The Bible and health.

Why do you Adventists place such an emphasis on health? After all, Jesus says, 'What goes into a man's mouth does not make him "unclean," but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him "unclean." ' Matthew 15:11. Juanita

I'd like to start in the second verse of the third letter of John: 'Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.'

It's just a friendly greeting at the beginning of a letter, but it does actually make sense – good physical health can be an asset in maintaining good spiritual health. But, more than that, God wants the best for everybody – and He's done that by laying down guidelines in Scripture that can help keep us in good shape.

For instance: in Genesis 1:29 He lays out an ideal diet – one that He as Creator knew was best consisting of grains, nuts and fruit. Later on, after sin entered and the world was devastated by flood, He allowed the use of meat, or flesh food – but only once the blood was drained from them. It was back then that He also made a difference between clean and unclean foods – re-emphasised in the book of Leviticus,  chapter 11. You can basically summarise those clean animals as being vegetarian and the unclean as being carnivores or scavengers.

That's all in the area of food – and it's in that area that you seem to be asking  but there are other issues of health that the Bible deals with. Consider proper amounts of work and rest, for instance, good hygiene habits, and avoiding things that are harmful to us – the Bible has a lot to say on drunkenness. [see Proverbs 20:1, 23:20, Galatians 5:19]

However, you quote Matthew 15:11 and seem to be indicating that these Old Testament codes of clean and unclean no longer applied by Jesus' time.

Let's have a quick look at the whole chapter. Jesus is in discussion with the religious leaders and with the crowds in general, and with His disciples. The Pharisees were complaining that the disciples did not wash their hands in the proper ritual manner before they ate. That meant going through the motions of washing, even if there was no water present. Jesus challenged them with other examples of how they had turned practical laws of God right around so that they became a burden rather than a blessing. So what's the difference eating food whether you've been washing your hands left to right or right to left; and certainly what's the difference if there's no water. In the Old Testament laws, hygiene was the principle. With the Pharisees, ritual was the principle: hygiene didn't come into it.

So when Jesus says, 'It's what comes out of a man that's important, not what goes in,' He's really laying into them – telling them their hypocritical talking is killing people far more than any dangers from not ritually washing.

Remember that this was all in a Hebrew context. There's no discussion here of clean or unclean foods. It wouldn't even have entered into the equation. Jesus spent His time restoring lives – physically with healing, emotionally with comfort and spiritually with teaching that was alive and relevant to folks' needs.

Good health was just a part of the package – and a part that Adventists recognise as being important too. As a result, in general the Adventist lifestyle means people live between 5 and 11 years longer, spend less time in hospital and have a higher quality of life. And that really isn't the Adventist lifestyle – it's God's design for our lives. We've summarised it in an acronym: NEWSTART – Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunshine, Temperance, Air, Rest and Trust in Divine Power.

If you want to know more about it – write in and we'll send you a summary. But get the balance of those eight biblical health rules together, and I'm sure you'll feel better.

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