In order to answer this question effectively, we have to divide it into two broad sections, viz,




Let us first consider the medical aspect.

What is Cancer? The Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary9 defines ‘Cancer’ as ‘a malignant tumor of potentially unlimited growth that expands locally by invasion and systemically by metastasis’. Expressed in simple English, Cancer is basically a ‘new growth’ in a person’s body, which invades other parts of the body near and far. At this juncture, the reader must remember that normal cells do multiply in the human body but the rate of multiplication is a controlled process and under genetic control. An uncontrolled process is basically ‘rebellion’ at the cellular level. Not only does the rebellious ‘cancer’ cell grow independently of the genetic code but it also draws its own blood supply to nourish itself. The cancer cells then build its own independent ‘kingdom’ and in so doing destroy other adjacent cells, the organ that it belongs to and spread by the blood stream or by lymphatics to invade other organs, thereby destroying the body in the process. Before leaving this section, we need to define another medical term, viz, ‘pathology’. This is “the anatomic and physiological deviations from the normal that constitute disease or characterize a particular disease9 Cancer is a pathological process (a disease process) and it is a deviation from the medical ‘norm’ for the human body.

Let us now deal with the spiritual aspect of cancer and the theologically baffling question...“Why does cancer happen to good people”?

The basic premise of this statement or question is wrong in the first place. First of all cancer does not just happen and secondly there is no such thing as ‘good people’ in the context of Scripture.

Let me explain as I go along. Why do I say that cancer does not (just) happen? For the simple reason that the God whom we serve is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent. In other words, He is all-powerful, knows all things and is present everywhere.

 Matt 6:8
 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. NIV

John 21:17
….He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
NIV (latter part of verse 17)

Matt 10:29
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. NIV

Jer 23:24
4 Can anyone hide in secret places
so that I cannot see him?"
 declares the LORD.
"Do not I fill heaven and earth?"
 declares the LORD.

There is an abundance of Scriptures testifying to God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence but the above will suffice. The root of the matter is that Cancer is not a co-incidence, neither is it a stroke of fate or a happening of chance. There is no such thing as ‘bad luck’ in the Christian vocabulary and any believer who believes in luck ought to seriously re-think his theology. Secondly, let me dispel the myth concerning ‘good people’ as per the Bible. There are only two basic categories in the Bible, viz, Christians and Non-Christians (or Jews and Gentiles in the Old Testament) and ‘Those walking in His Will’ and ‘Those walking outside of His Will’. The latter options, of course refer only to Believers (God's Will for Unbelievers is only this- that non should perish and that all should come into the saving grace of Christ- 2 Peter 3:9). So in this context, we are strictly confining our discussion to Christians who are afflicted with Cancer and the Spiritual causative factors behind this ‘predicament’ (for want of a better word).

Does the word ‘Cancer’ occur in the Bible? Yes and No…a Modern Version uses the word ‘Cancer’ whilst other versions use the word ‘Tumor’. ‘Tumor’ is basically a new growth and both of these words may be regarded as synonymous in the Biblical examples below…

2 Sam 3:29
29 Joab and his family are the guilty ones. May each of his children be victims of cancer, or be lepers, or be sterile, or die of starvation, or be killed by the sword!"
TLB (Emphasis Mine)

2 Sam 3:29

29 Let it rest on the head of Joab, and on all his father's house; and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff, or that falleth on the sword, or that lacketh bread.

KJV ‘Hath an issue’ which is translated as ‘Cancer’ in the Living Bible comes from the Hebrew root word ‘zuwb’ which means figuratively ‘to waste away’.3

To understand the whole context of the above verse, we need to know the background of the text. In short, Joab (David’s general) had treacherously murdered Abner and now King David pronounced a curse on Joab’s family, including the curse of cancer on his children.

Here we can see the relationship of sin and curse- a ‘cause and effect’ spiritual phenomenon which is taught throughout the length and breadth of the Bible.

Deuteronomy Chapter 28 is a chapter on blessings and curses and this is directly related to obedience and disobedience (to the Lord)….

Deut 28:15-16
15 However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:
16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.

Notice the relationship between disobedience (sin) and curses.

Deut 28:27
27 "The LORD will smite you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors and with the scab and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed.

Notice the word ‘tumors’ in verse 27 above and the very important phrase following it…`from which you cannot be healed’. Did you notice that most cases of cancer cannot be healed despite the tremendous stride and progress of modern medicine? Yet God had pronounced this more than five thousand years or so, ago. Here is more…

1 Sam 5:6
6 Now the hand of the LORD was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories.

The Ashdodites (Philistines) had ‘kidnapped’ the ark of God and surely this was ‘not a small price’ to pay for a sin of this magnitude. I would like you to notice that Deuteronomy 28:27 and 1 Samuel 5:6 both stated explicitly that it was the Lord who was the instrument of judgment (and not Satan).  Satan, generally, is the agent of disease but occasionally God Himself delivers the Judgment (either directly or indirectly)…

Job 2:7-8
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.

