I co-wrote a best-selling and evidence-based book on alternative and complimentary medicine with my good friend, Dónal O’Mathúna, PhD, titled, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook (the options, the claims, the evidence, how to choose wisely). We had a chapter in the book titled Faith-Based Health and Healing. Our goal for the chapter was to review “what the Bible says about health and healing.” This and future posts will excerpt parts of this chapter, starting with this first post:
Health is a major focus today. Many people think of physical wellness when they think about health, but the trend is toward a much broader view, a “holistic” view of health. This acknowledges the many influences on our health and healing — the physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual factors. We now know that many nonphysical factors play an important role in the development of certain illnesses and in keeping us healthy. But, what Does the Bible Say About Health?
The teaching of the Bible and the miracles of Jesus show that God cares for people’s physical health.
One of the best-known exemplars of biblical love is the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30 – 37). He cared for the injured man holistically, including his relational and financial needs. But first the Samaritan bandaged the man’s wounds, poured oil and wine on them, and took the man to a place where he could rest and recover physically.
The Bible teaches that God values our physical bodies. He considers our bodies to be temples, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Paul mentions that physical training has value (1 Timothy 4:8).
God is concerned about our health.
The word “health” is rarely found in English translations of the Bible. Yet the Old Testament uses a number of Hebrew terms to reflect a broad concept of “health as wholeness.”
Obedience to God and humility before him are frequently associated with promises of health and blessing:
Some of the Old Testament laws reflect God’s concern for the health of his people and how he expected them to use natural means to promote health. Obeying some of these laws would have promoted health in the same way that public health regulations do today.
For example, the Israelites were forbidden to eat meat that we now know was more likely to carry diseases. They were to quarantine people with possible signs of infectious diseases, just as we use certain “isolation techniques” today to prevent spread of infection (Leviticus 11; 13; 14).
The clear teaching of the Old Testament is that good health depends on living one’s life according to God’s will. This produces tsedeq, which means “righteousness,” or being in a right relationship with God. This leads to a long and healthy life.
This multidimensional description of health is carried into the New Testament.
The underlying truth is that humans are more than merely physical beings; we are complicated per-ons with physical as well as emotional, relational, moral, and spiritual dimensions.
The following passages show some of the ways in which holistic health is taught throughout the Bible:
- Emotions are linked to health, as in Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
- Health is influenced by the morality of our actions: “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 11:29 – 30).
• Our spiritual vitality is linked to our health: “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 2).
Health is also described in the Bible as blessedness, a significant theme in both the Old and New Testaments.
People can be blessed, and therefore healthy, despite undesirable circumstances. A quadriplegic can be blessed and right with God and “healthy” in the biblical sense of health.
The Beatitudes describe people’s overall well-being and imply that our health depends on our inner life, which God wants to nourish and promote. The Bible teaches that health involves the restoration and strengthening of one’s personal relationship with God.
A healthy lifestyle includes pursuing healthy relationships (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) with family, others, and, most importantly, God himself. However, we sometimes need to prioritize the different aspects of our health.
The Bible describes situations in which physical health must be sacrificed for the promotion of spiritual health. Jesus tells us, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29).
Such a passage is not to be taken literally. It reflects a literary way of making a point. Christians are not called on to mutilate them- selves or to neglect their physical health. In most situations, promoting physical health is compatible with promoting spiritual health.
But sometimes a choice has to be made. That’s what Jesus is teaching here. And in those cases, Jesus says our spiritual health should be given higher priority than physical health. Sometimes we will have to make difficult choices not to pursue some means of promoting physical health — for the sake of our spiritual health.
Jesus sums up this principle: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
Central to all of these ideas is the declaration that Jesus Christ came to offer ultimate health to people in the form of a life on earth that would be full and satisfying and meaningful, coupled with the promise of an eternal life that is disease-free, sin-free, and tear-free. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Christians should be real examples of such contented living.
You can read more on this topic in my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook.
Also, citations to all of the studies quoted in this blog are found in the book.
Additional Blogs on Faith-Based Health and Healing:
- Part 1 – What does the Bible say about health?
- Part 2 – What Value Should We Place on Our Health?
- Part 3 – Devout Faith Helps but Does Not Guarantee Good Health
- Part 4 – Can Faith be Unhealthy?
- Part 5 – What Causes Sickness?
- Part 6 – Why God’s Response Isn’t Always to Heal
- Part 7 – Not All Healing is From God
- Part 8 – Illegitimate Spiritual Practices
- Part 9 – Life Energy and Medical Magic
- Part 10 – Medical Characters Condemned for Pursuing Certain Forms of Healing
- Part 11 – Look to the Bible, Not Inner Voices, for Guidance
- Part 12 – Biblical Principles on Which to Base Medical Decisions and The Power of Faith