A famous argument in the Christian community for supporting the use of medication to treat depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other behavioral disorders is that Jesus told us that the sick need a doctor. Since doctors today treat mental health, they believe we are then free to turn to them about these issues. We must look closely at what Jesus actually said and the context in which he stated it.
The question is not whether or not a sick person should seek medical attention. Jesus certainly did confirm that the sick need a physician. What we should be asking ourself is whether or not people with behavioral disorders are really “sick.” Look at what Jesus said:
Luke 5:29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" 31 Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor , but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
The theme of this passage is not when and why we should see a physician. While Jesus did say that the sick need a doctor, he did so to explain a spiritual matter. His words were used as an analogy, to explain to them why he was sitting with sinners. As a sick person, not a healthy person needs physical healing; a sinner, not a righteous man needs spiritual healing. The theme of this passage is not a mandate to trust any doctor with matters both physical and mental, but to show how sinners need salvation. While the context does not make the statement any less true, it does help to clarify whether or not Jesus intended for us to use this statement to support the “medical” treatment of “mental” illnesses.
We must remember that psychology is a relatively new field and is defined as the science of the mind and behavior. The fact that the medical community has embraced this field as part of their own can cause confusion for those who do not understand how these things are diagnosed. Even though your doctor has diagnosed you with depression his diagnosis is based upon the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM). Your “disease” is classified as a mental illness, not a physical one. They are assessing and diagnosing your behavior, not performing any medical tests or procedures. Did Jesus tell us that those with behavioral problems need a doctor, certainly he did not. Remember exactly what he said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
While every behavioral problem is not a direct result of sin, many of them are. Some obvious ones which can be found in the DSM IV are alcoholism (now often referred to as alcohol dependency or alcohol abuse), Kleptomania (failure to resist impulses to steal), the various sexual disorders such as Hypoactive Sexual Disorder and Voyeurism, rage (Intermittent Explosive Disorder) and various others. The same manual that says depression is a disease also excuses away these behaviors as though they are not choices but illnesses. They do not call them sin, while the Bible does. Jesus came to bring sinners to repentance, and that includes those whom the world calls “sick.” Jesus would not tell the drunkard, the thief or the sexually immoral to see a doctor. The Bible clearly calls these things sin.
Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness , orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
This passage is then followed by telling us what things are evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. The sinners without the Spirit will have the previous characteristics, believers with the Spirit should have these.
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Yet the world says that to lack these things are a sign of sickness not a sign of lacking the Spirit. If a person lacks joy it is not because they are not walking in the Spirit but because they have a disease called “Depression”. They claim that if a person cannot find peace they are suffering from “Anxiety.” If you are not patient you must have an “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” If you lack self-control you could be “Obsessive Compulsive” or have “Oppositional Defiance Disorder.” You could be labeled in many different ways, these are merely examples. The world has a disease for every bad behavior. The world never calls such things sin and does not look to God for answers. The Bible addresses all of them and says that the Spirit, not the medical community, has the cure.
Think for just a minute about what it means if doctors were right, and sins were diseases. What if enough psychotherapy and medical treatment could bring true peace, joy, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. What does that say about God? If even non-Christians can experience these things, then there is no need for us to have the Spirit. If the acts of “sickness” rather than the “sinful nature” causes man to misbehave, then why does God call it sin? If God is right and it is sin, not sickness, then man, including professional medical doctors, must be wrong on this issue. However, if your doctor is right and man cannot help himself, but needs medication and therapy to get better, then God is wrong. Are we really ready to call God a liar? I think not.
Jesus clearly stated that the sick need a physician and we do not disagree. If there is something biologically wrong with you that a physician can see, test and cure then you should see a physician. Sometimes a true “medical” condition can cause you to feel depression like symptoms, and it is always important to rule out any physical conditions that could be causing a person to feel down or fatigued. However, if you are suffering from a behavioral problem, a “mind” problem, you need to seek the Lord and find out how He can help you overcome.
The Word “Mental”means “of or relating to the mind.” Mental Illness, therefore, literally means an illness of the mind. As we have said many times, our minds are not a part of our physical being. The Bible tells us that as Christians we must renew our minds, not seek medical treatment for them. The Scripture speaks about how we must renew our minds in Christ, prepare our minds for action, set our minds on heavenly things, and tells us how the peace of God can guard our minds. In each of these passages there is some reference to how this will affect our behavior.
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
We must prepare our minds for action. We are responsible for getting our minds prepared. We are also told to be self-controlled, refrain from following evil desires, and to be holy. These are choices that we are responsible for. We are instructed to prepare our minds, something that, according the Word of God is something that every Christian must do, and therefore must be capable of doing.
Col 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Here we are instructed to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things. What is a depressed or anxious mind doing? They are setting their minds on the things that are depressing them and making them anxious. Those are earthly things! We must set our minds on things above. This is an instruction from the Lord.
Again, our mind is addressed in relation to our behavior. We should set our mind on things above rather than on the earthly things it was focused on before we were saved. When we are Christians we are to put off the old and put on the new. Our minds are changed! We should no longer be feeding our earthly nature. Our earthly minds are full of anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language. Our earthly nature was full of sexual immorality, lust, evil desires, greed and lies. We took that off when we were saved and put on Christ. Our minds must be set on things above, being renewed in the knowledge of our savior.
Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The peace of God will guard our hearts and minds if we rejoice and are not anxious and come to Him in prayer. We are told to rejoice and not be anxious because we have the option to choose. If God says that our hearts and minds will be guarded by peace then surely He means it. God says that his peace will guard our minds, not that we should seek a doctor concerning it! (Our article Peace - Putting it into Practice explores this passage in greater detail.)
Eph 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Here is yet another passage that speaks about our minds and its affect on our behavior. Now that we are saved we must put off our old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires. Now we must be made new in the attitude of our minds and put on the new self. Our old self was corrupt our new self has a renewed mind. Because of the renewing of our minds we should no longer lie, sin in our anger, steal, curse, be bitter, be enraged, brawl, or slander. We should put off every form of malice and instead be kind, compassionate and forgiving. These are the behaviors of a person with a renewed mind. Only Christ can renew our minds.
So yes, the sick need a physician, but our “mental” problems (mind problems) need to be addressed Scripturally. We need to renew our minds in Christ not drug our minds with chemicals. We need to put on the new self, not seek therapy trying to cure the old one. We need to take responsibility for our actions and realize that we are sinners in need of repentance, not a sick person in need of a physician.
Here at Guided By Truth we are dedicated to sharing the truth from the Scripture and exposing the errors of false teachings. Psychology has not only infiltrated our medical community granting acceptance as Scientific even when it is not, it has also embedded itself within the church. We have addressed this topic in many other articles and also offer links to other organizations who help expose these truths.