Is Sickness the Result of Personal Failure?


You indicate in some of your literature that there are ‘clear statements that illness and handicaps are the result of personal failure, or the failure of one’s parents or ancestors.’ Could you please explain?


We are not aware of any statements of this nature in our literature.

As a church, our emphasis is on personal responsibility for our own life and character, and the positive effects it may have on our mental and physical well-being. But we do not feel qualified to say whether or not a particular illness or handicap is the result of one’s personal failure.

It is widely recognized that our emotions and feelings directly affect our physical being. For this reason it is probably impossible to determine the physical consequences of personal failure.

Could there be any association between one’s illness and the failure of his or her parents or ancestors? It seems unlikely that an illness may be transmitted from one generation to the next, however it has been well confirmed that tendencies to illnesses are transmitted. And who can say how much is the result of environment?

Handicaps would seem to be in a different category, where an individual was (in most cases) not responsible for his or her situation (i.e., an accident, an illness, a disease).

Could a handicap be caused by a failure of one’s self or one’s parents or ancestors? Take a situation where a child grows up in a home where both parents are alcoholics. That child may not learn to communicate normally, may be maladjusted socially, and may be deprived of proper guidance and schooling. As the result, such an individual may have to contend with the effects of his or her childhood throughout life, even though it was not directly that person’s fault.

By applying Bible principles and taking responsibility for our lives, we gain double benefit. We benefit by having firmer control of our situation and by acting according to our beliefs. Take, for example, the simple matter of shopping for groceries. The Christian should be considerate of other shoppers in the store. He or she must be honest in handling money, must make fair exchanges, select foods conducive to good health, and spend his or her money wisely. All of these factors are part of our Christian responsibility, and the shopping, properly done, is a benefit to both ourselves and others.

Regarding handicaps, we as a church do not hold any views contrary to those generally accepted in the medical community. A handicap is not a matter of right or wrong, though an individual may do right or wrong in how they deal with it. We are accountable to God only for the “things done in the body … whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10), and this would not include factors beyond our control.

Because our primary concern is to develop a character acceptable to God, we place a superior value on our lives and health. Lifetime is working time, and better health generally means better (or more) life (more working time). But all of us know that we have only a limited amount of control over either. We can only thank God for what He allows.