J.R. Spangler is the editor of Ministry.

Clergy and medical personnel agree that the mind influences the body and vice versa. They believe that an intimate relationship exists between mind, body, and spirit, and they support the concept of the indivisibility of man. Nonetheless, when we speak of health, most people think of the physical body.

Biological health

Dr. Mervyn Hardinge, former dean of the Loma Linda University School of Health, describes health from the bio logical perspective. He indicates that every activity of the body is the end product of a series of integrated reactions of the innumerable enzyme systems. These enzyme systems form a living assembly line that produces chemical products for use throughout the body. What we observe is the physical production that comes off this assembly line, such as the flick of an eyelash. Dr. Hardinge claims that just the act of listening to a voice involves a very complex series of biochemical enzyme interactions, and he adds that when we do something smoothly and efficiently we are doing it healthfully.

What he is saying is that we must have the right element appearing at the right time in the right amount at the right place to have health.

Thus it is easy to understand that anything poisonous (in any sense) that is introduced into any avenue of the body, whether it be the eyes, ears, mouth, or whatever, will hinder the bodily functions and affect every part.

Many Christians pay little heed to the care of the physical body. For centuries the Christian church has emphasized almost exclusively the spiritual factors of life and said little about the physical factors. But once it is understood that whatever affects bodily functions affects the totality of a man's existence, then it becomes logical to give equal attention to all parts of our being. To illustrate: The person who hits his thumb with a hammer immediately is affected men tally, physically, spiritually, and socially.

Hebrew perspectives of health

The Hebrew word for being healthy, shalom, is also the word for peace, which demonstrates that soundness of body and wholeness of mind are closely associated in Hebrew thought. The unhealthy person was considered almost a detriment to society (certainly not an honor to God) and was in danger of becoming an outcast. It is therefore not surprising that the Old Testament contains many principles valuable for maintaining health. Histories of public health speak of Moses as "the greatest hygienist" and "the greatest sanitary engineer" of the ancient world and suggest that he might be considered the father of preventive medicine.

Even the observance of the Sabbath, a practice enshrined in the Ten Commandments themselves, is important for physical health. The body requires regular periods of rest for health, and the ratio of one rest day in seven seems uniquely well suited to the efficient functioning of the human body.

The wholistic approach to life, understood by the ancient Hebrews, can be summed up in the words of Exodus 15:26: "If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you which I put upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord, your healer" (R.S.V.).

Deuteronomy 28, which lists the blessings of obedience and consequences of disobedience, portrays an array of specifics that touch on all aspects of life.

The blessings and cursings affected the individual's possessions, his family, and especially his health. Note the effects on body, mind, and spirit in the following: "confusion, and frustration"; "consumption, . . . fever, inflammation"; "boils... ulcers... scurvy and the itch"; "madness and blindness and confusion of mind"; "grievous boils"; "extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sickness grievous and lasting"; "a trembling heart, and failing eyes, and a languishing soul" (verses 20, 22, 27, 28, 35, 59, 65, R.S.V.).

By contrast the blessings of peace, health, joy, and prosperity were promised to the obedient. Verse 47, which reads "Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, by reason of the abundance of all things" (R.S.V.), reveals the importance of a happy, thankful attitude in maintaining health.

New Testament health perspectives

Three aspects of Jesus' Galilean ministry are recorded in Matthew 4:23. He healed, taught, and preached. This was a practical demonstration of His commitment to ministering to the whole man. Paul's writings also demonstrate the Hebrew perspective. His Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians particularly demonstrate Biblical wholism. To Paul the body was not merely a prison house for the soul, as the Greeks and Romans taught. Instead, Paul states: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1).

To the Corinthians Paul addresses the rhetorical question "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). The body is compared to a temple and is to be a part of the Christian's glorification of God. Thus, the true follower of Christ has a strong motivation to keep physically as well as spiritually fit.

Christians today can be divided into two groups: those who think their religion should impact only on their spiritual life, and those who take the more Biblical, wholistic approach and care for their bodies as well as their spirits. This second group experiences what Jesus promised in John 10:10: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Here we find God's greatest desire for His followers. To live healthy, happy, holy lives--to acknowledge and obey all of God's commandments--brings with it total health. --J.R.S.

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J.R. Spangler is the editor of Ministry.

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