Definition: Suicide is of Latin origin (sui = of oneself, cidium = a slaying). The word is used of killing oneself, self- murder.
It is nothing new. The Bible mentions several who contemplated, attempted, or accomplished suicide [(1) Saul (1 Samuel 31:4-5); (2) Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23); (3) Zimri (1 Kings 16:15-ff); (4) Judas (Matthew 27:5); (5) Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:27)]. One historian has written of the Roman world, “Suicide was considered an open door through which a man might escape the woes of the life at any time and that he had a perfect right to avail himself of it. Pliny looked upon death as one of the best gifts given to man by which a man could remove himself from the miseries of life, and Seneca congratulates the human race on this ‘liberty’ which is in the reach of all” (James Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom, p. 23).
1. Life is from God (Genesis 2:7). “He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25 cf. 1 Timothy 6:13). “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalms 100:3).
2. All creation belongs to God (Psalm 24:1; 50:10-11; Job 41:11; Ezekiel 18:4). This includes man. God declares, “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine” (Ezekiel 18:4). Christians should understand that they are not their own. Paul writes, “Do you not know… you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
3. One’s purpose on earth is to serve God, not self. “None of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:7-8). We’re to be as Paul, who said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Our lives are to be conduits to His glory (1 Corinthians 6:20: 10:31). Paul says of Jesus, “All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).
4. Man is not to be his own master. “The way of man is not in himself, it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). The Psalmist had the proper approach to life when he said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). We need to let God’s word lead us down the right path. We need to have Divine authority for what we do (Colossians 3:17).
5. It is worth noting that every contemplated, attempted, or accomplished suicide in the Bible involved those who were not right with God (see paragraph two for list). Not once does one find a man or woman who is right with God taking his or her own life.
6. When life is difficult, remember Job. He was a man who experienced: (a) financial ruin (Job 1:14-17); (b) death of employees (Job 1:14-17); (c) death of all of his ten children (Job 1:2; 18-19); (d) serious, debilitating, physical illness (Job 2:4-8). This illness continued for months on end (Job 7:3; 29:2); (e) an unsupportive spouse (Job 2:9); (f) alienation from friends and family (Job 19:13; cf. 42:11). Friends blamed him for the death of his children (Job 5:4; 8:4; 17:5; 18:6). Friends falsely accused him of mistreating the poor (Job. 20:19; 22:5-7). This may have been motivated by envy. This may have been motivated by fear of thinking this could happen to anyone (cf. Job 6:21), so Job, they decided, must be guilty of something.
The patience of Job is an example for us (James 5:11). He, at times, wished to die (Job 3:1-22; 6:8-9; 7:15). However, he never took it upon himself to end his life. Moreover, he never turned his back upon God (Job 1:8; 1:20-22; 2:3; 2:9-10; 42:7-9).
7. When life is difficult, remember what awaits the faithful. Paul said, “I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed” (Romans 8:18). Again, “We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day-to-day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1).
8. Even painful, unpleasant situations can be used by God for good. Joseph was mistreated by his brothers (Genesis 37:12-ff). He was sold into slavery (Genesis 37:27-28; 39:1). He was wrongfully accused of rape or attempted rape (Genesis 39:17-18) and imprisoned (Genesis 39:20). However, God was using all of this for good (Genesis 50:19-20).
9. Some take their life thinking that their life is so messed up that it can’t be turned around (e.g. Judas). However, Peter, after his three denials of the Lord, went on to do great things. Moreover, Paul that persecutor of the church, went on to do great things.
10. There’s no second chance on the other side (Hebrews 9:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Suicide seals things up for eternity.
Suicide is common in our culture. It is the eleventh leading cause of death (2003 Statistic, see www.alphapublications.org). It is especially prevalent in the elderly (1990 – 2001 study; see www.suicide.org). It is the third leading cause of death for those between age 10-24 years (2004 statistic, see www.cdc.gov). Alaska, by far has the highest suicide rate in the country [(2004 statistic, www.suicide.org). It is nearly four times the rate of Washington D.C. It is over double the rate of Texas].
Some have wondered if all who commit suicide are mentally ill. Normally men do not wish to harm themselves (cf. Ephesians 5:29).
It is my belief that at least some are capable of rational thought (cf. Philippian jailer). Why would one of sound mind take his own life? Several possibilities exist: (a) They may believe in reincarnation. They can just begin again. (b) They may believe in no after-life, no eternal reward or punishment. They can just be done with their misery. (c) They may believe that God welcomes all into Heaven, as in ‘once-saved-always-saved’. They think their death will lead them to paradise. Improper views of the after-life are an explanation of why some of sound mind might choose this end.
I do suspect that many are not of sound mind. Wayne Jackson has written, “A person can become mentally ill and then, in that state, do things for which they are not morally accountable. Many of us have seen older folks, or those who have suffered brain damage due to strokes or accidents, do or say things that they would never have done or said during their responsible years. And so if a person slips into a state of mental illness where they no longer can exercise responsible control over what they are doing, and then in that state commit suicide, surely they will not be held accountable for such irrational conduct. But remember this: every person is accountable for his or her actions up to the point of losing rationality” (www.christiancourier.com/articles/183-is-a-child-who-commits-suicide-lost). The Judge of all the earth is all-knowing. He will render justice.