Rev. Mathew V. S. Faculty India Bible College and Seminary Kumbanad
To the question who or what brings sickness, various individuals would respond with different answers. Some would say that sickness or affliction would come from satan, some others say it is God who brings sickness where as others would say sin causes sickness. Bible attests that sin is the root cause of the imperfection and disorder and sickness. Sin entered into the world trough one man and death through sin and in this way death came to all men because all sinned (Rom 5:12).The ancestral sin affected not only the human beings but also the cosmos. The earth was cursed due to the human sin (Gen 3:17f). Satan is the primary agent of the sickness. He is not always the author of sickness. Sometimes God also punishes the unrighteous with illness. The whole creation was subject to frustration due to the sin of Adam and Eve. It is only for a limited period. The whole creation including animate and inanimate things will be liberated from its bondage (Rom 8:22-25). Paul says both the subhuman creation and the children of God are groaning inside. Sickness and the imperfection will continue in the earth till the second coming of Christ and appearance of the new heaven and new earth. Bible gives various reasons for physical sickness. This article is mainly focussed only on few reasons. Let us discus them one by one.
1. Sin brings Sickness
In the Pentateuch, illness is sent by God to punish the transgressor to make clear divine displeasure (Ex 4:11; Dt 32:39). Following examples validate this idea. Jeroboam’s hand was shriveled due to his sinful acts (I Kgs13:11-14). When the man of God who came to Bethel from Judah prophesied against that altar at Bethel. Angrily, King Jeroboam, tried to seize the man of God, Suddenly his hand was shriveled. Later at the king’s request it was restored. The next example is Uzziah. Uzziah the king became arrogant and tried to burn the incense which was the priestly duty. At this God was not happy, suddenly he was afflicted with leprosy (II Chron. 26:21). Another instance that we see in connection with this is the affliction of leprosy of Miriam. This happened because she murmured against Moses because of his Cushite wife (Num. 12:10). Later atthe intercession of Moses, she was healed after seven days. In the N.T also we see a similar instance of this kind. Jesus healed an invalid man at the pool of Bethesda. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, see you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you. Stop sinning implies that man’s sins had caused his sickness (Jn 5:13-14). In Jn 9:1 we can also see that Jesus repudiates the idea that disasters like blindness are inevitably caused by sin, but does not say they are never caused by sin.
2. Demon possession brings sickness
In the N.T sickness is also associated with demonic powers that oppose God’s kingdom. Jesus and early Christians regarded demons as very real and very powerful adversaries of man. In the N.T, generally demons are always regarded as evil and unclean spirits also deceitful spirits. The primary function of demons is the possession and control of human beings. Once Jesus healed a woman with a spirit of infirmity (Lk 13:10-17). She had been crippled for 18 years. The description of this woman’s infirmity suggests that bones of her spine were rigidly fused together. Her illness appears to have a demoniac cause. Jesus cast out the evil spirit from a boy who was deaf and mute (Mk. 9:14-29). A demon possessed man who was blind and mute brought to Jesus. Jesus healed him sothat he could both talk and see (Mtt. 12:22).
3. Illness connected with the glory of God
There are some healings (miracles) connected with the purpose of the revelation of the glory of God. As the disciples saw a man blind from birth they asked Jesus, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind? Why did the disciples ask this question? They were exposing the rabbinic thought on sickness. Rabbis had developed the principles that a child could sin in the womb or that its soul might have sinned in a pre-existent state. They also held that terrible punishments came on certain people because of the sin of their parents. Jesus plainly contradicted these beliefs, telling that neither this man nor his parents sinned but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life (Jn 9:1-3). Lazarus’ sickness and death pictured as an event of the glorification of the son of God. It is made clear in the statement of Jesus,” “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that Gods son may be glorified through it (Jn. 11:4).
4. Sickness is associated with Chastisement
The chastisement is for children. The Greek term for chastisement is paideia.Chastisement is differentiated from eternal punishment. Parents discipline their children when they disobey them. It is for correction. Hebrews 12:4-11, points out the significance of the discipline. God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness. He chastens us in order to correct our faults. Discipline is beneficial. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace. Sometimes God chastens with sickness also. This is very evident in the Corinthian passage (I Cor. 11:28-29). Those who participate in the Holy Communion must examine themselves and recognize both the physical body of Christ as well as Church as the body of Christ. Paul says those who eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be chastised with sickness or even death also. There was division and quarrels in the Corinthian church. Agape meal was a practise in this church. Each one brought their own share from their homes and shared it with each other even the poor also. Later it was misused. The rich stopped sharing food with the poor. Thus poor were despised by rich. In this context Paul strictly ask them to examine their relation with other (I Cor. 11:17-22) .Self evaluation and repentance is the remedy for the chastisement.
5. Restless work may end up in sickness
While Paul was in Roman prison Church at Philippi sent a monetary gift by a way of Epaphrodites to Paul.Epaphroditeswas an active member of the church at Philippi, later became a fellow worker of Paul. He served Paul there in Rome. As he was there he fell into sickness and reached at the point of death. Paul says welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me” ( Phil 2:29-30). Risking his life may imply that because of the restless work he became sick. God had mercy on him and healed completely. In the case of tireless labour, men of God may take rest.
6. Negligence of sanitary and hygienic laws lead to sickness
God whom we worship is a God of order. He started animate and inanimate things and set them in order. He is particular about the cleanliness andhygiene. He wants his children to be healthy. Therefore He had given the people of Israel laws on health and food. This will protect them from contagious diseases (Dt. 4:1-8: Lev. 3:17; 7:23-27). We arewarned against overeating- gluttony (Prov. 28:7). Bible advise us to avoid alcohol (Gen. 9:20-21; Eph. 5:18).The biblical laws of sanitation were clearly ahead of their time. People who touched a dead or diseased animal or person or even garments or secretions from a sick person-was to bathe and wash or burned (Lev. 13-15).People showing signs of sickness were to be isolated-until examined by a priest and declared well. In Dt. 23:9-14 we learn that human wastes were to be buried, away from human dwellings. Today we call this sanitary waste disposal. Many of the moral laws of the Bible also have definite health implications, Adultery and fornications are clearly forbidden in scripture (Ex. 20:14; Lev. 18:20; I Cor. 6:9) because they threaten not only the stability of the family and society, but also the health of the individual. Therefore, each Christian should keep his dwelling and its surroundings neat and tidy so that we can prevent all water and air borne diseases as well as other contagious diseases
So far we have discussed the various reasons of the physical illness. They are satan,
sin etc. Sin is the root cause of the imperfection and disorders. Sometimes God also brings sickness. Satan brings sickness but he is not the only author of the sickness. Restless work may end up in sickness. God is concerned with the health and welfare of the His People. That is why He had given sanitary and food laws to the peopleof God. We are living in an imperfect, cursed world. In the midst of this chaos, God gives peace to his children. By the power of the Holy Spirit one can transcend all the sickness and affliction.