What are we to think? The Bible clearly equates this word with witchcraft. Are we sinning by taking prescription drugs from the doctors?
The Greek word Pharmakeia can be translated either “The use or the administering of drugs” or “poisoning”. In the Perseus Greek-English Lexicon, the word Pharmakeia is defined as “the use of drugs, potions, spells, poisoning and witchcraft.” A variant of the word – pharmakao – is defined as “to suffer the effect of drugs.” In these cases, the emphasis would be on using plants/ointments/tinctures not for healing, but to allow a person to connect to the spirit world aside from the Lord; for use in demonic/witchcraft related ceremonies and other diversions that have nothing to do with God.
Let’s look at a few things in Scripture.
~Luke was a physician, NOT a sorcerer. As a physician, he surely used plants and drinks/ointments made from plants to help cure his patients. He advised Timothy to take a “little wine” for his stomach’s sake. He was with Paul on the same boat that was shipwrecked, and presumably was able to minister as a physician to the men afterwards.
~ Proverbs 17:22 speaks of a joyful heart being good medicine. It is important to note here that the word used for “medicine” is NOT related to the meanings of the Greek word Pharmakeia.
~ Here is an interesting quote from an apocryphal book:Concerning Physicians and Health from Sirach 38:1-14 RSV “Honor the physician with the honor due him, according to your need of him, for the Lord created him; for healing comes from the Most High, and he will receive a gift from the king. The skill of the physician lifts up his head, and in the presence of great men he is admired. The Lord created medicines from the earth, and a sensible man will not despise them. Was not water made sweet with a tree in order that his power might be known? And he gave skill to men that he might be glorified in his marvelous works. By them he heals and takes away pain. The pharmacist makes of them a compound. His works will never be finished and from him health is upon the face of the earth. My son, when you are sick do not be negligent, but pray to the Lord, and he will heal you. Give up your faults and direct your hands aright, and cleanse your heart from all sin. And give the physician his place, for the Lord created him; let him not leave you, for there is need of him. There is a time when success lies in the hands of physicians, for they too will pray to the Lord that he should grant them success in diagnosis and in healing, for the sake of preserving life.”
Even in Heaven we find a special tree whose leaves are for the Healing of the Nations. Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Rev. 22:1-2
First, let’s draw the line: there is a vast difference between a doctor giving you medicine for an illness…and using a potential medicine/plant wrongly (for a false sense of pleasure or escape) to the point where it harms or even kills the body. Scripture gives us the leeway to utilize both praying for the sick and using healers or doctors; it warns us away from harming our bodies, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
All through history you can find instances of people using the resources God put on the Earth for good and bad. Wisdom has been given to men and women in the use of plants and other naturally found ingredients that brought healing to the body. However, as in all things since the Fall, there are those who would discover the properties of plants that were NOT healing to the body, but harmful when used out of their proper intention. On the one side, there were people wanting to use the God-given skills to help – on the other side, those whose only intentions were for selfish gain, control and entrapment of a person into the wrong use of a drug/mixture. Here we see the division between the physicians and the sorcerers.
Okay – so medicines are an okay thing for Christians. What about the WORD: Pharmakeia?
This calls for wisdom and discernment from the Lord for us each, individually. Some will find it helpful to look into the background/beginnings of our modern Pharmaceuticals, where they came from, what were the root companies and what were THEY doing in the beginning…as well as researching the good vs. the harmfulness of modern drugs and the companies that manufacture them.
We must each take the responsibility to weigh these carefully against the more naturally prepared supplements and preparations given on the advice of “alternative” doctors. There is a definite warning to us, I believe, in the root of modern “Big Pharma” that we each need to prayerfully discern before the Lord.