Does Sin Cause Sickness?

Sam Allberry | February 8, 2016

A couple of years ago when I was preaching through the letter of James, a church member asked if we were going to be looking at “the dodgy bit at the end,” by which they meant these final verses of chapter 5:

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.  Is anyone among you ill? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:13–16)

3 Things This Passage Can’t Mean

As with any “difficult” text, it helps to rule out what it can’t mean.

1. James isn’t describing the Roman Catholic practice of extreme unction, or last rites.

A careful look shows this can’t be what James has in mind. First, the confession James calls for is “to each other,” not to a particular…

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