Some Christian sects reject the use of medicine and believe in healing prayer combined with faith that God will miraculously heal them. This belief is the “health” part of the health and wealth gospel, also known as the prosperity gospel. Their rejection of medicine and reliance on miracles is based on poor biblical interpretations. While trusting in God to heal us is good, believing that God does not want us to heal one another with sound medicine is bad. So, this article will examine why the faith-alone approach to healing, when good medicine is accessible, contradicts God’s purpose for man.
God and Man in the Garden
In the first chapters of Genesis, we are told that God created Adam and Eve and instructed them not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eventually, they sinned by eating from this tree. God’s first miracle after the Fall was to make garments for Adam and Eve before He cast them out of the Garden (Genesis 3:21). Before the Fall, Adam and Eve had no need for clothes because they existed in a state of perfection and innocence. However, after the Fall, they needed clothes and many other things.
Notice, however, that God did not continue to make clothing for mankind. He expected man to clothe one another. An objective reading of Scripture should lead us to the conclusion that, just as God does not directly clothe man, He does not directly heal man either (certain miracles excepted). Rather, He desires that we clothe and heal one another by using the rational and volitional powers he gives us. After all, we are made in His image and likeness and, therefore, we are designed to help and heal one another.
Catechism paragraph 2288 states,
Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good. Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.
And paragraph 2291 adds, “The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense.”
Thus, the Catholic Church expects us to care for others using quality medicine and health care to achieve this end. Further, the Church condemns medical malpractice and other abuses in the field of medicine (see paragraphs 2288-2298 for more on this).
ScriptureAnd the Health gospel
Additionally, Scripture does not condemn the use of medicine and other healthcare options, nor does it command us to reject them. Rather, quite a few passages condone and/or outright support medical practices and the physicians who administer them. The following are some of those passages:
In the Old Testament, Sirach 38:1-15 explicitly describes God’s approval of physicians and the use of medicine for healing. For instance, verse one states, “Honor the physician with the honor due him,” and verse four adds, “The Lord created medicines from the earth, and a sensible man will not despise them.” Thus, the Israelites recognized the importance of medicine and physicians.
In the New Testament, Jesus says a few things about the goodness of physicians and medicine. The principal verse, Matthew 9:12, states, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” Here, Jesus is using physical health to explain a spiritual truth. Just as it is good for a physically sick person to receive care from a physician, it is good for a spiritually sick person (a sinner) to receive care from the Divine Physician. If Jesus’ followers considered medical care to be evil, His words would have made no sense.
More from Jesus
In the parable about the good Samaritan, a Samaritan happened upon a man who had been beaten by robbers and left for dead. The Samaritan poured wine and oil on the man’s wounds and bound them with cloth. Jesus commended the Samaritan for his good and neighborly actions (Luke 10:25-37). Here, the Samaritan applied the medicines (wine and oil) and supplies (bandages) that were available to him, and Jesus used the Samaritan’s deeds to show that he was the victim’s true neighbor.
In Luke 4:23, Jesus prophesied to those in the synagogue, saying, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’” Evidently, Jesus and the crowd understood that physicians heal. Otherwise, His prophecy would have been nonsensical.
Finally, St. Paul also understood that a physician performs the good work of healing people. In Colossians 4:14, he referred to St. Luke as the “beloved physician,” which would have made no sense if physician was an evil profession. Imagine Luke killing people for money and Paul referring to him as the “beloved hitman.” Again, this would have been nonsense. Therefore, Paul also understood that being a physician is virtuous.
Rejecting Good Medicine and Tempting God
By refusing to participate in God’s healing power through helping one another, and praying for miracles when an ordinary cure is readily available (the health gospel), we effectively reject our duty to participate in the common good. When we refuse to do what we have the ability to do, and then ask God to do it for us, we tempt Him. And Scripture clearly states that we must not tempt God (Deuteronomy 6:16).
Accordingly, we must not avoid restaurants and grocery stores because God can feed us, and we must not stop shopping for clothes because God can clothe us. Similarly, we must not avoid physicians because God can heal us. Rather, we must do all these things because prudently purchasing goods and services helps us and our families and provides people with meaningful employment, in turn helping them to participate in the common good.