What Does the Bible Say About Sickness Being a Result of Sin?

You’ve been sick before – I guarantee it. You might be sick right now. I’m sure your loved ones have had their share of sickness as well. You probably have loved ones who have suffered or passed away from sicknesses and disease, or there might be someone you love who is currently sick. But what does the Bible say about sickness? More specifically, what does the Bible say about sickness being a result of sin? Let’s found out.

First, let us define sickness. For the purposes of this post, we will use the word sickness in a general and broad sense to describe any state or instance of being ill. Sickness can mean being in the state or condition of illness. That could be having a cold, the Flu, cancer, HIV/AIDS, or anything else that is abnormal for a healthy human being. But sickness can also mean instances of sudden ailments such as having a stroke, a heart attack, or anything other event that would not be normal for a healthy human being. Sickness is real and both Scripture and experience confirm this. I state that because there is a “Christian” group which has existed for many years who believe and teach that sickness is not real, but an illusion. The proponents and adherents of Christian Science believe such, and that belief is demonstrably false and destructive.¹

Second, in a sense, all sickness is a result of sin. The question concerns whether or not sickness can be a result of sin, and in a sense, all sickness is a result of sin. That is, all sickness is a result of sin’s effect. The reason for the existence of pain, sorrow, ailments, sickness and even death is because of the effect of sin on the universe. When sin entered the world in Genesis 3, the world became cursed and corrupted. Therefore, anytime you have sickness (of any kind), it is because we live in a fallen and corrupted world which is awaiting its renewal (Romans 8:19-21). One day the world will be made new and there won’t be any sickness at all (Rev. 21:4; 22:3), but as long as we live in a world cursed and corrupted by sin, there will be sickness. Most of the sickness we experience is merely a result of sin’s curse, because our bodies are fallen. Sickness occurs most often not because God is punishing or disciplining us, but because of the condition and world in which we live.

Third, some sickness is the direct result of sin. It is a possibility that sickness comes as a result of having committed sin. Unfortunately, there are some old fashioned fundamentalists who believe that every time you get sick is because you’ve sinned against the Lord, but the Scripture simply doesn’t teach this. It does teach that sometimes sickness can be a result of sin in our lives. Sickness can be the result of committed sin in three ways: 1) Sickness can be the following consequence of committed sin, 2) sickness can be the way God disciplines you when sin is committed, or 3) sickness can be what God uses as a means of judgment. Let’s talk about each of these individually.

  1. Sickness can be the consequence of having committed sin. By this I mean that some people get sick as a consequence of their actions. It doesn’t necessarily mean the Lord is punishing or disciplining them, it’s just reality taking place. Someone who gets blackout drunk cannot expect to be healthy and well the next morning! Or if you constantly eat junk food you’re not going to be healthy. If you don’t take care of your body, you will succumb to sickness more often. Sometimes sickness is merely eating the fruit of your deeds. Fruit is a result of what is sown, and what kind of fruit you eat depends on what deeds you have sown. When you commit certain sins which will inevitably affect your health, you may bring sickness on yourself.
  2. Sickness can be the discipline of the Lord. Sickness is one of the most severe forms of God’s discipline of His children. Sometimes it’s the only thing that will get our attention. We have an example of this in Paul’s instructions about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11. The Corinthians were misunderstanding and abusing the Lord’s Supper, namely, observing it in an “unworthy manner” (v. 27). Because they wouldn’t stop doing so, Paul says, “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (v. 30). God disciplined the believers there through weakness, illness, and even death. Another example of this is found in Psalm 6, where David prays a prayer of repentance. Apparently, he had committed sin. He doesn’t say specifically what it was, but it was obvious he was suffering from it. And one of the ways he was suffering was physically. He expresses in the psalm symptoms of an illness, which he appears to say is the Lord’s discipline. In v. 1 he acknowledges that God is disciplining him, and he notes that his “bones are greatly troubled” (v. 2), and that he is “weary” and “weak” (vv. 6-7). Although he doesn’t specifically say that he was physically ill, he certainly was not physically well. As a form of discipline, God allowed for him to experience great pain and it was probably some form of illness. Clearly, God can use sickness as a severe form of discipline upon His children. For determining whether or not your sickness is God’s discipline, look to see if you have unrepentant sin in your life or a pattern of serious sin. The reason I say that is because sickness is usually one of the most severe forms of God’s discipline. If He’s already tried to get your attention through other means and you still haven’t repented, He may resort to a more severe method of discipline – sickness.
  3. Sickness can be the means of the judgment of God. Finally, sometimes sickness can be the way God executes judgment upon an individual or individuals. Let me clarify at this point: the words judgment and discipline are not the same. Judgment refers to God’s punishment of sinners, discipline refers to God’s fatherly discipline of His children. And sometimes God will use sickness as manifestation of His judgment on the nonbeliever. There are several examples of this in the Bible. One example is in Exodus, where God caused a plague of “festering boils” to come upon the Egyptians in an effort to free His people from slavery (Exodus 9:9). Granted, boils aren’t an illness like a cold or the Flu, but they are in the category of physical ailments like illness. Another example is in Daniel, where God smote king Nebuchadnezzar with mental illness, changing his mind into “the mind of an animal” (Daniel 4:16). The king completely lost his mind and began acting like an animal (v. 33). When God deems it necessary, He will use sickness and other physical ailments as means of judgment.

