In 1535, a French group of sailors, headed by Jacques Cartier wintered on the St. Lawrence River (near modern-day Montreal, Canada). The men developed scurvy.
“The word ‘scurvy’ means ‘scaly skin.’ This disease caused its victims to lose weight and grow weak. Gums bleed and teeth loosen. Sores do not heal. Connective fibers weaken that hold the body together. Victims of scurvy die as if they have come apart.”1
The natives came to aid. They prepared a drink made from pine needles soaked in water. Cartier’s men were brought back to health.
Scurvy remained a most dreaded disease. One man wrote, “In the 1700’s more sailors on British ships died of scurvy than of all other diseases, naval battles, and shipwrecks combined.”2
The problem was that ships lacked a way to keep food from spoiling in its natural form. Some foods were dried. Some foods were salted – salt pork, for example. But due to preservation difficulties sailor’s diets were often lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables. They were not receiving adequate quantities on a regular basis of vitamin C.
Dr. James Lind, a Scottish physician studied the situation. He was convinced that it was a nutritional deficiency that was causing scurvy. He recommended that the British sailors make landfall whenever possible for fresh food. He recommended then to gather oranges, lemons, and limes.
The British would especially become known for their having limes on board their ships, and their drinking lime juice for they found that limes kept better than other citrus fruits. This is why to this day British sailors are known as ‘limeys’.
In the 1800’s the Dutch East India Company set settlers in the orient. These settlers often became sick. They grew weak; paralysis set in; and finally death came (often due to heart failure).
Natives of the area called the disease beriberi. The word means “I cannot.”
The strange thing about this disease was that it affected the European settlers. However, the natives did not develop this disease. This was quite puzzling, since the Europeans lived in seemingly far better conditions than did the natives. The Europeans had better sanitary conditions than the natives. The Europeans ate, it seemed, far better on average than did the natives.
In 1886, a medical doctor by the name of Christiaan Eijkman, a Dutchman, went to Java to look into this matter. He discovered that the Europeans were eating only the fluffy white rice and not the common brown rice. The natives, on the other hand, ate the “poor” brown rice.
Eijkman discovered that when chickens had their diets switched from brown rice to the expensive white rice, they too came down with beriberi.
Eijkman had solved the problem. In 1929 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
We now know that beriberi is caused by a thiamine and vitamin B complex deficiency.
Other nutritional and vitamin deficiencies could be written of – e.g. rickets, Osteoporosis, etc.. However, the point is established: One can have a diet which consumes much quantities of food and still have an incomplete diet.
We need to have a balanced diet from the word of God. I’ve met folks who were experts on some Bible point(s) but who had glaring deficiencies in their total Bible knowledge. Such is not good. I’ve seen Bible readers who read only their favorite sections of scripture, or favorite verses and have no idea how the Bible fits together, nor do they understand sometimes the immediate context of the chapter, or book, nor the total context of the New Testament or the Bible as a whole.
I’ve known of churches that have no educational curriculum plan for their children’s Bible classes. As a result the child, by the 12th grade may have heard about Noah, and Moses, and David dozens of times (as each teacher teaches only what they want) and have major portions of scripture which they have no familiarity at all with. Then some teachers only teach topics instead of texts and as a result the children never learn the Bible as they should. This is not good.
Some members only want to hear “positive” sermons. They don’t want to hear the “negative” things of the Bible. Such thinking leads to a spiritual nutritional deficiency.
Brethren, let us remember the words of Psalm 119:160, “The sum of thy Word is truth.” Let us feed richly upon all that God has revealed to us, and apply it to our lives. Someone has said, “A congregation convenes as a jury, not to convict Judas, Peter, or Solomon, but to judge themselves.”
1. John Hudson Tiner, Exploring the History of Medicine (MasterBooks, Green Forest, AR), c. 1999, p. 108