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1 Timothy 5:23

"Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often."

Red wine being poured into a clear wine glass.

In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul advises Timothy to drink a little wine in order to alleviate his stomach aches. Apparently, Timothy had been struggling with some kind of ailment for quite some time as Paul indicates in his letter that he is "sick so often." This is a revealing insight, and I think this verse provides us a few reminders for today.

First, Timothy's sickness reminds us that just because we are doing ministry doesn't mean we won't experience pain and suffering. Sometimes Christians believe that if they are following God's will for them, they will be protected by him and therefore won't experience any significant difficulties. It's almost like we assume a deal has been struck--we will serve God and he will take care of us. But God never offered that bargain. He indicated that if we accept him as Lord he will grant us eternal life in heaven, not an easy life here on earth. Notice that Timothy was on the very front lines of service, and yet he was often sick.

The second thing we learn from this passage is that Paul was in favor of using medicine. Paul could have simply told Timothy that God would provide and that Timothy should not worry about his sickness. Or Paul could have told Timothy to ask other Christians to pray over him. Or he could have derided Timothy for not having enough faith to be healed. But Paul apparently didn't do any of those things. Instead he encouraged Timothy to take some medicine (wine) to help improve his health. In the same way, Christians today should not be hesitant to go to the doctor or to get a prescription for their physical ailments. Indeed, Luke was a physician that assisted the disciples (Colossians 4:14). I'm so glad we have better medical science today.

Finally, this verse reminds us to care about the physical well-being of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul was obviously concerned about Timothy and wanted him to get better. While I believe most Christians are pretty good about praying for the health requests of others when they share them, I think many of us need to do a better job of proactively asking fellow believers how they are doing physically. Some people are uncomfortable with this suggestion as they believe that such information is personal and none of their business. The thing to remember, however, is that one should inquire politely. The other person still has the freedom to decline this invitation for prayer. As long as we are not demanding that they tell us about their ailments or snooping through their medical records, we have not become busybodies. And if someone does share with us a health concern, it's important that we keep that information confidential. Thankfully, Paul did not do this in Timothy's case, and subsequently his letter reminds us that 1) godly people will experience illnesses; 2) It's not wrong to seek medical services; 3) we should ask fellow Christians how they are feeling and show care for them.

(New Living Translation; photo credit: Terry Vlisidis via Unsplash)

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