Sickness is real and it exists because of sin’s effect on the world. It may or may not be the result of committed sin. Sometimes sickness is circumstantial because of the world we live in. Sometimes it is consequential – the direct result of your actions. Sometimes it is God’s discipline, meant for your repentance. And sometimes it is the means which God chooses to use to execute His judgment.

There are two more important matters I want to note in passing. The first is a pressing question often asked when talking about the subject of sickness: why are some people healed of sickness and others are not? The overarching answer is simply this: it either was or wasn’t the will of God. If God wills something, it will occur. If God doesn’t will something, it will not occur. And whatever God wills will always be for His glory. So, healing may or may not be God’s will for an individual who is sick. Why sometimes it is His will and other times not, we cannot know for sure. It is certainly not because an individual didn’t have enough faith. Some proponents of the health, wealth, and prosperity “gospel,” say that the reason why Christians don’t experience healing is because they didn’t have enough faith – their faith was the reason God didn’t heal them. Such a teaching is man-centered, non-biblical, and false. For believers who are sick, there is great hope even if they don’t receive healing. God uses physical ailments for His glory (see the story of the blind man in John 9), and believers can cling to the promise that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Those who do not believe cannot hope in that promise, for they are not those who “love God,” and they are not “called according to his purpose.” The second thing worth noting here is the obligation that Christians have to care for those who are sick. Scripture tells us that we should visit the sick (Matthew 25:36) and pray for them (James 5:14). It reveals much about our love for the Lord and for the brethren when we fulfill those responsibilities.

What Does the Bible Say? is a question and answer series which seeks biblical answers to pressing questions.

  1. George Shaw Cook, “The Remedy for Illusion,” Christian Science Sentinel. www.sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/50tfglv60w (accessed June 16, 2018).

26219980_2002699353334045_1898487006197556984_n.jpgBrandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with free Christian resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife, Dakota live there with their dog, Susie.

15 thoughts on “What Does the Bible Say About Sickness Being a Result of Sin?”

  1. As a Christian Physician healing is close to my heart. I love the balanced way in which you wrote about this very important topic and the boldness to call teaching false [phusical healing for all] is commendable indeed. When the Shalom relationship between man and God is restored through Jesus Christ, it transforms man from the inside out, and facilitates true healing of the physical, spiritual and mental aspects, the total person, and helps us to live healthy lives and prevent diseases.

  2. Dear Brandon, Your theology is wrong regarding sickness as a discipline used by God. You cannot make the leap that because God caused boils to be inflicted upon the Egyptians or inflicted mental illness upon King Nebuchadnezzar, that God inflicts Christians with illness in order to discipline them. Yes, a Christian might learn something about God while they are ill, but it is not that God inflicted them to teach them something. Your thinking is a common excuse that prevents many Christians from being healed by God. Please stop spreading blasphemies that keep God’s people from receiving their healing from the Lord. God bless you.

