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Question: "Is it wrong to take pain medication?"

Answer:
Some people question whether or not it is appropriate for a Christian to take pain medication, since it may affect perception, alter awareness, influence consciousness, or cause physical addiction. We must remember that the Bible does not expressly forbid medicine. Medications are not inherently evil. In fact, the Bible speaks of Timothy’s need to “use a little wine” for his illness (1 Timothy 5:23). And Luke was a doctor (Colossians 4:14). So there is nothing wrong with the use of medicine; it is the abuse that is wrong and what the Bible would condemn.

There is a world of difference between someone who, through overindulgence or misapplication, abuses prescription medication and someone who has a serious illness and takes the medication a doctor prescribes for the relief of symptoms. In the first case, there is an idolatrous greed or lust for a physical substance that results in his breaking the law and potentially causing harm to himself and others; in the second, the person is making use of advances in science and, under a doctor’s direction, lawfully alleviates unpleasant symptoms through the appropriate use of medication.

At the time the Bible was written, people would often use alcohol to alleviate pain and unpleasant symptoms (Proverbs 31:6). Of course, alcohol can be easily abused. But alcohol consumption is not wrong per se, especially if it is used medicinally. It is the abuse of alcohol and pain relievers that must be guarded against (Proverbs 23:20; Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:6–8).

The Bible talks repeatedly about our responsibility to care for our bodies. First Corinthians 6:19 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” As regenerate Christians, our physical bodies, as well as our hearts, minds, and souls, belong to God. Because of this, we should never do anything to disfigure, dishonor, or harm ourselves. Substance abuse causes bodily harm, loss of control, and loss of inhibition. The Christian is called to live sensibly and alertly so he can faithfully represent the gospel at all times (1 Peter 3:15), and this requires him to be sober-minded and in control of his faculties.

So we are not to relinquish control of our bodies or give them mastery over us through substance abuse. But neither are we to enslave our bodies by denying them what they truly need, which includes medicine. A temporary fast from food may be appropriate, but making our hurting bodies suffer when reasonable, accessible remedies exist is pointless and ungodly. One way God provides for us is through providentially allowing the field of medicine to advance to a point where experts can (more efficiently than ever) diagnose, serve, and treat the sick. Medicine is, at its finest, a tool to be harnessed by man in order to counteract some of the negative effects of the Fall, which brought pain, illness, and death into the world. But medicine, including pain relievers, only benefits us if we make responsible use of it.

To sum up, there is nothing wrong with taking pain medication. Following an appropriate medicinal regimen prescribed by a doctor is never condemned in the Bible; in fact, medicine should be seen as a blessing from God, given as an effective therapy for pain and illness. It is abusing or overindulging in these substances, or breaking the laws governing their administration, that is condemned.

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