8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

2 Sam 24:13-14
13 Shall there come upon you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me."

14 David said to Gad, "I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men."

Cancer when terminal is a very painful process (it literally eats away the bones) and the Scripture below even illustrates this point…

1 Sam 5:12
12 And the men who did not die were smitten with tumors and the cry of the city went up to heaven.

From the discussion and illustration(s) above, you can clearly see that tumor or cancer is a direct result of God’s judgment on sin; anyone who tries to convince you that cancer is not a curse is drowning you in a web of deep deception. Take a look at the following verses in Psalm Chapter 91…

Ps 91:1-8

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  

2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust."

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare

and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He will cover you with his feathers,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

5 You will not fear the terror of night,

nor the arrow that flies by day,

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,

nor the plague that destroys at midday.

7 A thousand may fall at your side,

ten thousand at your right hand,

but it will not come near you.

8 You will only observe with your eyes

and see the punishment of the wicked.


The above verses state categorically that “the pestilence and the plague” (verses 6 and 7) will not come near those who dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. In other words, those who are under His covering (and of course walking in His Will).  Cancer blasphemes the promises of God’s Word in Psalm 91 and surely can never be God’s Will for His People!

Having said thus far, let us now answer the question. “Why does cancer happen to GOOD PEOPLE”?

Like I mentioned before, there is no such thing as ‘Good People’ in the Bible. The phrase ‘Good People’ helps us to conjure images of pastors in black suits and white collars (a false deceptive image at the least!)

There are only two categories of Christians in the New Testament Church, viz, those who do God’s Will and those who do not do God’s Will…

Matt 7:21
21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

The crux of verse 21 above, however painful if may seem, is simply this- that heaven will be populated by Believers doing God’s Will and not by Sunday church-goers. If you read further on down the same Chapter you will see that some ‘Charismatics’ will also not make it into heaven…

Matt 7:22-23
22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'

23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
God labels some ‘Charismatics’ as ‘evildoers’. Strange but true.

There is an interesting episode in the 1 Kings Chapter 13 which speaks of a Man of God commanded by Him not to go back a certain way (verse 9). His defiance against God’s Word (and God’s Will) by going that way resulted in his premature violent death (verses 22 and 24). Defying God’s Will is not something to be taken lightly and there are certainly spiritual consequences for every act of rebellion!

 1 Kings 13:9

9 For I was commanded by the word of the LORD: 'You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.'" NIV

1 Kings 13:22-24

22 You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your fathers.'"

23 When the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the prophet who had brought him back saddled his donkey for him.

24 As he went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was thrown down on the road, with both the donkey and the lion standing beside it.

NIV Notice one interesting fact in verse 23- the lion was standing besides the body of the Man of God (together with the donkey). It did not devour his body, as should be the case. This proves that the death of the Man of God was not a random act of a wild, savage animal but an act of judgment from God! Even animals act under God’s Sovereign Jurisdiction.

Some may perceive Cancer as a form of suffering for the Lord’s sake. To them, I say, do not be further deceived, repent whilst there is still time…

1 Peter 2:19-21
19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.

20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.

21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.


The only form of “Biblical suffering’ is suffering for doing good and biblical suffering is a calling (Verse 21 above). Jesus suffered not because of sin (He was totally sinless) but as a result of a calling of the Father. Paul also suffered in the course of his ministry (2 Cor 6:4,5) but this was not because of sin but also because of a calling. Conversely, Cancer shortens one’s life span and prevents a person from fulfilling his or her calling. 

How could Moses, Peter or Paul fulfill their calling if they had been struck down with cancer (God forbid even such a thought!).The hard truth is that cancer is the result of God’s judgment on sin. Please do not quote the case of Job. Job was not afflicted because of sin but because God allowed Satan to test his faith. In the end Job fully recovered from the afflictions on his body (the Bible uses the word ‘boils’ and not ‘tumors’ in the case of Job; Satan inflicts boils from the outside e.g. through an exogenous source such as bacteria but cancer arises from cells WITHIN THE BODY).  Do your cancer cases recover from their afflictions and are they blessed as much as Job was blessed at the end (Job 42:12,13)?

I rest my case here. The point I wish to make is that it is imperative for a Christian to seek and do God’s Will…

Luke 8:21
21 He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice."  NIV
Matt 12:49-50
49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

Notice from Matthew 12:49 above that the Bible defines a disciple of Christ as one who does God’s Will (not one who warms the pew of a church).

No one leaves this earth by chance not even a sparrow…

Matt 10:29

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.

Luke 13:1-5
13:1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them-do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

The Galileans whom Pilate killed and the eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them did not die by chance. They died because they did NOT REPENT.

We are not being cruel, Christians afflicted by cancer need to seek the Lord and repent.

Some cancers appear to have a hereditary basis and this further bears witness to the Scriptural Fact that ‘sins’ can be passed down from one generation to another (Exodus 20:5).


In conclusion, paradoxical as it may seem, Cancer is primarily a spiritual (and not a medical) disease; it starts in the spiritual realm first. Medically, cancer is a cell rebelling against its host… BUT spiritually it is Man rebelling against God and the only spiritual remedy FOR CANCER is REPENTANCE; peradventure God in His Sovereignty, may grant mercy to those afflicted.

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