The mysterious relationship between sin and sickness is a question that’s brewed for hundreds of generations. Is a man sick because he sins, or is physical sickness independent of spiritual and moral cause?

Ancient Judaic thought had settled on the assumption that every sickness was punishment for some kind of sin, thus no healing could occur until that sin had been erased. That belief was encapsulated in this rabbinical teaching, “Hija bar Abba said, The sick doth not recover from his sickness until all his sins be forgiven him… if God heal his soul from its sickness, viz. by making atonement for his sins, then his body is healed.” This view was supported by Scriptures such as Psalm 103:2-3, “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.”

So, when friends brought a paralyzed man to Jesus for healing (Matthew 9:1-8), the common assumption was that the paralytic was suffering punishment for some sin he had committed.

Now, elsewhere in Scripture, commenting on the case of a man born blind, Jesus made it very clear that sickness is not always a consequence of personal sin (John 9:1-6). But in the case of this paralytic, Jesus was equally clear that this man’s sin was indeed the root cause of his infirmity. In fact, the miraculous healing he received was proof that Christ, as God incarnate, had forgiven the man’s sins! (See Matthew 9:6-7.)

So, is a man sick because he sins, or is physical sickness independent of spiritual and moral cause? The answer appears to be “Yes, both circumstances can be true.” In the case of the healed paralytic, though, it was his sin that caused his suffering—and Christ’s generous forgiveness which redeemed both the man’s body and soul.

 

Works Cited:

[RBD, 301; PC15, 360]

 

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