The Origin of Human Diseases-A Biblical Perspective
Pr. Shinu Varghese John
Sickness and related issues are not only on the increase, it is rampant in the world. The enquiry into the origin and cause for sickness of the human body challenges the understanding of God as the Creator of human beings.
Human beings were created in ‘the image of God.’ The sickness or brokenness of human body is the result of the brokenness of the fellowship with God. A survey through the Bible points that the imbalances of the relationship between the Creator and human beings caused the origin of the sickness. This article reviews the link between sin and sickness. It also examines multiple possible reasons for the cause of the sickness from a biblical perspective.
The Bible, discusses not only the association between sin and sickness but also about creation and the entrance of sin into the world.
When God created the world there was an innate pattern of conformity and uniformity – a wholeness in every aspect of life. Nonetheless, due to the disobedience of human beings disorder (Original Sin) affected all aspects of the world, including wholeness of the physical body of human beings. Thus, disobedience to God’s law may result in disorder because of this Original Sin.
Genesis 3:1-24 indicates that disrupted relationship between God and human beings. Man’s disobedience to God, interrupts the natural order and pattern of life. God condemned Adam and Eve to a life of hardship, suffering and death (Gen. 3:16¬-19). They lost their opportunity to eat the tree of life and became subject to sin and sickness (3:22).
From a Christian perspective, the fall of Adam and Eve had an effect on the whole world. This is further mentioned in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. He states that because of the first humanity’s sin, all the descendants of Adam inherited death (Rom. 5:12; 6:16; 1 Cor. 15:22). Nevertheless, when we become part of God’s family, the Lord makes our spirits alive in Christ, although our bodies remain mortal until the resurrection (Eph. 2:4-5). Hence, the human mortal body is prone to the sickness, pain and sufferings.
Deuteronomy 28:15-68 is a warning, making us aware that if they persisted in rebelling against God, disastrous events were inevitable. Calamities were avoidable by keeping God’s law. This Old Testament passage associates disobedience with sickness. It is a notifications of sorts to God's people that if they disobey His commands then they would be cursed with physical problems (disease, famine, blight, drought, etc., Deut. 28:15ff). Forgetfulness of God’s law was seen as the root cause of the curses. In other words, here also although God sends the curses, it is humans who have invited them because of their disobedience.
The following examples further endorse the fact that there does exist an association between disobedience and sickness. Miriam got affected with an unclean skin disease because she spoke against Moses (Num. 12:1-15); the ten men sent by Moses to spy out the land died of a plague before the Lord, because they brought an unfavorable report (Num. 14:36-37); a plague killed 14,700 Israelites following the rebellion of Korah (Num. 16:41-50); the Lord sent deadly snakes to bite and kill many Israelites when the people spoke against Him and Moses (Num. 21:4-9); again a plague killed 24,000 Israelites following the people’s worship of the Baal of Peor (Num. 25:1-9); the child born to Bathsheba was ill and died as a result of King David’s sin (2 Sam. 12:13-23); Gehazi contracted an unclean skin disease because of his greed and deceit – which the Lord decreed was then to be forever inherited by Gehazi’s descendants (2 Kings 5:26-27) and Jehoram contracted a fatal intestinal disease because of his unfaithfulness to God (2 Chron. 21:11-19).
The association between disobedience and sickness is further endorsed in the New Testament when Jesus warns the man by the pool of Bethesda, whom He had healed to “stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14, Mark 2:5). Believers were thought to be sick and some to have died prematurely because they did not participate in the Lord’s Supper in a proper manner (1 Cor. 11:29-30). Paul also mentions that God had already made many of them weak and sick. James also maintains a link between sin and ill health (James 5: 15-16). However James affirms that through the prayer offered in faith, the sick person’s sin shall be forgiven and his soul healed.
Nonetheless, the opinion that sickness is sent by God must be put into its proper context otherwise the danger is that God is considered as one who punishes immediately those who disobey Him.
A Means to Manifest God’s Glory
The fact the virtuous and obedient people also become sick. Sickness or ill-health is no respecter of persons. Here, neither sin nor disobedience is the cause for sickness, rather sickness can occur in order to bring glory to God. On one occasion, Jesus asserts that the blindness of a man is not the result of his sin, rather it was to reveal God’s work in him (John 9:3). Hence very often God allows not only sickness but also trials and problems to come upon human beings, because that is when He can display His power and His glory (John 11:4).
In James 1:2-3 asserts that God allows trials to come upon us in order to test and strengthen us in our faith. Apostle Peter also affirms the significance of trails so that one’s faith in God can be refined (1 Pet.1:6-7).
A Means to Gain a Compassionate Heart
Another reason why humans are allowed to pass through the valley of distress is that they may gain a heart of compassion for the fellow-sufferers and learn to comfort them. The Apostles said, “Blessed be the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. l:3-4). Christians are called to share in Christ’s sufferings – His humiliation, His sorrow, His pain, even His death (Isa. 53:3-4, Phil. 3:10; 1 Pet. 4:13). The one who has suffered the most in the one who is able to comfort and help others the most. Thus, in sickness there is great power to heal and comfort others. Through his suffering, Paul learned to rely not on himself but on the God who is able to deliver him from all his troubles (1 Cor. 1:8-10).
Several ministers in the healing ministry have not been healed by a miracle but have had to go through even major surgeries. Kathryn Khulman, an outstanding woman in the healing ministry, died of cancer. Prophet Elisha, who had the double portion of the Spirit, who performed so many miracles, died of a disease (2 Kings 13:14). What does mean this? Didn’t these people have faith?
Paul was a man of great faith and prayer. But he was not relieved of this physical problem (2 Cor. 12:7). Through his ministry people were healed by touching even his handkerchief (Acts 19:12). But Timothy who worked so closely with Paul was not healed of his stomach ailment (1 Tim. 5:23). Paul also had to come to terms with the fact that he suffered through no fault of his own (2 Cor. 4:16). However he understood his affliction also as a means to remain humble and to depend always on God’s power (2 Cor. 12:7-10, Gal. 4:13-14).
Thus, we cannot always jump into quick conclusion by stating that every sickness is a direct result of sin in our lives. One needs to understand that God is not the author of any sickness but He permits physical suffering into our lives to get the attention of humans. While asking, Why this sickness? we need to keep in mind that insufficient rest, improper food and violation of certain laws of nature are major factors causing sickness. But when Jesus comes again, He will transform our bodies (Phil. 3:20, 21), and usher us into His place where there is no sickness, no sorrow and no tears (Rev. 2l:4).
Thus, the understanding that good health is for those in right relationship with God or the physical health of a person depends on his/her spiritual condition - has relevance today. The spiritual dimension of humans may determine or affect the physical state of the person. The physical body of a person is an integral part of a person’s identity.
While the Christian perspective teaches that the origin of sicknesses and sufferings point towards consequences of the sin and distrust of God and as punishment for wrong behaviour, the Bible also teaches us that very often God allows sickness so that God can display His power and His glory, One needs to put these aspects in the proper context.
And we are grateful to God for the fact that the Bible does hold out hope for the future, that even sickness and suffering can be transformed or “redeemed” (Rev. 21:3-4).