Is Health Godliness?

Maintaining Balanced Health Interests

Good health is both pleasant and desirable. It is a gift from the Lord which should not be taken for granted. Those who have experienced much sickness understand this better than others do.

We try to avoid sickness and pain if possible and take various steps to maintain reasonable health. To disregard our physical well-being through sinful habits and careless living is poor stewardship of the bodies God gave us.

The modern emphasis on health and wellness, however, places undue attention on these houses of clay in which we live. Health clubs, physical workout centers, weight-watching organizations, and tanning salons have become an obsession among people who are living for the present. These should have no appeal to us.

It may be more needful to remind ourselves that an unbalanced emphasis on the broad array of health foods, health products, and health practices can also become an obsession. An overemphasis on these things can make us more susceptible to modern health deceptions and can sidetrack us from the greater need to maintain good spiritual health (1 Timothy 4:8).

To the Christian, spiritual health is more important than physical health (2 Corinthians 12:9). We pay attention to the needs of the body, but our reasons for doing so are different from those of the child of the world. We are not driven by the false idea that the ultimate pleasures can be found in this life and that physical health is the key to these pleasures. Rather, we seek to take reasonable care of our physical health so that we can more effectively serve the Lord of life (Philippians 2:30).

New Testament believers expect sickness to be part of life's experiences. Apostle Paul learned to live with a "thorn in the flesh," which may have been an eye problem. Trophimus had to drop out of the intense schedule of missionary work due to sickness. And Timothy, as a young man, seems to have had stomach ailments and other nagging infirmities.

These illustrations, along with God's provision of the ordinance of anointing with oil for the healing of the body, prepare us to accept both sickness and health. We are not promised absolute good health in this life. The idea that a Christian should never be sick is not Scriptural. Therefore, we should not expect in time the ultimate health which the atonement provides for our eternal bodies (Romans 8:22-23). Rather, we should allow the promises of Revelation 21:4 (no more pain, sorrow, or death) to serve as an anticipated contrast to our earthly experiences.

In light of these considerations, what should we do when we experience sickness and health problems? Should we go to the medical doctor, the chiropractor, or to the health food store? Is the answer to be found in vitamins and herbs? While each of these choices may have their right place, four current factors can make the decision more complicated.

1. The rising costs of medical doctors and hospitalization have prompted many to seek less expensive alternatives.

2. The potential for suffering persons to become desperate for help can lower resistance to questionable practitioners or procedures.

3. The increasing availability of spiritually dangerous alternatives through professional medical channels is a subtle snare.

4. Our orientation to accept unexplainable things can make us especially gullible to mystical health products and practices.

Maintaining a balance in health interests does not mean giving equal attention to all available options. Some present-day alternatives are not spiritually safe and must be carefully avoided. We should also recognize that some treatments offered by medical doctors or professional people today are not acceptable to Christians.

We should not be overly impressed by testimonials about new health practices, nor blinded by claims of how well certain health treatments or products work. Water dowsing might work too, and so may acupuncture and therapeutic touch. But Christians should not accept these practices.

Following is a checklist of seven points to help us keep our balance in health interest. We will become unbalanced:

1. If our health interests become a "religion" to us. This may be evidenced by a growing enthusiasm for specific products or treatments, leading to aggressive promotion. Eventually one may skip church functions to take in sales meetings and training sessions. When persons have less to say about the Lord but are quite vocal and defensive about their product, or when they become offended when brethren challenge their interests and involvements, something is out of balance. Products or treatments for physical health should not need religion for a carrier. If we need to "believe in them" to produce results, we should question what god we end up worshiping.

2. If our health interests bring us into bondage and fear. No doubt Satan is smiling behind the scenes when Christians come under bondage to gadgets and devices which are supposed to guarantee good health by bringing unexplainable negative and positive forces into alignment and harmony. If these supposed forces would be called evil spirits, we would suspect that we may be dealing with witchcraft and make our choices accordingly. When such devices are installed on one's property or carried in a certain pocket to ensure health and safety, and when people begin to fear to live without their gadgets, we are getting very close to the charms and fetishes which have kept the heathen in bondage to Satan for centuries.

3. If our health interests conflict with New Testament teachings. Paul warned Timothy against false teachers who would promote a return to Old Testament dietary laws or even to vegetarianism (1 Timothy 4:3-4). We are seeing this emphasis in our day and should not be taken in by it. Various Bible illustrations indicate that Christians will eat meat without Old Testament restrictions.

4. If our health interests lead us to accept treatments or procedures which conflict with scientific research. Eye reading and foot reflexology come into this category. In these procedures one part of the body becomes the supposed key to all physical ailments. (It would be nice if health care were this simple.) But doctors say that the supposed nerve connections between the foot, for example, and the rest of the body are nonexistent. For this and other reasons we view these procedures as questionable.

We also warn against a procedure known as muscle testing. It has been claimed that this procedure is one hundred percent accurate in discovering illnesses and determining treatment. We understand that there are scientific procedures to measure muscle movement and resistance. But the muscle testing (also called applied kinesiology) used in alternative health practices is not scientific, but mystical. We question the power that makes it work and ought to keep ourselves free from this procedure (1 Timothy 6:20-21).

5. If our health interests involve the use of divining tools. When a pendulum, for example, is used to discover information about one's health, weaknesses, or future, we know we are exposing ourselves to one of Satan's tools (Deuteronomy 18:9-12). The pendulum is a divining tool. Likewise, when unknown information is sought by asking questions of a machine, we may well be working with a power similar to the Ouija board. We should always remember that unlawful information and unusual power are two of Satan's primary trade offs in exchange for men's loyalties. The alternative health field, while offering some valid health aids, also contains some of Satan's most deceptive channels to gain his desired control of men.

6. If our health interests involve controlling, directing, and employing an invisible, universal "energy" to create good health. Acupuncture, acupressure, therapeutic touch, the gadgets and devices mentioned in number 2 above, some homeopathic remedies, traditional Chinese herbology, and even some chiropractic procedures operate on this basis. Behind these procedures is the pantheistic idea that all is god and that god is all. Before we get involved in these health measures, we should discover to which god we will be paying homage (Exodus 20:3-5).

7. If our health interests use mental exercises to remove the negative and to create the positive physical results. We know that yoga and hypnosis belong to our spiritual enemy. We should also understand that visualization, positive confession, and various New Age techniques of meditation fit into the same category. The concept that energy can be controlled by thought and can be made to actually change reality is satanic in origin.

In conclusion, we must not place blind confidence in any man, including the doctors. Nor should we think that any one product or procedure is the answer to every health problem. We must exercise caution and discernment in all our health choices. We should avoid developing an anti-medical spirit lest we become more susceptible to the schemes of unscrupulous men.

We can best face the deceptive influences of our day by staying close to God and His Word and by being open to the counsel of our spiritual brethren.

-Stanley C. Wine

Reprint from the Eastern Mennonite Testimony. Used by permission.

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