Local News: This Thursday’s Mission Mississippi Prayer Breakfast will take place at Fondren Presbyterian Church (3220 Old Canton Road; Jackson, MS) from 6:45am to 7:45am. The purpose of Mission Mississippi’s bi-weekly prayer breakfasts is to foster greater unity across racial and denominational lines within the Body of Christ. For more information, go to www.missionmississippi.org.
Is it appropriate for Christians to take medicine? Does such a practice indicate a lack of faith in God’s ability to heal? These are questions that spark controversy in certain corners of the church today and need to be addressed. Are Christians who avoid medicine doing the right thing?
1. God can heal, and it’s right to pray for physical healing
The Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament, records numerous examples of people being healed by God through faith. Sometimes this happens directly by praying, and sometimes it is brought about by a prophet or someone with the gift of healing. Christ spent as much time healing people with infirmities, it seems, as he did teaching and preaching. In his epistle, James tells his readers to call for the church elders to anoint them with oil and pray over them when they’re sick. God will answer such prayers, the apostle says, and heal the one who’s afflicted.
2. Prayer and medicine are not inherently opposed to each other.
So it’s worth emphasizing that whenever anyone is sick, his or her first recourse should be prayer. However, it is here that opponents of medicine make their biggest mistake. They present it as a false either/or: either one has faith in God, or one relies instead on medical help. Of course, it can be both-one can rely on God and make use of medical help.
It’s never unwise to make use of the means that God has provided for you. When a person goes to church, hears preaching, participates in the Lord’s Supper, etc., he or she is using the means that God himself has approved for improving one’s spiritual health. Similarly, if medical help is available for someone who needs it, it’s not wrong to make use of it to improve one’s physical health. Of course, all healing is ultimately from God. As the Torah says, “I am Yahweh, who heals you.” But God can do this in anyway he likes-sometimes directly, by prayer, and sometimes less directly, by doctors and medicine.
3. Examples of “medical” treatment in Scripture
In his epistle to Timothy, Paul advises his young friend to take a little wine to help treat his recurring stomach problems. Of course, Paul wasn’t encouraging Timothy to rely on something instead of God for healing. But maybe God wanted to use the wine to help deal with the problem.
It’s also important to note that Luke, the missionary companion of Paul and writer of the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, was a physician. If God doesn’t want his children using medicine, then Luke’s vocation would be inherently wrong, and one would’ve expected to see that indicated somewhere in Scripture. However, it isn’t, showing that God approves of doctors.
4. Healing a gift from God, not something he owes us
Lastly, on a bit of side note, it needs to be pointed out that we’re not entitled to healing when we’re sick. This mistaken notion is one of the most dangerous legacies left by the Word of Faith movement. We should seek it and trust God to provide it, but ultimately it’s his prerogative to give it or withhold it. In one of his epistles, Paul references a friend he’d wanted to bring along with him on his mission work, but he had to leave him behind because he was sick. What?
This was the same Paul that had healed so many sick people, had even raised people from the dead? The same Paul that had been bitten by a poisonous snake, and simply shook it off? What does this show? That even someone with the gift of healing can’t mechanically use it–it’s still God’s prerogative, and this explains why Paul’s friend, for reasons unknown to us, remained sick. Similarly, Paul couldn’t heal himself from his “thorn in the flesh”, whatever that was, and it was (again, for reasons unknown to us) God’s will to not deliver Paul from it.
An important issue, legislatively, is whether or not parents have the right to withhold medical treatment from their children, if they have religious objections against medicine. When this happens, and the child worsens-or even dies-is this a fair practice of religious freedom on the part of the parents, or is this child abuse? To delve into that in much detail, getting into the political ramifications of the question, would require a separate article.
Let us thank God for the advances in medicine that have been made. If not for such advances, many who are reading this article may have died long ago. Thank God for the gift of life.