A question from one of our Communication Cards handed in at a Sunday Service reads: “If James is saying there is a possibility of linking sin and sickness, what would be an example of that? If Luke 13 is warning against it, why would James indicate a possibility? Not sure if that makes sense 🙂 “
We ask this question for personal reasons, this is not one of those questions armchair theologians can just ask and muse upon. This is real, it’s often part of our trials and temptations – it’s personal because we get sick and ask such questions about sin.
In his letter to the churches, James does indicate that there is a possible link between sickness and perhaps a particular sin in the life of a believer. We saw this in the ‘if’ clause in James 5:15, ‘And if has has committed sin, he will be forgiven.’ Now as we saw on Sunday we know that we all do sin, so what does James write ‘if’? It’s because he is linking the possibility of there being some sickness that is related to some sin, somehow.
Jesus himself warns his disciples against jumping to such conclusions without care in Luke 13:1-5 and John 9:1-7. It is Jesus who has done everything in his work on the cross so that our sin is forgiven, we are cleansed or as James puts in James 5:16 – healed. Yet, James shows us that on rare occasions there is a possibility of sickness being directly related to a particular sin we are unrepentant about.
Another place we see this in the New Testament is in 1st Corinthians 11. The scene before us in the church is where people in that dysfunctional church we’re not celebrating the Lord’s Supper in a healthy way. They were being un-Christlike toward one another by neglecting other members of the body, and as a result God was bringing some discipline upon them as we see from 1 Corinthians 11:27-32.
The Westminster Confession speaks to this issue from it’s chapter on Providence, we see in chapter 5 paragraph 5:
The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does oftentimes leave, for a season, His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.
God disciplines those he loves (Proverbs 3:12 & Hebrews 12:6), and so whilst we hear from Jesus in Luke’s Gospel and John’s Gospel that we shouldn’t be too quick to link sickness and sin, we instead ought to hear how important it is to live lives of repentance and rejoicing in Jesus – or it may be possible that God brings the discipline of sickness to turn us back from an unrepentant sinful lifestyle.
Ultimately we must always remember that Christ is the one who took our sins on his shoulders, so that whilst we should not be quick to link sickness with sin, we rather ought to be quick to confess our sin and be forgiven and healed forever.