What does the Bible say about healthcare / health care?
Access to good healthcare is a priority for most people. In some cultures, healthcare is scarce unless Christian missionaries or humanitarian groups provide it. However, in most Western cultures, the availability of good health care is taken for granted and even considered a basic human right. With advances in medicine, more and more diseases and physical ailments can be cured. But the costs of those cures continue to skyrocket, making the affordability of health care a challenge for governments and citizens. The Bible was penned centuries before health care became a priority, but it does give us some principles that can help frame our ideas about it.
The only time in human history that people were not concerned with their health was in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1—2). But from the moment sin entered into the world, death and disease became realities for the human race (Genesis 2:16–17; Romans 5:12). We quickly learned that God had woven into nature some cures for our ailments, and folk medicine became a part of ancient health care. Herbs, trees, and certain grains held healing properties that if rightly applied could help a sufferer. People with an interest in early healthcare studied nature's healing opportunities and were sought for their expertise. They were a far cry from the highly skilled surgeons and medical researchers we're used to, but they were the forerunners for today's healthcare professionals.
The Bible refers to some diseases as a curse God brought on His enemies (Exodus 23:25; Deuteronomy 7:15), and under the Old Covenant there was a direct link between a person's health and his or her relationship with God (Leviticus 26:39). God warned the Israelites to follow the words of the Mosaic Law, or "the LORD will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting. And he will bring upon you again all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you" (Deuteronomy 28:59–60). Conversely, if the Israelites chose obedience, God promised, "I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer" (Exodus 15:26). The terms of the Old Covenant clearly reveal that God is in control of disease.
People in Bible times had healthcare services in that they had physicians and medicines. Jeremiah 8:22 and 46:11 reference a "balm in Gilead." This balm was a high-quality ointment with healing properties made from the resin of a flowering plant in the Middle East. When Jesus came, He spent much of His three years of ministry healing physical ailments (Matthew 4:23). Healthcare was not the reason He came; it was merely a tool Jesus used to demonstrate that He was the Messiah and to show people how much God cares (John 10:10; Mark 1:38). Luke, the writer of the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, was a medical doctor, and his writing is full of technical medical terminology. Many scholars assert that, as Luke traveled with Paul, he served as Paul's personal physician (Colossians 4:14). So the Bible is in no way opposed to doctors, medicines, or other healthcare practices. Christians through the years have founded countless hospitals and found other ways to aid those in physical need.
When we surrender our lives to the lordship of Jesus, the Holy Spirit moves into our hearts, and our bodies become His temple (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). In light of this, healthcare takes on a spiritual element. We must take care of our bodies because they no longer belong to us. They are the temple of the Lord, and we are responsible for the care of His temple. That involves seeking good healthcare. We offer healthcare to others as a way of serving them and showing them the love of Christ.
When it comes to overall health, spiritual healthcare will always be a higher priority than physical healthcare. Regardless of how excellent our medical healthcare, our bodies will eventually wear out and die. Believers in this world have this promise: "Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16), and in the world to come, resurrection.
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