Spiritual or physical? That is the question concerning health and disease. More than one health care worker has gone to Africa and taught on basic health care from the perspective of science and microbiology. Students have taken their classes and passed with flying colors. But as soon as the teachers leave it is not an uncommon to hear one say something along the lines of “well, all of us really know that sickness comes from the demons.” Out the window goes a lot of the teaching.
It would be no different than if the local medicine man in Africa came to a group of nursing students in the Western world and taught on healing. ‘Mix this animal’s blood with this leaf, walk around this type of tree saying this word, and there will be healing for your ailment.’ No matter how long the teaching, at the end when the medicine man left (before the spiritism movement hit), Western nurses would turn to each other and say, “well, all of us really know that sickness comes from the spread of germs.”
So which is it? Is it microbiology or spiritual? Two doctors and one nurse practitioner who each have been in medicine for more than 30+ years were asked what percentage they believed that illness was due to poor lifestyle choice. Independent of each other, each estimated around 80%. These were all Western doctors.
So what does the Bible say, is it spiritual or physical? I think Leviticus offers the answer and the answer is yes—both. When the Lord was training the priests in health care, he gave them numerous regulations in washing the body, when to isolate somebody who has an infection , destroying clothing and even houses if they were deemed diseased, etc…. Physical things. Things associated with microbiology, germs and personal hygiene. But it didn’t stop there.
After something or someone was cleansed, it was necessary that atonement be made. Ceremonially cleansing was often made through a sacrificial burnt offering. People were to offer sacrifices to make atonement. Even a house that had been struck with mildew, the scriptures direct that a person needs to “make atonement for the house, and it will be clean” (Lev 14:53).
Health is both a spiritual and physical issue and should be dealt with accordingly. It is not enough to say that everything is genetics or microbiology. It is not enough to declare all things spiritual. Our spiritual and physical are such close neighbors that they always catch each other’s diseases.