What the Bible Teaches about Suicide

Dark Forest

Suicide is the act by which one intentionally takes his own life. In other words, this is not an accident, not one sacrificing his life for some other person or for some cause, and not making the decision to end treatment for a terminal illness. This is the purposeful act of one ending his own life.

To get an idea of the extent of the problem of suicide in our society, notice a few statistics (all of these numbers are for suicides in the United States):

There is not a specific passage in the Bible that explicitly states that suicide is either right or wrong. Therefore, we need to consider principles that relate to this issue to understand how we should view it.

This is a sensitive topic, but we need to understand what the Bible says that relates to it.

Principles to Consider

Every human life is precious – In the beginning, man was made “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). This means that every life is valuable. This is also the reason why murder is wrong. Shortly after the flood, God said, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6). Murder is always wrong because all people are made in God’s image.

Furthermore, Jesus showed the value of each human life by coming to earth to die on the cross for everyone. He told Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Paul told the Romans, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The love of God which offers eternal life through the death of Christ has been extended to each person individually.

There are implications to the command to love our neighbor – Paul explained that the law could be “summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Romans 13:9). Notice he did not just say that loving their neighbor was the foundation of the law; rather, it was loving their neighbor as themselves. God designed us to have a natural sense of self-worth. This can be seen in the command to husbands to love their wives: “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does for the church” (Ephesians 5:28-29). If they did not understand the underlying principle of caring for themselves, how could they understand properly how to care for their wives?

Of course, this natural sense of self-worth can lead to arrogance if it is not kept in check by humility. Paul admonished the brethren in Philippi: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). We must not be arrogant and think of ourselves as being better than or more important than others. At the same time, we cannot properly love our neighbor if we do not recognize our own inherent worth and then willingly put others first.

Our bodies are not our own – Paul told the Corinthians, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The “price” with which we “have been bought” is something more valuable than any material thing we can hope to have in this life. Peter wrote, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). This also supports the first point in which we noticed that every human life is precious. Jesus shed His precious blood to redeem each one of us.

Since we have been redeemed, we are to “glorify God in [our] body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). This includes fulfilling our God-given responsibilities to our spouse, children, parents, church, work, and so on. Suicide means we do not get to fulfill those obligations by which we glorify God.

Murder is condemned throughout the Bible – We already noticed God’s statement to Noah: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6). One of the Ten Commandments was, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Near the end of the New Testament, the Lord told John that “murderers” would be among those whose “part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

By implication, the condemnation of murder would also apply to self-murder (suicide). After all, whether someone murders another human being or kills himself, he is deliberately taking the life of one who was made in the image of God. The Bible only contains negative examples of suicide – the wicked King Saul (1 Samuel 31:1-4) and Judas the betrayer of Jesus (Matthew 27:3-5). There is no instance in the Bible in which suicide is portrayed in a favorable light.

The desire to be with Christ and escape this life does not justify suicide – Often when a religious person or believer in Christ takes his own life, many will come to the defense of the one who committed this act. They do this by citing the difficulties he faced in life and affirm that because of these difficulties, he needed to be with Christ so he took his own life. However, all Christians will face difficulties in life. Paul said, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). If we have faith, we should have the same attitude as the apostle Paul. He “suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that [he] may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). His ultimate goal was to be with Christ, but not by suicide.

Consider the examples of righteous men who suffered greatly in this life:

  • After Job lost everything, his wife told him, “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Yet Job said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10). Just as he had enjoyed God’s blessings, he was willing to endure hardships.
  • Elijah was weary from doing the Lord’s work, so he prayed to God, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life” (1 Kings 19:4). He was tired and wanted his task on earth to be over. Yet he requested God to take his life; he did not take his own life.
  • Paul knew that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). He recognized that “to depart and be with Christ…is very much better” (Philippians 1:23). Yet rather than taking his own life in an attempt to “be with Christ,” he saw the great need to “remain on in the flesh” in order to help his brethren (Philippians 1:24-25).

