Why Is Water So Important?
We all know that water is a substance we can’t live without.
It quenches our thirst and keeps us hydrated on the inside. And it’s necessary for hygiene and cleansing on the outside too.
But did you know that the cleansing properties of water are also talked about in the Bible? And because water is such a fundamental need in our lives, Jesus often uses it as a metaphor for how He sustains us and helps us thrive.
Recognizing the importance of water to our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, Seventh-day Adventists consider water an indispensable aspect of our health message.
Let’s explore this further by looking at:
- Why we need water and how it benefits us
- How much water we need
- Water in the Adventist health message
- What the Bible says about water
Even though we already know of water’s crucial role in our health, let’s cover some of the reasons.
Why we need water and how it benefits us
About 60% of the human body is made of water, making hydration an important part of ensuring we have healthy bodies.1
Without water, many vital body functions would stall. Functions such as:2
- Nutrition: Water itself is a vital nutrient to the life of each body cell and acts as a building material. It also acts as a transporting medium for carbohydrates and proteins in the bloodstream.
- Thermoregulation: Water regulates our internal body temperature through sweating and respiration.
- Waste removal: Water helps in flushing out wastes from the body, especially through urination.
- Cushioning of delicate tissue: Water acts as a shock absorber to prevent trauma to the brain, spinal cord, and fetus. It also helps lubricate joints.
- Quenching thirst
- Lubricating our joints and keeping them healthy
- Preventing kidney stones
- Promoting mental clarity
- Maintaining healthy blood pressure
- Helping us maintain a healthy body weight
- Boosting our mood
Jacqueline Chan, MD, one of the co-researchers of the Adventist Health Study at Loma Linda School of Medicine, reports that just drinking enough water can greatly reduce our risk of heart disease, stroke, and many other health complications.4
With all these scientifically proven benefits of water, you may wonder how much you need to stay healthy.
How much water does your body need?
The ideal daily water intake is about 15.5 cups for men and 11.5 cups of water for women.5 But before you think that’s way more than you could ever drink, please note that some of this water comes in the form of fluids in food like fruits and vegetables. After considering how much water we get from food, healthy adults need about 8 glasses of water.
This number will depend on factors such as activity level, amount of sweating, climate, etc.
A good habit that can help you drink more water is to have a 16 or 32-oz. water bottle that you refill throughout the day. Aim to drink 4 of the 16-oz. water bottles or 2 of the 32-oz. bottles. This is an easy way to keep track of how much water you are drinking and help you meet your daily water needs.
How do you know if you aren’t meeting your daily water intake?
Well, you might experience thirst, headaches, concentrated urine, constipation, or fatigue.6
However, by drinking water and staying hydrated, you can stave off these discomforts and help your body smoothly carry out the things it’s supposed to do.
And beyond maintaining optimal body functions, water treatments (also called hydrotherapy) are used to treat illnesses.
People all over the world turn to contrast baths/showers, saunas, steam rooms, water exercise, mineral baths, and ice treatments to alleviate pain, assist in healing, fight sickness, or even to ease anxiety or other mental health struggles.
And various scientific studies support hydrotherapy’s continued value in both treatment and prevention of illness and various lifestyle-related health conditions.7
It’s because of all these benefits that Adventists have water as one of their eight health essentials.
What do Seventh-day Adventists teach about water?
Along with a healthful diet, rest, exercise, fresh air, and other principles of healthy living, the Adventist Church emphasizes the importance of water in all its uses.
This is because Adventists advocate for whole-person care.
Whole-person health emphasizes that spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional health are all important and can impact one another.
Since health experts agree on the importance of drinking water, it’s only right for it to be included in a holistic picture of wellness.
But beyond physical health, the Adventist Church is clear that water is an important part of our spiritual health as well.
The Adventist General Conference Sabbath School Department even had a seven-day Bible study lesson on water in 2010 that highlights the physical benefits of water and its spiritual importance. It talks about Jesus as the water of life. And whenever we make sure that we are hydrating ourselves with pure, clean water, we are being good stewards of the bodies God gave us.
Water is definitely an important part of the modern Seventh-day Adventist Church. Now, let’s take a look at how Adventist Church members have embraced water’s important role since the mid-1800s.
How did water first become part of the Adventist health message?
Ellen White, one of the prominent founders of the Adventist Church and an advocate for health reform, wrote extensively about how to be good stewards of our bodies and minds. In her counsels on diet, health, and lifestyle, she frequently mentions the importance of water. She highlights it as a way to keep us well and to acknowledge God’s care for His creation.
