Suicide Is Not Painless
Suicide is defined as the taking of one's own life intentionally, with premeditation and while in possession of a sound mind. Our English word comes from two Latin words: "sui" which means "self" and "cadere" which means "to kill."
In some societies, it was and is considered an honorable way to die in some circumstances; perhaps to reclaim lost honor, or to show sincerity, or to cease being a burden to others.
In America, the suicide rate has more than tripled among teens to over 5,000 annually. It has become the second leading cause of death among those 13-21 years of age. In one recent survey of over 11,000 persons of this age group, 25% of the boys and 42% of the girls stated that they had previously thought of taking their own life. Meanwhile, at the other end of life's spectrum, among those 65 years of age and older the suicide rate rose 25% between 1981 and 1986.
We are going to examine what the Bible says about suicide, but before we do there is a clarification which needs to be made. The word "suicide" does not include the giving of one's own life, but the taking of it. For example, a soldier who wants to live but sacrifices himself to save the lives of others is giving his life. A fireman who rushes into a burning building on a rescue attempt is risking his life for others. These are noble, selfless efforts, as is giving one's life for a higher cause, as did Samson (JUDGES 16:28-30). But certainly, the most powerful example of this kind of sacrifice is that of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (JOHN 15:13).
PEOPLE IN THE BIBLE WHO COMMITTED SUICIDE
"And he threw the pieces of silver into the sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself" (MATTHEW 27:5). Judas was so filled with remorse for his betrayal of Jesus that he lost control. He no doubt felt the deepest dispair and evidently could see no hope anywhere. He ended his own life rather than to attempt to deal with his guilt. He is probably the most famous of those Bible personalities who committed suicide.
The first king of Israel, Saul , the son of Kish, also committed suicide (I SAMUEL 31:4,5). He had been acting irrationally for some time, given to fits of paranoia and rage. He had also become increasingly estranged from God due to his faithlessness. However, it is not during one of those episodes that he kills himself. Instead, he finds himself wounded and surrounded in battle, and rather than allow himself to be taken alive and shamefully treated by his enemies, he orders his armour bearer to kill him. The armour bearer refuses and so King Saul takes his own life.
One of King David's own sons, Absolom, rebelled against David and usurped the throne. One of Absolom's advisors, Ahithophel, suggested that Absolom needed to attack his father's forces swiftly, while another suggested that he wait and gain more strength. Absolom followed the latter's advice upon which Ahithophel went and committed suicide. As it turned out, Absolom took the wrong advice and it ultimately cost him both the kingdom and his own life (II SAMUEL 17:23).
Finally, there is Zimri, a wicked king in Israel's history. When he is under siege and sees that the battle is lost, he retreats into the citadel of the king's house and burns it down around himself (I KINGS 16:18-20).
It is noteworthy that in each and every case of suicide in the Bible, those doing the deed are wicked individuals. There are no people of faith in the Bible who kill themselves, although there are some times when some of them desire death over life (i.e. Job, Elijah, Jonah). While they might desire such, they never take it upon themselves to take their own lives. JEHOVAH IS LORD OF OUR BEINGS
"Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture" (PSALM 100:3).
Seneca, the ancient Greek Stoic philosopher, would have disagreed with the above verse. He viewed man as lord of his own being. Such a philosophy suggests that it is entirely up to each individual as to whether he continues to live or not. If one opts to commit suicide, then it is his right and there is no evil in it at all. Today's euthanasia and suicide rights advocates follow the same type of philosophical reasonings. However, such denies that we belong to the Lord and that we have received our lives from Him (cf. I CORINTHIANS 6:19-20 ; ROMANS 14:7,8). God is the source of human life, but not in the same sense that He is the source of all life. While God is the source of animal life, He is the source of human life in a very unique sense. Human life began when God breathed of His eternal spirit into the nostrils of the man He had formed from the ground. This is not how He imparted life to other of earth's creatures, and this is what makes human life so special. This is why human beings are referred to as "the offspring of God" in the Bible. Because man is created in the image of God, it is wrong to murder a human being (GENESIS 9:6).
Suicide is self-murder. It involves ending the life of one who bears the image of God.
WHY THE TRAGEDY IS GROWING
"For in Him we live and move and exist, even as some of your own poets have said, For we are His offspring" (ACTS 17:28). Why would a person decide to end his or her life? What forces are at work in our society today that are causing this tragedy to grow?
First, there is a growing conviction that human life is just not worth very much. Human value is often determined by materialistic measurements such as how much money or possessions a person may have, or how a person looks. If one of the prevailing status symbols is unattainable, then a person feels that he may not be worth much. Also, there is a lot of injustice in the world. Human life is devalued a little further with every abortion, drive by shooting and musical lyric suggesting that people are mere objects. Some educators teach us from a young age that human life is merely an accident on the cosmic scene. If we are only apes with big brains then what makes a difference as to whether we live or die? The home is no longer the safe haven it once was and ought to be still. It has been often wrecked by infidelity, godlessness, selfishness, abuse and neglect. A home does not have to "break up" to be "broken." The decline of spirituality no doubt adds to the problem. If we are not accountable to a Supreme Being and if we will not one day face Him in judgment; if when we die then we enter a state of eternal nothingness, then we will look at death as sleep. Thus, humanism and atheism adds to the idea that death is a viable alternative when considering an answer to one's problems.
We live in a transient society today. Far fewer people are born, live and then die in the same community. This fosters less personal involvement and loss of identity. Drug and alcohol use are often associated with suicide. These are also symptoms of an unhappy society. We also find a startling increase in immorality. As Hollywood, rock and country stars sing the praises of loose living, we see degradation and a loss of self-worth. People are more than the sum of their biological parts. What is gained by promiscuity is overwhelmed by what is lost. Suicide becomes a much easier alternative in a society afflicted with the above problems.
The Christian rejects society's calls to conform with it. We are God's children. We have purpose to fulfill and God has good in store for us. No matter what may come, we, as Christians, always have hope.
By Jon Quinn
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