What Does the Bible Say About Suicide?
In the first chapter of the first book in the Bible, we read that God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27). Man was created for a purpose, and that ultimate purpose is to become an immortal member of the God Family.
In John 10, Jesus talks about Himself as being the good Shepherd and that He had “come that they have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (verse 10). In this day and age, God has only called very few people for salvation, but everyone will receive their opportunity to inherit eternal life when God deems that the time is right. Why would anyone who has received this marvelous calling today want to commit suicide? There are many “reasons” and “justifications” why even true Christians might erroneously think that this is the best course of action in their particular circumstances.
What circumstances would give rise to such a thought? Perhaps someone has an incurable disease (by man’s reckoning) and is in such severe pain that it seems to be the only way out of a terrible situation? Or someone doesn’t think him- or herself worthy of God’s calling and cannot reconcile the fact that he or she is a sinner who doesn’t seem to be making any progress in his or her life, perhaps even going backwards? What about someone who experiences demonic activity in his or her life which presses that individual to take such action as a way out of this misery? Drug or alcohol addiction, mental illness, depression, family issues, bullying and marital and financial problems can also be reasons why suicide might seem to be the answer, but it never is. When someone commits suicide, he or she will have to give an answer to God for that course of action within his or her very next waking moment.
The definition of suicide is “the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally.” Taken from “Key trends from the Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report 2017,” 6,188 suicides were registered in the UK and 451 in the Republic of Ireland, and the highest suicide rate in the UK was for men aged 40–44. According to “2016-National-Facts-Figures,” nearly 43,000 Americans die by suicide every year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death for ages 44 and under.
There are a number of examples in the Bible where suicide was committed. Ahithophel hanged himself (2 Samuel 17:23), Zimri burned himself (1 Kings 16:18), Saul fell on his sword, as did his armorbearer (1 Samuel 31:4-5), Judas hung himself (Matthew 27:3-5), and Samson killed himself, while destroying the pagan temple, knowing that his actions would lead to his death (Judges 16:29-30). Abimelech, a son of Gideon, asked his armorbearer to kill him, which he did (Judges 9:54), but some might dispute this as an example of suicide as Abimelech died at the hand of someone else. Perhaps “assisted suicide” might be an appropriate term (in legal terms, helping someone to commit suicide might also qualify as “aiding and abetting of murder” or even as “murder” itself), but in any event, the outcome was that Abimelech wanted to die and did so.
We read in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who (better “which”) is in you, whom (better “which”) you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” How could we even consider taking such drastic action, irrespective of our individual situation, when the Holy Spirit lives within us? Life belongs to God and the 6th Commandment tells us: “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13). We are not to kill either someone else or ourselves. Suicide, the taking of one’s own life, is equal to murder.
After Job had lost his property and his children, he stated that “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away” (Job 1:21). When someone takes their own life, it is an ungodly act because it rejects the life that God so graciously gave them in the first place. The meaning of Job 1:21 is that it is God who gives life and it is His prerogative and authority to take life away. It is not within a human being’s right or authority to do so.
King David stated in Psalm 31:15 that “my times are in Your hands.” Albert Barnes observed: “All that pertained to us is under the control and at the disposal of God. We shall live as long as God has appointed; we shall pass through such changes as he directs; we shall die when and where and how he chooses.”
In Deuteronomy 30:19, God told the ancient Israelites to choose life: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” It was blessings or cursings – blessings for living the life that God would have us lead, or cursings for choosing to disobey God, leading to death.
What about those who have been baptised in the Church of God and received the Holy Spirit, and who subsequently take their own life? Are they lost forever? They would certainly have known that it was wrong, but we all sin in many different ways, and we don’t know another person’s heart or situation. We do read in Psalm 103:11: “For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him.” In James 2:13, we read: “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” God is a merciful God, and He will always make the right decision about everyone. For instance, even though Samson committed suicide, he will be in God’s Kingdom, as Hebrews 11 tells us. On the other hand, it appears that King Saul will not be, but he had lost the Holy Spirit quite a while before his final act, and it is for God to make these kinds of ultimate judgments.
Suicidal thoughts can happen to the best of people. Towards the end of his life, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 2:17: “Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” In Ecclesiastes 12:13, he also wrote: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all (or: “the whole duty of man”). For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether it is good or whether it is evil.”
Both Elijah and Jonah at one point wanted to die; Jeremiah encountered serious moments of despair; and the apostle Paul and his friends were under significant pressure at times. We read in 2 Corinthians 1:8: “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.” Even great men in the Bible had their very difficult moments, as we ourselves can have those today.
But this does not justify suicide, assisted suicide or aiding and abetting murder by any stretch of the imagination. Taking one’s own life or helping someone else to do so is a sinful act. Even though there are usually extreme circumstances that may have driven people over the edge to do this, and even though we may have no idea of the pressure that others may be under, nor do we know their hearts, we also know that we must never take such action. God, as a merciful and loving God, will judge them righteously and fairly, something that any man would be incapable of doing.
Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)