Independence is one of the key American ideals. It is the very name of one of our founding documents, a document that functions as a death warrant to the authority who sent us to this continent – at least to any forces the king sent to stop us from thwarting his authority! That document may as well be written in blood! And so, to say anything which marginalizes independence in this culture is to preach to those who don’t have ears to hear or eyes to see. For if they did, they would respond in violence. Therefore, I don’t expect you to understand this post or even read it really. But if you do, I expect it will chafe.
A few days ago I posted saying: Feed a man a fish, and you will get him to stay; Teach a man to fish, and he will go away. The ideal behind the traditional wording of this statement is independence. When we talk this way, we actually want the man to go away. My rewording has merely called it out for what it is.
Wouldn’t it be more churchly, more biblical, in fact BETTER to want the man to stay? Open his place at the table of the Lord, let him take his place there and eat of the bounty the Lord has prepared and blessed us with!
Independence does not honor that.
Someone will argue: But you are merely rewarding bad behavior. Or: You short-change discipline and the chance for that man to grow.
This goes to my point. It is why I promote in-TER-dependence. It does not actually deny discipline and growth at all. The man who stays needs to learn to contribute to the group. I am not saying he should be allowed to free-load in all things forever. I am merely calling in to question the value of independence. Discipline with an eye towards getting rid of the guy can never really be LOVE and never invites reciprocation. It offers TOLERANCE, a cheap parody of LOVE, as it points the man to a more disciplined selfishness on his own part.
Tolerance is not God’s plan for creation.
Independence falls short of the glory of God. But, on the other hand, in-TER-dependence disciplines the whole group together and not just that hungry man. We all change together as we compliment the man’s strengths and compensate his weaknesses. Likewise he finds his fit and shores up weaknesses in the group – perhaps in creative ways none had realized before.
The wisdom we find in the whole Teach-a-Man-to-Fish proverb is worldly wisdom. It is not the LOVE of God. And, for that matter, neither is independence.
The Agent X household has recently taken in foster kids. This is homeless ministry for children! I am amazed at how undisciplined, how unthoughtful, how selfish and self-centered small children can be when welcomed into your home. And so, the paradox that no one seems to hold it against us that we LOVE these kids with extraordinary patience and endurance while welcoming them at the table of the Lord stands out. We are not preparing them to leave; we are teaching them to be with us! If we were loving adults with such charity, it would draw scorn – even among God’s people. They see that kind of care as foolishness. (See When Helping Hurts if you don’t believe me.)
The only difference I see between homeless children and homeless adults at that level is that the children have a lot of learning to do, whereas the adults have a lot of UN-learning to do BEFORE the learning begins. And since in both cases adults make up the group(s) of caregivers, it seems the UN-learning is key to both.
Therefore, let us unlearn independence as we begin to learn in-TER-dependence!