“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1-2). The disciples expressed a common belief of that day, that illness is often, if not always, punishment for sin. The disciples even considered that the man may have caused his own blindness by his sin in the womb! Jesus made it clear that the man’s illness had nothing to do with sin, or punishment from God, as He said, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). Jesus then went on to give the man his sight, and he ultimately worshiped Jesus as the Son of God.
Where does illness come from? We all realize that many times our lifestyle has an effect on health. Smoking, promiscuous sex, poor dietary choices, a sedentary lifestyle—these and many other things have an effect on our health. As time goes by, and we learn more about how we can protect our health, many of us are making choices that we hope will help us avoid illness. We will never know how much a healthy lifestyle has already protected us from many of the diseases that plague mankind.
However, there are many illnesses that medical science has no good explanation as to what the causes are. Certainly smoking will increase one’s chances of getting lung cancer, but non-smokers get lung cancer, also. Other illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease are still being studied. Our doctors may at some point have some suggestions as to what may lower our risk of succumbing to this disease, but there does not seem to be any good scientific explanation yet of what we may do to avoid the disease.
When the patriarch Job lost his possessions, his family, and his health (Job 1-2), his three “friends” all assumed that God was punishing Job for his great sins. Eliphaz told Job, “Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off? Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed” (Job 4:7-9). His “friend” Zophar thought Job was such a sinner, that he even went so far as to say, “Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth” (Job 11:6). While it is true that there are consequences for sin, in actuality, Job was suffering precisely because he was a righteous man. “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (Job 1:8).
We live in a world that is under the curse of sin (Genesis 3), and illness is one of the consequences of Adam’s choice, a choice we also make (Romans 3:23). Nothing indicates, however, that God punishes anyone with a particular disease today. Job wanted to know why he was suffering, but even when God spoke to him out of the whirlwind, He never told Job why he was suffering. God is a God of love Who will help us cope with the difficulties of disease and suffering if we will turn to Him. Illness is not an indication of God’s punishment, and good fortune is not necessarily an indication of God’s approval. Those who suffer and those who care for them deserve our prayers and support.
—Bob Prichard, P. O. Box 3071, Oxford, AL 36203