The Gurney in the Woodshed

Were you ever sent to the woodshed, and not to get wood?

We didn’t have woodsheds at any of the houses where I grew up. We didn’t need them. We didn’t heat with wood, and the other “woodshed”–that euphemystical (sic) place where discipline was administered–could occupy any spot on the planet. Pick a place, any place. The woodshed and I frequently possessed identical GPS coordinates.

Which brings to mind James 5.14,15:

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (ESV)

Admittedly, this is not one of the easiest passages in the New Testament to interpret.  The role of the elders; the verb, “anoint” (aleipho was a common word that refered to the medicinal use of olive oil and, in medical treatises, signified the massaging of the oil into the tissue); and the nature of prayer offered on behalf of the patient–or by the patient himself–all provide fodder for debate. Part of my problem in understanding this passage has been the notion that there is no parallel passage in the Scriptures.

I no longer believe that.

I studied Psalm 30 this week, and I am convinced it offers an explanation for James 5–and vice versa. In this poem, which the title ascribes to David, the psalmist expresses his thanks to Jehovah for sparing him from certain death as a result of a physical affliction. (Read the psalm, and you’ll see what I mean.) Furthermore, in verse 6 he states that the sickness, which was so serious that David evidently went to sleep one night not expecting to be alive in the morning, was due to his own pride:

“As for me, I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.’ ” (ESV)

We don’t think of pride as a sin for which one would be taken to God’s woodshed and disciplined to within an inch of one’s life. Yet, pride is perhaps the most insidious and pervasive sin of all. Just this morning I heard a preacher quote C.S. Lewis, who said that pride is “the ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration on the self” that propels us to countless sinful acts and words.

David tells us that when he acknowledged and confessed his pride, God raised him up and restored his health.

Which takes us back to James 5. I believe James is teaching us to accompany medical intervention and sincere intercession with personal inspection. Use the advantages of medical discovery available to you, James says, encourage others to pray for you, and acknowledge that you just may be sick because of sin, as David was.

In other words, take a look around–your gurney may be in the woodshed.


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