God who is completely trustworthy and there for us at all times. It is a very good thing that God is like that, given how we are all so utterly dependent on him. As Paul said to the men of Athens, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Even God the Son spoke about how dependent he was upon the Father. As Jesus put it in John 5:19, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” If Jesus knew of his dependence, how much more so you and I?

And we depend on God through others as well

But it is not just our obvious need of God each and every moment of our lives. God has also placed us in a body of believers, where we need one another as well. We are not able to go it alone. Lone wolf Christianity is not what we are called to. We really do need each other. As Paul put it in Romans 12:3-5:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Or as he said in 1 Corinthians 12:14-26:

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

I can offer a personal and practical illustration of all this. I am good at a few things. I read a bit and write a bit and speak a bit. That is a major part of my Christian ministry. But if my car breaks down or some other home repairs are needed on various things, I am not of very much use.

This is where the rest of the body of Christ can come in to help. Some Christians are great auto mechanics or home repair folks. They can do those things well and they like doing them. And on a number of occasions when I have had needs like this, some believer will come along and do it for me.

And they often do it quite cheap, or even for free. And they will say things like this: ‘Bill, your ministry has been a real blessing to me, so I want to return the favour. I cannot write like you can, but I can repair your leaky toilet or washing machine, or install that ceiling fan for you.’

Some folks have even put in whole new electrical systems, or constructed floor to ceiling bookcases. It is a win-win situation. They find help in the sort of ministry I am involved in, and I get help by these people who are tradesmen or just plain handy with tools and fixing things.

Image of 1 Corinthians: The Word of the Cross (Preaching the Word)
1 Corinthians: The Word of the Cross (Preaching the Word) by Um, Stephen T. (Author), Hughes, R. Kent (Series Editor) Amazon logo

Stephen Um says the following about this portion of Scripture:

The main point that Paul is trying to get across is this: God has designed his church to be a community of complementary interdependence. The church is to be complementary; that is, each member brings something to the table that the others need and is enhanced by interdependence. It is also a place where each member can be harmoniously dependent upon others for his or her identity. . . . The church does not function as a collection of separate individuals. The church does not even function like a democracy. There is never a 51 percent to 49 percent victory in the church. It does not split up along party lines. It is far more vitally connected than that. The church functions as a body….


Rather than being a sign of weakness, interdependency is God’s design for the church. The church is to be a microcosmic picture of a restored humanity and is to reflect God’s original intention for humanity (i.e., interdependence). Rather than embracing the hierarchy and celebrity culture in the world surrounding the church, it is called to be a countercultural community. The weaker are indispensable.

That is the body in action. We need each other. We depend upon one another. And a first step in this is often just to state your need. I will sometimes go on the social media and say I need help with this or that. And often someone comes along who can provide the very service or help that I need.

It is the same with God. We first must admit our need. We must abandon our foolish sense of self-sufficiency and tell God just how utterly dependent we are upon him. We just cannot do anything without him. We must be attached to the vine if we hope to bear any fruit.

As Jesus said in John 15:4-5: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

I certainly am aware of how I can do nothing except with him and through him. And I am beginning to see how much I need others as well. For the Christian, ‘dependency’ need not be viewed as a bad word or as an undesirable concept.

[1645 words]

2 Replies to “On Dependency and Need”

  1. “There is never a 51 percent to 49 percent victory in the church.” In the Church of England (see recent news)?

  2. Thank you, Bill, for this lovely reminder. And I believe that in our showing our willingness and desire to help other Christians — and other people we encounter in our lives — we provide a powerful witness. We show the power of God and the grace of God working through us, overcoming our natural, fallen inclination towards selfishness and self-seeking behavior.

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