The Bible’s Viewpoint
Your Choice of Medical Treatment—Does It Matter?
SICKNESS, disease, and injury are all too common to humankind. When confronted with these enemies of well-being, many seek relief through medical treatment. Jesus Christ recognized the potential benefit of such efforts, acknowledging that “those who are healthy do not need a physician, but those who are ailing do.”—Luke 5:31.
The Bible writer who penned those words, Luke, was himself a physician. (Colossians 4:14) Perhaps during their travels together, the apostle Paul benefited from Luke’s medical expertise. But do the Scriptures provide guidelines as to what types of medical care are acceptable for Christians? Does your choice of medical treatment matter?
The Bible can guide a person in making wise decisions with regard to medical treatment. For instance, Deuteronomy 18:10-12 makes clear that practices such as divination and magic are “detestable” to Jehovah. The “practice of spiritism,” which Paul warned against, would include these forbidden acts. (Galatians 5:19-21) Hence, true Christians avoid any diagnostic or therapeutic procedure that clearly involves spiritism.
The Bible also reveals the high value that the Creator places on the sanctity of life and blood. (Genesis 9:3, 4) Determined to heed the injunction to ‘keep abstaining from blood,’ Jehovah’s Witnesses object to medical procedures that violate the Bible’s command to abstain from blood. (Acts 15:28, 29) This does not mean that they reject all medical treatment. Rather, they seek the best care possible for themselves and their children. But they appeal to health-care professionals to provide treatment that is in accord with their religious convictions.
Consider Your Steps
King Solomon warned that “anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps.” (Proverbs 14:15) Even when a medical decision is not in direct conflict with Bible principles, a person should ‘consider his steps.’ Not all forms of medical treatment are helpful. When Jesus said that ‘those who are ailing need a physician,’ he was not sanctioning all the medical treatments that were available in his day. He knew that some forms of medical practice were sound and that some were fallacious. *
Likewise today, some treatments may be useless, even fraudulent. Lack of good judgment could expose a person to unnecessary risks. It should also be acknowledged that a treatment that is helpful to one person could be ineffective—even harmful—to another. When facing a medical decision, a prudent person would weigh his options carefully instead of ‘putting faith in every word,’ even when receiving advice from well-meaning friends. He would display “soundness of mind” by seeking reliable information so as to be in a position to make an informed choice.—Titus 2:12.
Be Realistic and Reasonable
It is proper to be concerned with the state of one’s health. Giving balanced attention to physical wellness shows appreciation for the gift of life and its divine Source. (Psalm 36:9) Although seeking to obtain suitable medical treatment, Christians would want to be balanced in matters of health. For example, if a reasonably healthy person becomes obsessively preoccupied with health and fitness, this could cause him to lose sight of “the more important things.”—Philippians 1:10; 2:3, 4.
A desperately sick woman in Jesus’ day “spent all her resources” seeking the help of physicians for treatment of her chronic ailment. What was the result? Rather than being cured, her condition worsened, which must have caused her much frustration. (Mark 5:25, 26) She did everything in her power to gain relief, but nothing worked. Her experience highlights the limits of the medical science of her time. Even today, despite advances in medical research and technology, many people find themselves in a similar situation. So it is important to have a realistic view of what medical science can accomplish. Perfect health is unattainable at present. Christians recognize that God’s time for “the curing of the nations” is yet future. (Revelation 22:1, 2) Therefore, we must develop a balanced view of medical treatment.—Philippians 4:5.
Clearly, the choices that we make matter. For that reason, when confronted with decisions about medical treatment, our choice should reflect both our desire for good health and our desire to maintain a healthy relationship with God. As we do so, we can continue to look with confidence to the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promise that in the glorious new world to come, “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’”—Isaiah 33:24.
^ par. 9 For example, in the first-century medical encyclopedia of Dioscorides, a purported remedy for jaundice was the drinking of a potion consisting of wine and goat dung! Of course, we now know that such a prescription would have been more likely to add to the sufferer’s woes.
[Picture on page 26]
“The Doctor,” 1891, by Sir Luke Fildes
Tate Gallery, London/Art Resource, NY