Author: Ron Graham
Is Medicine Magic?
—Or is it rather a blessing from God?
There is a belief that it is wrong to use medicines and drugs, or various therapies, to treat illness and injury. The belief holds that only prayer in the name of Jesus is the proper way to seek healing; other methods are associated with black magic arts.
1 Medicine is One of God’s Blessings
First let's think about how God provides us with blessings that help us maintain or regain physical and mental health.
In forming our bodies, God has designed into them many systems by which they can fight off disease and repair injury. For example we are all familiar with the immune system. Furthermore, in the creation, God has provided many substances that can aid healing.
When I was a missionary in Vanuatu, there was a danger that any injury to the skin could become infected and ulcerous. However, a common weed could be crushed and bound over a wound to promote healing and stop infection. If that failed, one could journey to town and see a doctor at the hospital. Certainly there were Klevas (witch doctors) but they had nothing more to offer except hocus pocus.
God provides these healing aids; the devil does not. "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights..." (James 1:17). Don't frown on the providence of God.
When God has provided something, it is clean, and we ought not to call it unclean, whether it be food or medicine (Acts 11:5-10).
2 The Bible Approves of Medicine
The Bible mentions the use of healing aids without any hint of condemnation.
- Heaven is pictured as a place where the leaves of the trees provide healing (Ezekiel 47:12, Revelation 22:2).
- God says through Jeremiah, "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is no physician there?" (Jeremiah 8:22 cf Jeremiah 45:11).
- Consider the analogy God is using here. If people are sick in body, they should go to a doctor and get a remedy; likewise if they are spiritually sick, they should come to God for healing.
- Jesus himself used such an analogy: "It's not healthy people who need a physician, but those who are sick" (Matthew 9:12).
- It's true that at Golgotha Jesus refused a potion (Matthew 27:34). But that was not because he was against medicine. He just didn't want it said that his suffering was mild.
- Isaiah told those caring for Hezekiah to apply a fig poultice to his life-threatening boil (Isaiah 38:21).
- The good Samaritan poured oil and wine on the wounds of the victim of robbers (Luke 10:33-34).
- Luke, author of a gospel and of Acts, was a companion of Paul whom Paul calls "the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14).
3 Medicine is an Answer to Prayer
There's no doubt that the power of prayer is unlimited and that God has healed people when no doctor could. Through prayer, God has even healed the dead (Acts 9:40).
It does not follow however that one should refuse medical help and do nothing but pray. If we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," surely we should do something to gain that bread (Matthew 6:11).
In the same way, when we have prayed for healing, we should do what we can to gain that healing. We do not offend God by making use of his blessings and providence to answer our prayers.
Any person seeking healing will certainly pray as we are commanded (Philippians 4:6). But to neglect medical help, and to call that help evil, is to despise the providence of God as an answer to our prayers.
1 Why is Medicine Thought to be Sorcery?
The argument is mostly about a Greek word. This word has two meanings: “drugs” and “sorcery”. Using this fact, people have mistakenly concluded that to prescribe drugs is to practise the sorcerer’s black magic.
The Greek word for sorcery is μαγεια (mageia 3095). Another word for sorcery is φαρμακεια (pharmakeia 5332). That word primarily means “drug” and by extension is used pejoratively to mean sorcery or witch doctor magic.
Nobody would suggest that I pull down my fence because the word “fence” also means “a receiver of stolen goods”. Nobody would say I should stop acting in an adult manner because one meaning of the word “adult” is “sexually explicit”.
In the same way, nobody should stop me from going to the pharmacy because one meaning of the word “pharmakeia” is “sorcery”.
2 What Does the Sorcerer Do Wrong?
Does the sorcerer's sin consist of making medicines? When witch doctors heal people with medicine, they use substances or methods given them by the providence of God, just as any doctors do.
What is wrong with using God’s providence and the blessings in his creation to help the sick? Nothing, of course. It's irrelevant whether it's done by a witch doctor or a western doctor. It is a good deed.
The sin of the witch doctors is not in the cure they provide, but in attributing the cure to their own powers. In short, they don't thank God. Worse still, they confuse the providence of God with the powers of the Devil.
One of the Bible’s condemnations of paganism is, "Even though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened" (Romans 1:21).
3 Is the Pharmacist in Fellowship with Darkness?
One who prescribes drugs or herbs, or one who uses hypnosis, acupuncture, surgery, or homeopathy; is able to do those things and still strictly obey the command, "Don't have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:6-11).
You don't need the devil's help to do any of those things; God's help and providence is more than enough. "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights..." (James 1:17).
So if you use the gifts of God to help people get well, how are you having fellowship with Satan or being bound with unbelievers? (2Corinthians 6:14-15). The devil has no part in it.
Notice that the works of darkness are "unfruitful" as opposed to "the fruit of the light" (Ephesians 5:9-11).
If someone is given relief from pain, a cure for disease, a way of managing mental illness, a device to counter a disability, that is clearly good fruit blessed by God and not the work of evil.