These men faced severe hardships. They would be better off after their lives were over. By faith they knew that. However, by faith they also remained on in this life and continued to endure the trials that came upon them until it was time for their lives to be over.

Questions to Be Answered

These principles help us understand the Biblical view of suicide. Consider the following questions:

Is every human life precious? Yes! Each one has been made in the image of God. Then suicide is wrong.

Are we to value our own lives? Yes! God placed within us an inherent sense of self-worth. Then suicide is wrong.

Do our bodies belong to God? Yes! We have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Then suicide is wrong.

Is murder condemned? Yes! It is wrong to willfully take the life of one who has been made in the image of God. Then suicide is wrong.

Should we desire to be with Christ? Yes! But that does not make suicide right. We have work to do for the Lord in the present time.

Follow-up Concerns

Inevitably, when addressing these points, some will have honest concerns and will ask – whether verbally or not – some related questions.

What about those who suffer from depression or mental illness and commit suicide? – It is possible that someone, because of certain mental conditions, is unaccountable for his actions. That does not mean the action is not wrong, it just means he is unaccountable. One who suffers from these conditions that so affect the mind may do any number of things he would not otherwise do if he was in his right mind. Taking his own life is just one possibility.

If suicide is a sin, does that mean those who commit suicide have no chance to be forgiven? – Some people have trouble accepting that suicide may be wrong because it leaves the one who committed suicide with no opportunity to make it right with the Lord. However, if suicide is wrong, the sin is in the attempt (self-inflicted harm). After all, there are many attempted suicides that do not result in one losing his life. The attempt is wrong and the death is a consequence of that action. There are many times when one is killed as a consequence of his sin. Someone may become drunk, get behind the wheel of a car, and die in an accident. Another man may commit adultery, then get caught and killed by a jealous husband. Drunkenness and adultery are still sinful (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), even if there was no opportunity for the one who committed the sin to repent and seek forgiveness.

If we say suicide is a sin, aren’t we judging one who committed suicide and condemning him/her to hell? – We are to teach and warn about sin, no matter what that sin might be. This is not judging anyone, it is simply explaining God’s judgments to others. Going back to the point above, it is possible that one who committed suicide is unaccountable. We cannot judge them on that. We must teach the truth and leave judgment in the hands of God.

How to Help Someone with Thoughts of Suicide

First of all, encourage them to seek professional help. Sometimes this needs to be done. Despite our best intentions, most of us are incapable of dealing with potential issues of clinical depression, chemical imbalances, drug side effects, or other factors that could be contributing to their mental state.

Besides that, there are some other things we can do:

  • Make it clear that you are willing and available for them – Paul wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). When someone we know is facing challenges in life and we are able to help, we need to do so. In cases like this, it is important to make sure that person knows we are willing to help because he/she will often feel like no one cares or is concerned for them.
  • Help them see that God loves them and is concerned for them – We already noticed the extent of God’s love for each one of us: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We need to remind them of that. The Lord is “not wishing for any to perish” (2 Peter 3:9). We need to help them see that.
  • Remind them of the hope that exists in Christ – In Christ, we have hope in heaven. Paul wrote, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Because of this hope, we can endure all things in this life. Paul said, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am… I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13). Through Christ, we have hope and can endure all the trials and hardships of this life.

Conclusion

Suicide is becoming a bigger problem in our society. We need to try to understand it. Ultimately, the only true hope and joy is found in Christ. We must follow Him and lead others to do the same.


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Comments

  1. Wayne D. Teel says

    Good thoughts on a difficult subject. Thanks for bringing this subject to the attention of all of us. Suicide is not something that God would condone. We, as Christians, need to use our good influence to let those who may contemplate suicide know that this act is against what God desires. Give those who are despondent hope. Let them know they are loved by God and that suicide is not an option in ending their life. Strong faith and hope in God will chase away all thoughts of suicide.