There are some Christians who believe that seeking medical help shows a lack of faith in God. Some Christians wrongly think they should throw away their medicines and only pray for healing.
When we think about how we behave in other areas of our lives, we see that this is not a logical view. If your bicycle breaks down, do you take it to a mechanic or wait for God to perform a miracle and ‘heal’ it? If the roof of your house develops a leak, do you wait for God to mend it, or do you fix it yourself? God is just as capable of repairing a bicycle or mending a roof as he is of healing our bodies. The fact that God can and does perform miracles of healing does not mean we should always expect a miracle. We should seek help from those with the knowledge and skill to assist us.
What does the Bible say about doctors?
Many verses in the Bible speak of using medical treatments that were common at the time. These include applying:
- bandages (Isaiah 1:6)
- oil (James 5:14)
- oil and wine (Luke 10:34)
- leaves (Ezekiel 47:12)
- balm (Jeremiah 8:22)
We know that Luke, the author of Acts and the gospel of Luke, was a doctor (Colossians 4:14). And Paul once gave Timothy advice on medical treatment (1 Timothy 5:23).
Doctors are referred to about 12 times in the Bible. The only verse that could be wrongly used to teach that we should not consult doctors is 2 Chronicles 16:12: ‘In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians.’
The problem was not that Asa consulted physicians, but that ‘he did not seek help from the Lord’ as well. We should always seek help from God as well as going for appropriate medical treatment – not instead of doing so.
In Matthew 9, the Pharisees asked Jesus why he spent time with sinners. He replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick’ (Matthew 9:12). Jesus recognised that sick people need doctors. He did not condemn using doctors and ‘earthly’ remedies. Yes, Jesus performed many healing miracles while he was on Earth. But these were partly to show people that he was the promised Messiah (Luke 4:18).
How should we respond?
So, should Christians go to doctors? Yes, absolutely. God created us as intelligent beings. He gave us the ability to create medicines and learn how to repair our bodies. Doctors are one of the ways in which God brings healing and recovery.
Nevertheless, our experience is that in this fallen world not everyone is healed, and we do not understand why. We know that Paul struggled with a problem he called ‘a thorn in [his] flesh’ (2 Corinthians 12:7). Whatever this problem was, God did not remove it but instead gave Paul the strength to bear it. It is only at the end of time that God ‘will wipe every tear from [our] eyes’. Then, ‘there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ (Revelation 21:4). In the meantime, we know that God will strengthen and help us in whatever troubles we may experience.
- Talk about a time you were sick. Did you get medical help? Did the church help? Did God give you strength?
- How can we encourage people to seek medical help when they need it as well as praying for healing?
This Bible study was adapted from an article on the ‘Got questions?’ website. Please note, opinions expressed in other articles on this site do not necessarily reflect the views of Tearfund.
This article appears in issue 102 of Footsteps magazine, published in May 2017, which is on the topic of health and faith. You can read Footsteps online, sign up to receive Footsteps regularly or contact us to order printed copies.