    1. I appreciate your comments.

      You would agree, then, that Paul’s theology was wrong and blasphemous, correct?

      Plain and clear, he said that the Corinthians were disciplined by God with illness and even death as a result of observing the Lord’s Supper unworthily:

      “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Cor. 11:27-30).

      By the way, respectfully, your point is entirely mute. When I mentioned boils and mental illness, I was referring to judgment, not discipline. In the article I clarify the difference between each. Quote: “Let me clarify at this point: the words judgment and discipline are not the same. Judgment refers to God’s punishment of sinners, discipline refers to God’s fatherly discipline of His children. And sometimes God will use sickness as manifestation of His judgment on the nonbeliever.”

      Thank you for reading. I truly appreciate it.

      1. Hello,it is a very common misconception about God that gets communicated concerning illness. He does not inflict sickness he doesn’t use any aspect of darkness to teach/discipline us. That’s like saying God is double minded. Why pray for healing when God sent the sickness? That’s quite a disrespect to our Father who desires for us to prosper abs be in good health as our soul prospers. Even in his judgment, all he does is allow Satan to inflict due to an issue in our end, God himself doesn’t cause the sickness.
        As for Paul, he was talking about how people were taking the Lord’s (supper) without regarding what it truly is: a testament to the world seen& unseen that Christ’s sacrifice was indeed sufficient both for our soul and our body(healing). Without truly understanding that the bread is the broken body of Christ given for our healing, one can eat themselves right into sickness. Again, that’s not on God, that’s on us.
        God had absolutely nothing to do with sickness. How do we know? Look at the life of Christ. He healed every single person who came for it. Not once did he say “no, can’t do it, go back, God put this on you”. This is because God has nothing to do with sin, sickness or any darkness. Sickness is a spiritual issue that’s manifested in the natural. We as believers have the authority to tell it no everytime it shows up in us or those around us for that matter.

    2. I love it when people who are upset always hide behind the “Anonymous” nameplate. Well, Anonymous, accusing somebody of “blasphemies” is a serious charge, one you should well think before slinging around such a charge, especially if you claim to be of the household of the Lord Jesus. May God watch over you. Stephen Hill

  3. I think you have a different perspective on sickness and God discipline through sickness. All sickness is from the devil and The only way we are sick and not getting healing is because the devil has a legal right through some type of sin in our lives or generations that have not been dealt with abs repented of. That’s the only way the accuser can devours us is by legal standing against us in front of God.
    God cannot step in on our behalf when the enemy holds a legal and biding contract against us.
    We need to identify and fix the sin then God can legally cancel that , make it null and void and then He can heal us – the enemy can’t keep that accusation any longer it’s void and null.
    All those examples you showed work this way if you know the spiritual laws and how they work on the spiritual and what they affect in the natural .
    Ask God to show you the truth in that.
    He’s a good abs loving father that would never hurt us.

    1. Thank you for reading and thanks for your comments.

      I have shown above how God may indeed use illness as a means of discipline or judgment.

      You assert that Satan is responsible for illness and that God cannot step in on our behalf. And that idea is refuted by the book of Job alone, my friend. God gave Satan permission to afflict Job. God is sovereign, Satan is not. Furthermore, God set limitations on the afflictions of Job and indeed stepped in on his behalf to preserve him from death.

      And if what you assert is true, then what about Christians, like Paul, who become ill? You argue that God is a loving Father who would never hurt us, but if believers who are sick are under the power of the devil, that’s not a loving Father at all.

      The burden of proof is on you to prove with Scripture that Satan causes illness. The Scriptures simply do not teach this.

      Again, thank you for reading. I appreciate all conversation and comments, whether or not we agree.

  4. Hi Brandon.
    Thanks for this thoughtful article.
    I also have qualms with the assertion you make that God disciplines his children through sickness.

