People of faith and conscience are sensing what's coming down the pike. Questions like the following are surfacing throughout our nation.
• "Is mercy killing…death with dignity…euthanasia alright?"
• "What happens to people who kill themselves?"
• "Do Christians automatically go to hell if they take their own life?"
• "Is suicide the unpardonable sin?"
• "Suicide is caused by depression, a disease, so people aren't responsible, correct?"
• "Aren't sensitive subjects like this best left to medical-health professionals?"
• "The term 'suicide' isn't in the Bible, so who are we to judge?"
Suicide is a choice to intentionally take one's own life. It comes from the Latin words
sui ("of oneself ") and cid ("to kill").
In America there is a suicide every 13 minutes. Thirty-eight thousand deaths yearly are
attributed to suicide, and the figure is increasing. It's the leading cause of death
among 15-24 year-olds, and for those in their mid-40s to mid-60s there has been a
30% increase in the last decade. Ironically, psychiatrists have the highest suicide rate
among the medical professions.
People in the Bible who either took their lives or wanted to die includes: Saul, Moses,
Elijah, Jonah, Zimri, Ahithophel, Abimelech and Judas. Samson collapsed a building
on himself, but I view this as martyrdom since he is honored in Hebrews 11 for his
Here's the deal: Suicide is not God's will, and although it is not the unpardonable sin
(unbelief and rejection of Christ), it is a most dangerous and very serious sin. Amidst
the worst struggles of life, God always remains "an anchor for the soul, firm and
Sadly, there are countless millions who have no relationship with God to avail them-
selves of His help in the time of need, although some do cry out in their anguish, and
only God knows what transpires in those closing seconds. We do well to avoid speculation here.
Others suffer from genuine mental illness, debilitating depression and biological dis-
orders that can cloud/impair their judgment so they do not think clearly and rationally
in the throes of their crisis. Yes, suicide is sin, but is it at times a sin not leading to
eternal death (1 John 5:17)? Again we need to tread very carefully here.
Christians should never presume on the grace of God and risk gambling their eternal
destiny by suicide. Every one of us should walk in a healthy fear of God as we reflect
on warnings in Scripture:
• Heb. 10:26-31 cautions about sinning willfully and calls the genuineness of our salvation into question.
• Rev. 21:8 declares that murderers (suicide is a grave sin equivalent to murder) "shall have their part in the lake of fire."
God is the Author of life who ultimately has the authority to give and take this precious gift. We affirm this and say with Job, "I came naked from my mother's womb, and I shall have nothing when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had, and they were His to take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!" (Job 1:21, TLB).
Jesus revealed Satan as a "murderer" and the "father of lies" (John 8:44). It is this enemy of our soul who whispers "Life is not worth living "... "I can't go on"..."It'll only get worse"..."I'd be better off in the next life"... Yet while the "thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy," it is Jesus who reminds us, "but I have come that you might have life and have it in abundance" (John 10:10).
How About Depression and Desiring to Simply End It All?
Depression is real and, like it or not, it oftentimes stems from sinful choices and consequences. Obviously there are legitimate causes that are not necessarily sin-related, but that is an area outside the limited scope of this commentary. Too often commentators and counselors attribute suicide only to external causes—things that happen to us or come upon us instead of connecting them to our own wrong choices and sinful reactions.
The cumulative effects of persistently violating God's holy standards can result in people being crushed and bitter, then blaming God for their fate. "When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord" (Prov. 19:3).
Let's be honest: As our society has drifted increasingly away from Judeo-Christian foundations, suicides have increased dramatically especially among the young and middle-age baby boomers. How much of our pain, suffering and sleeplessness is really sin-related?
Studies show that in Europe the suicide rate has increased dramatically as biblical standards have been discarded over the decades. How much of this pain, restlessness, lack of peace, stress and infirmity is connected to sinful behavior causing masses to seek medication like antidepressants (as well as alcohol, marijuana and hard drugs) for escape and temporary relief?
Millions of people today feel depressed ("pressed down") but don't know why. Depression is not the root problem. The guilt people sense and try to dismiss is actually God convicting us and "pressing down" upon us that we might employ the privilege of confession and cleansing of conscience to find forgiveness and freedom in Him!
In 2014 the film that won Best Picture for the Golden Globe and the Academy Awards was entitled Boyhood. It was extolled by critics as a "Masterpiece!" It's 12 years in a boy's life recorded in real time. The story unfolds fornication, two divorces, debt, lying, physical and verbal abuse, drunkenness, drugs, profanity, destruction of property, exploitation of women, self-pity, out-of-wedlock birth, deceit, mockery of Christianity, thievery, dishonoring of parents, pornography and a closing scene featuring a woman sobbing in rehearsing her life and saying, "I just thought there'd be more!" The characters' lives apart from God could easily bring them to a place of suicide. Tragic.
Multitudes of deceived people need to be helped in seeing that their problem of depression is self-induced and not something that mysteriously and arbitrarily comes upon them like measles or the flu. Our job is to reach out and help these folks with the gospel and God's truth. Consider the high rates of suicide among the LGBT community - it's shocking.
A man was desperate and depressed. He went to an old buddy who counseled him to go and talk with a psychiatrist. He did but it brought no relief and neither did the meds. So the friend advised him to invest in a therapist. He did but his money was running out and the attempts at coping didn't deliver. Finally his friend told him of a circus in a nearby town where there was a clown who was hilarious and made everybody laugh. The deflated man began to cry and when he looked up he said, "I know that won't work because, you see, I am that clown."
Awareness Should Lead Us to Action
The elderly, those battling depression and those suffering from lost mobility, illness and disease need protection from assisted suicide.
They are very vulnerable and need caregivers and family to come to their aid. Jesus said, "I was sick and you visited me…" Regardless of cultural trends, we must rise to the occasion and lay down our lives in service for the needy knowing that everyone is created in the "image of God."
An excellent organization to contact is the "Patients Rights Action Fund" for resources and help.
My wife's parents are 93 and 90 years of age and, thank God, are receiving family care in an exemplary way. It is not easy but this is what it means to "honor your father and your mother" in the midst of a very self-centered, secular society today. For those without caring family members, this is an opportunity for the church to look on the horizon and serve as a witness for Christ.
My mother went on to live another seven years and when her time came she was flanked by my sister and me as we swabbed her lips and gently encouraged her to go. Just as I read the 91st Psalm to her, she yielded her spirit as I said these words, "For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands…"
"She's gone!" exclaimed my sister.
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints" (Psalm 116:15). Let's all be a part of the process of treating the departing as precious and dignified, the way God intended.