In The Ministry of Healing, one of her more popular books about health and wellness, she wrote:
“In health and in sickness, pure water is one of heaven’s choicest blessings. Its proper use promotes health. It is the beverage which God provided to quench the thirst of animals and man. Drunk freely, it helps to supply the necessities of the system and assists nature to resist disease.”8
And she was right.
Today, we know that when the body is hydrated, our organs work better, our blood flows better, and our minds can think more clearly.9
For Ellen White, water was not only important for hydration but also for hygiene and even therapy and treatment of illness.
The first defense against the spread of illness lies in good hygiene practices. While this idea is widely accepted today, it was considered groundbreaking or even outright controversial in Ellen White’s day (mid-to-late 1800s).
Indoor plumbing was largely inaccessible to the general population, and regular bathing or the full washing of clothes was not standard routine.
Because of this, she made it clear in her writings that the use of water for cleanliness is absolutely essential:
“Upon rising in the morning, most people would benefit by taking a sponge or hand bath. This will remove all impurities from the skin, and keep it moist and supple, thereby aiding the circulation. Persons in health should on no account neglect frequent bathing. Whether a person is sick or well, respiration is rendered more free and full by bathing. The mind and body are alike invigorated…. The bath is a soother of the nerves.”10
Now who would disagree that a warm bath can calm frazzled nerves and help us unwind after a hectic day? But back then, things were different. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that doctors even regularly washed their hands in between patients!11
When water is used in the prevention of illness and treatment of disease, it’s referred to as hydrotherapy. And Ellen White often promoted its use at different Adventist sanitariums (health centers).
One common hydrotherapy treatment was contrast baths. Whenever a patient was ill or had a fever, they would undergo hot and cold water treatments to stimulate white blood cell production and help the body fight infection. During these treatments, a patient would switch between hot and cold water baths.
Nowadays, the way that we fight infections has changed, and though hydrotherapy still exists, we also have access to medications and antibiotics that weren’t available in the mid-19th century.
But hydrotherapy remains an essential form of treatment for many conditions of the body and can even work together with modern medical care.12 Hydration, hygiene, and hot/cold water treatments can still be helpful today.
Now, let’s look at what the Bible says about water, and various spiritual applications we can draw from these lessons.
What does the Bible say about water?
Water is talked about 722 times throughout the Bible, and in several different ways. But let’s focus on a few specific ones:
- Quenching thirst/salvation
Hygiene and bathing
The first references to bathing are casual references in Genesis. People would wash their feet before entering a dwelling area after traveling or working outside. Offering the water for this footbath was also considered an act of hospitality when welcoming travelers inside (Genesis 19:2; 24:32; 43:24).
We find more specific references to bathing, washing, and keeping things clean when the children of Israel had been set free from slavery and were re-learning how to govern themselves in practical, healthy ways.
Among many sets of instructions for avoiding disease and maintaining health, God included the importance of washing their clothes,13 as well as washing themselves with water if they become ceremonially unclean.14
Throughout the rest of the Bible, there are several casual references to bathing. Plus, a few times, its importance is implied because of what it symbolizes.
For example, when Namaan was following the prophet Elisha’s instructions to be cleansed of his leprosy by God’s power, he had to bathe in a river (2 Kings 5:14).
Jesus even brings up bathing while discussing how it’s just as important to be inwardly clean as it is to be outwardly clean (John 13:10).
Another way water is discussed in the Bible is in regard to baptism.
Baptism by being immersed in water is a symbolic act of dying to your human self and being resurrected into a new, righteous self by the cleansing power of Jesus.
Jesus Himself displayed this public act of dedication in the Bible by being baptized in the Jordan river by John the Baptist (John 1:29–34).
Baptism by immersion remains a celebration of commitment in Christian churches today, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
And the water’s symbolism of cleansing and purity is at the heart of it all. It demonstrates the restorative power of God, serving as a public declaration that the person is claiming Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Cleansing and purification
Similar to the metaphor used in baptism, the Bible also talks about water in relation to events that cleanse or purge sin and disease.
One example is the story about Noah and the ark.
During Noah’s lifetime, the world was so sinful that all people, except for Noah and his family, had rejected God. In order to preserve goodness in the world, and to keep human beings from destroying one another, God sent a flood—a lot of water—to cleanse the earth of the evil that had become rampant (Genesis 6–9).