    Let’s begin with the scriptures you quoted:

    1. 1 Corinthians 11
    This scripture reads to me
    “A consequence of eating the Lord’s supper unworthily is sickness”.
    In vs 27, we see that the issue with eating the Lord’s supper unworthily is that it was sinning against the body and the blood of Christ.
    This is simply cause and effect.

    It’s like when the Scripture says ” The Soul that sinneth shall surely die”(Exodus 18:20). The Balances of God’s justice are already established with respect to the consequences of sinning.
    Moreover, if we suppose this to be a “discipline”, then we must recall that other parts of that scripture talks about death as another consequence of eating the Lord’s supper unworthily.
    Do we then assert that God disciplines His children with death? Or that God allows His children to die, in order to teach them to abide in Him?

    2. Psalm 6
    As you pointed out, David is clearly being chastised by the Lord.
    We are also certain that He is weak, and that His bones are vexed.

    What we are not sure about is whether the chastisement here is the infliction of the weakness and vexation of bones, or whether the chastisement results in weakness and vexation of the bones.
    There is a distinction between both.

    Prov 17:22 says that a crushed Spirit drieth up the bones and
    Prov 13:12 also shows that hope deferred makes the heart sick.
    So it is possible that the physical symptoms being manifested were only consequences of this chastening.

    Finally, on the basis of the Cross of Christ, it doesn’t make sense to me that God will ” intentionally discipline” his children with the same thing that He bore punishment for.
    Remember that He purchased our healing by His stripes on the Cross, the same way He was wounded for our sins.

    Sickness is a consequence of sin. It is not a weapon in God’s arsenal.

    1. Greetings, and thanks for reading.

      What are your “qualms” exactly? Everything you mention as rebuttals are concepts I expounded in the post. I am trying to discern exactly what you disagree with, because it seems like you agree with me (which is good, if so!). Thanks again.

      1. You asserted that God sometimes disciplines his children with sickness.
        I showed that it is just not true by providing alternative interpretations of those scriptures (the ones that you had quoted to demonstrate that God uses sickness to discipline his children).

    2. Well said. God in no way uses sickness to discipline us. Old Testament didn’t have Christ, but that’s a whole different subject lol! God doesn’t deal in double jeopardy. He will not put on us what he’s already out on Jesus…it’s up to us to realize she accept it…

  5. I truly believe a lot is sicknesses is due to the doctors who think they are God. They put you on medication but never tell you the side effects. My whole life my mother abused me. I was I’ll all the time and I was always on some kind of medicine. She just could not handle a rambunctious child. I was put on all kind of medications. 1 antidepressant I was on caused high blood pressure and diabetes. I got off cold turkey which no one told me I could do. I’m my mothers mind I was mental but she really was and tried to quiet me. My dad put me on pain pills for a very long time to appease my mother. Then again I got off. I broke my arm and had me put on Suboxone and that started up the diabetes and I cold turkey and this time I had to get back on because I had full with drawls. I never drank nor did street drugs. They didn’t do my sister like that. So now because of all the meds they put me on as a child and now I am an adult I had to stay on the Suboxone all the other meds caused issues with my heart liver and kidneys. I remember trying to get of meds she insisted I go on and I got off and she told me how could I do this to my child. She tried to control every aspect of my like while my dad sat around appeasing her. No wonder I got molested by the neighbors son and I told her but she never told my dad. It’s like she punished me for this happening and I was 5. So not all sicknesses come from God due to sin. I did as I was told and took care of her until her dying day. Not my sister who has no illnesses. She never did anything wrong according to my mother. To say I am happy with my life is an understatement. I lost my only child, my mom, dad husband and all my aunts and uncles in 5 years. My sister doesn’t speak to me because she think she is better than I am. My husband left me with an Irs bill worth thousands. All about the choices we make. I couldn’t make choices as a child so I picked men like my mother that’s why I have all these chronic diseases. I pray constantly for healing. I’m not ready to die but I get awfully lonely and I keep asking God why????? All I have ever done is take care of people pray with them and her I am chronically Sick and I see my ex who beat me spit on me cheated on me but God had given him a good life. Except they don’t have God. I’d rather have God and be ill.

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