By Annie Yorty, Crosswalk.com
As I worked on my taxes this spring, I studied the rules from the Internal Revenue Service about dependents. My family has some wonky situations which necessitated extra research.
Five criteria must be met for a person to qualify as a dependent for tax purposes:
-Biological or adopted child under a certain age OR
-Any age if permanently and totally disabled AND
-Provide over one-half of support for living needs AND
-Cannot file a joint return with someone else AND
-Lived with you for more than six months of the year
This information helped me to figure out how many dependents to claim. I finally filed my taxes with a couple of weeks to spare.
Our Father Cares for Us
Let's consider how the IRS qualifications for dependency apply to our relationship with God.
When we receive Jesus as the Savior and Lord of our life, the Bible says we become a member of God's family.
If judged by the IRS criteria for spiritual dependency, would you qualify as a dependent of your Father God? Or do you sometimes check the box for Head of Household?
1. Biological or Adopted Child under a Certain Age
When we confess Jesus as our Savior and trust Him to remove the guilt of our sins, God fully accepts us and adopts us into His family. That's why we can call Him Father.
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. (John 1:12-13 NLT)
The IRS places age restrictions on qualifying dependents because children are not expected to fend for themselves. In fact, they are completely unable to care for their own needs properly.
Though we all physically grow into adulthood, God always considers us His precious little children. Like young children, we are unable to provide for ourselves and should depend on God to meet our needs.
As your doting Father, God cherishes you and holds you close to His heart (Isaiah 40:11). Nothing can snatch you out of His arms. You have a secure, forever home with Him.
2. Permanently and Totally Disabled
You might wonder about disability as a sign of dependency on God. We don't like to think of ourselves as disabled. I have an adult child who falls into this category with a diagnosis of Down syndrome. (You can read more about that in my book, From Ignorance to Bliss: God's Heart Revealed through Down Syndrome) Her diagnosis doesn't diminish her value to me one iota, but it means I will continue to support her various needs.
We all were born with a disabling condition called sin. Sin hinders our ability to live according to God's amazing plan for our lives. While it's true we receive new life in Christ at the moment of salvation, we continue to feel the lure of sin, and sometimes we succumb to its temptation. But we also receive the Holy Spirit of God to join us in the battle against the effects of sin in our daily lives.
If we admit we suffer from disabling sin, God enables us to reject temptation before it produces sinful behavior.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)
On those occasions when sin slips its way past our defenses, God graciously forgives. His mercy wipes the slate clean for each new day.
3. Receive Over One-Half of Support
I've worked hard ever since I was a kid. I got a job at age twelve. I studied to earn good grades in school. I held down a full-time job to put myself through college. I devoted sixteen years of my life to homeschooling my kids. God designed us to enjoy productivity, so we should work to sustain ourselves and our families.
We sometimes forget the source of our abilities and possessions because we labor for most of our time on earth. But the Bible reminds us. In the early days of Israel, the people contributed generous offerings to build a temple for God. David's thanksgiving prayer gives us an understanding of our own possessions and achievements.
O Lord our God, even this material we have gathered to build a Temple to honor your holy name comes from you! It all belongs to you! (1 Chronicles 29:16 NLT)
God's people had toiled—their brows had sweat—to earn what they gave to God. Yet they realized everything they owned derived from God. God designed us with strong muscles. He created our brains more intricately than any computer. He illuminates our hearts with the wisdom of His Spirit. Without Him, we would have nothing of value. All our abilities and possessions belong to Him.
When we forget Father God provides one hundred percent of our support, we uncheck the dependency box and untether from God's supply.
4. Cannot File a Joint Return with Someone Else
The IRS strictly enforces that two people may not claim the same dependent. If parents divorce, they must work out an arrangement in which they both do not claim the child on their tax returns. Transgressing this rule will surely bring the wrath of an audit.
God insists on an even higher standard of dependence upon Him alone.
For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. (Isaiah 46:9 NLT)
God wasn't bragging or padding His résumé when He made this statement. It is entirely true. He repeatedly reminds us of this fact because only He has the wisdom to know our deepest needs. Only He controls the resources to provide perfectly. Only He loves us enough to care for us individually.
Despite His perfect provision, we often foolishly depend on unworthy gods. They may not be made of wood or stone as in the past, but we still bow to idols today. Wealth, possessions, status, beauty, youth, and even children can become our gods. All these and more can push God off the throne of our hearts and negate our dependency.
5. Residency Longer Than Six Months of the Year
Unless newly born, a child must live with the parent for longer than six months of the year to qualify as a dependent for tax purposes.
Jesus also taught about dependency resulting from living in God's presence.
But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! (John 15:7 NLT)
The repeated word "remain" also translates as live, abide, or dwell. Jesus illustrated the concept by describing a vine with branches. The branches must remain attached to the vine, or they will wither and die. The vine cannot supply the necessary nutrients to the branch without a close connection (John 15:1-8).
God takes up residence within us when we first believe and receive salvation. He supplies wisdom and truth to nurture our spiritual growth. As we yield our will to the Spirit, we will bear His fruit—"love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT).
Earthly Family Dependency
As a seasoned parent, I've observed a typical progression in child development. Young children brought up in a loving home simply and unconsciously expect their needs to be met. They rarely assert their ability to take care of themselves.
As children grow into their teens, however, they often begin to believe they might be capable of providing for themselves. Perhaps they perceive the meager amount they earn from a part-time job would somehow put a roof over their heads, clothes on their back, and food in their stomachs. They cannot conceive of the true cost of living. With this mistaken understanding of their own abilities, they sometimes take parental provision for granted and insist on independence before they are equipped to provide for themselves as God can.
Parents work through these bumpy times with their teens and hopefully emerge from those years with young adults prepared to launch into the world. The kids claimed as dependents for eighteen years will become Head of Household for IRS tax purposes.
God's Family Dependency
Children in God's family should never plan to launch into the world of independence from Him. We are designed for complete dependence upon His provision from the moment of conception and throughout our lives. We will never be able to properly sustain ourselves.
What's Your Dependency Status?
Does dependency fruit characterize your life? If you have received salvation through Christ Jesus, submitting your will to His Spirit will produce godly traits. Understanding we all fall short of God's perfect standard, pray and ask God to help you evaluate your growing dependency with the following questions:
LOVE: Do you sacrificially love difficult people?
JOY: Does the joy of the Lord consistently bubble up within your heart despite trials?
PEACE: Have you learned to rest in God through the unknowns of life?
PATIENCE: Do you bear with the shortcomings of others, trusting God to work in their lives?
KINDNESS: Do you daily offer God's grace to people in your sphere?
GOODNESS: Do you value and seek God's righteousness?
FAITHFULNESS: Can you persevere in following God when you cannot see results?
GENTLENESS: Do you reply with gentleness to anger?
SELF-CONTROL: Can you resist the urge to manipulate people or situations?
Perhaps the Holy Spirit has revealed your tendency to claim Head of Household status rather than dependence on Him in some area of life. If so, thank Him for bringing it to your attention and ask for His help to return to a state of complete dependence.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)
Annie Yorty writes and speaks to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. She has written From Ignorance to Bliss: God’s Heart Revealed through Down Syndrome. Please connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.