We can also look at the rituals of the Israelites when they worshiped at the sanctuary in the desert, or later in the temple at Jerusalem. Before doing any rituals or making any sacrifices that symbolized the power and restorative love of God, the priests were instructed to wash their hands and feet first.
Not only did this make sure they were physically clean as they performed their temple tasks, but it also represented spiritual purification.
Another example has to do with cleansing of disease.
In the story of Naaman mentioned earlier, the prophet Elisha told Naaman to wash himself in the river. But he was given specific instructions on how to do that. He had to dunk himself in the Jordan seven times, and after the seventh dip, God healed him from leprosy (2 Kings 5:1–19)—a disease considered untreatable and highly “unclean.”
The literal use of water provided meaning to the spiritual cleansing Naaman experienced.
Thirst and salvation
The Bible talks about water as necessary for satisfying both physical and spiritual thirst.
Some examples of the spiritual thirst include:
- “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3, NKJV).
- “I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (Revelation 21:6, NKJV).
- “They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13, NKJV).
- “And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17, NKJV).
Jesus also describes Himself as living water that satisfies our deepest needs. One notable moment is when Jesus encountered a woman at a well (John 4).
A Samaritan woman had gone to the well to fetch water in the heat of the day. She was an outcast on several levels—as a Samaritan, she was despised by Jews, and as a woman who’d had five husbands, she was an outcast in her own society.
In fact, the reason she had gone to the well at midday when no one else goes out was so she wouldn’t have to encounter anyone else. But Jesus was there.
After a brief exchange, He offered her water that would permanently quench the thirsting of her soul:
“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13–14, NKJV).
And just chapters later, Jesus said,
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37–38, NKJV).
The Bible’s use of water as a metaphor helps us understand how we need Christ to live abundantly, just as we need water. David’s Psalms are a good place to start:
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Psalms 42:1, NKJV).
There is nothing like the feeling of drinking a cold glass of water when you’re thirsty! Our souls feel that same kind of relief, joy, and fullness when we rely on God.
Water is a vital necessity that we can’t do without, and it’s a resource that God has abundantly supplied—about 71% of earth’s surface is covered by water!15
This fact shows that just like God created us with a thirst for water, He also abundantly supplies that need.
Similarly, He created us with a need to experience His love and to love Him, and He has amply provided for that need through Jesus Christ.
Water is God’s gift to us
There is no doubt that drinking water and using it for hygiene is absolutely essential to living healthfully.
The first and easiest way to acknowledge the importance of water is to simply drink more!
When we care for our bodies and minds, we are keeping ourselves spiritually healthy as well. Our body is “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, CSB) and part of caring for our bodies is staying clean and hydrated.
As we drink water for physical health, it can remind us that God will sustain us. Just as we depend on water to survive, our souls depend on God for peace, abundance, and salvation.
A substance as simple, common, and natural as water can have endless positive effects in our lives. When we choose to look at ourselves holistically—including our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health—we can live lives that honor God.
Want to improve your health and learn more about the Adventist health message?
- “The Water in You: Water and the Human Body,” Water Science School, USGS. [↵]
- Ibid. [↵]
- “Water and Healthier Drinks,” CDC. [↵]
- Williams, DeWitt, “More Water Equals Proportionally Better Health, Say Church Health Leaders,” Adventist News. [↵]
- “Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?” Mayo Clinic. [↵]
- “Dehydration,” Cleveland Clinic. [↵]
- “Frequent Sauna Bathing Reduces Risk of Stroke,” University of Finland; “Hydrotherapy,” Textbook of Natural Medicine (Fifth Edition), 2020; “A Study of Hydrotherapy and Its Health Benefits,” International Journal of Research, vol. 1(8), 2014. [↵]
- White, Ellen G., Ministry of Healing (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1905), p. 237. [↵]
- “How Much Water Should You Drink?” Harvard Health Publishing. [↵]
- White, Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene (Good Health Publishing Company, 1890), p. 106. [↵]
- Little, Becky, “It Took Surprisingly Long for Doctors to Figure Out the Benefits of Hand Washing,” History; “‘Wash Your Hands’ Was Once Controversial Medical Advice,” National Geographic. [↵]
- “Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body,” North American Journal of Medical Sciences. [↵]
- Exodus 19:10–11; Leviticus 14:8; 15:5, 13. [↵]
- Leviticus 15:11, 16; 16:4; Numbers 19:19; Deuteronomy 23:11. [↵]
- “How Much Water Is There on Earth?” USGS. [↵]
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