Is Sickness Punishment for Sin? :: By Daniel Payne

Are you feeling miserable right now? Are you physically sick? Are you spiritually sick? Are you ready to “throw in the towel” as some say? Well—sadly—you’re not alone. Oftentimes while some of us are very physically sick—we ourselves or others may think that we are being punished for a particular sin that we have committed. As you will soon see if you read on—you are never “punished” for your sins if you are a believer.

God’s Word clearly teaches that some people are sick due to their own sin. In a way, all sickness is due to the collective sinful state of mankind.

However—some sicknesses may not be related to any particular sin(s) of the person who is sick. The following describes a situation in which the sickness of one of God’s servants may not have been related to any particular sin on his part:

“Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities. Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later” (1 Timothy 5:22-24).

First, Paul instructs young Timothy to stay as far away from the sins of others as is possible while performing his duties as the leader of their church. Then he tells Timothy to take medicine whenever he needs it—possibly because he is often afflicted with stomach ailments.

Then—interestingly—Paul mentions that the sins of some are clearly seen in the here and now—while others are able to continue on in certain sins only to be revealed at the judgment. This may mean that some of us will face earthly consequences for our sins now—while others will face the consequences at the judgment.

In the same way, the good works of some may be evident now—and the good works of others will not be revealed until the judgment seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

“Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden” (1 Timothy 5:25).

There are of course other examples of people in the church who have had various ailments and illnesses that were also not described as having been directly related to any particular sins on their part.

God’s Word also teaches that sometimes the Lord uses physical ailments to guide some of His servants down particular paths of His choosing:

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

In terms of punishment for sin—the sacrificial system under the Law demonstrated God’s will for that—death. Blood always had to be shed to cover a sin—just as it had to be shed to provide Adam and Eve with new clothing woven from animal pelts by the Lord Himself.

“And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

According to God, there is no remission or forgiveness of sin without death. So no matter how sick you are or how very bad you feel—if you’re still alive—then God is not “punishing” you for your sins. Remember, God’s standards are pure holiness and His required punishment for sin is death:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

We thank God that He bore the punishment for our sins upon Himself:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).

“Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

“By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

On the other hand, God does indeed chasten some of His children as a rebuke for particular sins that they continue to commit:

“For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:29, 31-32).

While it is fairly obvious that false teachers are not God’s children, sometimes God will speak of painful consequences inflicted upon those who are not His children to set an example to those who are His true children—in order to produce repentance:

“Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds” (Revelation 2:20-22).

As we have already seen, sickness in not punishment for the sins of believers. Jesus has already endured our punishment for us through the victory of the cross and His resurrection (Hebrews 10:10). The consequences of our sin however—is an entirely different matter.

“And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are—rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as sons” (Hebrews 12:5-7a).

God is speaking to His daughters as well as His sons:

“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

If in fact you are sick because God is trying to get your attention—and you understand what He is trying to teach you through the voice of His Holy Spirit—then yield and repent. Healing and recovery may not be that far away.

“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13).

If you are sick and in pain with no understanding as to why—and no physical healing is on the horizon—then there is nothing else you can do except to lean on God’s tender mercy and grace. He will definitely get you through.

Pray for help with the things that are not a comfort and thank Him for the things that are. If your healthcare is sufficient—then thank Him for that. If you are blessed with an understanding family or friends and a caring support staff—then thank Him for that too.

Being thankful for the small favors you receive while you’re sick might just help you feel a little better.

Concentrate on the hope of His soon return at the Rapture—and remember the joys of heaven that He promised you.

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 1:2).

“And God will wipe away every tear from their [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).