Clarence S. Johnson
. . . Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job spoke, and said: `May the day perish on which I was born, and the night in which it was said, "A male child is conceived. . ." Why did I not die at birth? Why did it not perish when I came from the womb? . . . Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, who long for death, but it does not come?" (Job 3:lff)
At the beginning of Job's story, he had been healthy and wealthy with seven sons, three daughters, servants, flocks, herds, and other possessions in abundance. But in rapid succession, he lost them all. His wife advised him, "Curse God and die" (Job 2:9).
His friends gathered to console him, but their suggestions and advice only wearied him the more. He wished he had never been born. He longed for death to release him from his adversity. He complained bitterly about the misery that befell him. What was happening to him was beyond his comprehension.
But he didn't commit suicide. He didn't throw away the life God had given him and thrust himself into eternity. Job reasoned, "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10)
Job opted to complete life's course and to keep his faith. His story has a bright ending. "Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning, for he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. . . In all the land were found no daughters so beautiful as the daughters of Job" (Job 42:12ff).
What a loss it would have been what a waste what a sin, if Job had lost patience with God and ended his life prematurely.
Suicide Is Sinful
Suicide is sinful. It violates every passage of Scripture that tells us not to kill (Rom. 3:19, etc.).
And while it is true that a few who commit suicide are mentally incompetent and not morally or spiritually account-able (Jas. 4:17), this is certainly not the case with many. In fact, "innocent by reason of insanity" pleads better in a human court than it will when we stand before the Lord in the final judgment.
Not only does suicide violate all the passages that tells us not to kill, it is almost always an act of extreme selfishness, and often an act of retaliation against family members, friends, or unresponsive lovers for wrongs or supposed wrongs they have done. As such it violates Romans 12:17-21 and many similar passages.
There are several cases of suicide recorded in the Scriptures, with no hint that the perpetrators might somehow escape God's judgment.
The first case of suicide is that of Abimelech. Some might deny that his death is suicide, since Abimelech did not wield the sword himself, but rather commanded his armor-bearer to do it. Technically, this may be so, but for all general purposes, Abimelech committed suicide. He was the son of Gideon. He killed his 70 brothers (except for one who hid and escaped unnoticed) in an attempt to become the first king of Israel. A woman dropped a millstone on his head from a tower as he passed by, critically injuring him. He ordered his armor-bearer to kill him so that it would not be said that a woman had killed him. Perhaps, he thought in this way he could die a hero.
2. King Saul, the first legitimate king of Israel also committed suicide. Saul's case is similar in many ways. He had been severely wounded in battle, and he too commanded his armor-bearer to commit the act. In Saul's case the armor-bearer refused to co-operate, so Saul fell on his own sword (1 Sam. 31:4).
Seeing that his master was dead, Saul's armor-bearer then drew his own sword and likewise killed himself (1 Sam. 31:5-6).
Ahithophel had been a trusted adviser to King David, but became a traitor and joined in the rebellion of David's wayward son Absalom. When Absalom heeded the advice of Hushai instead of that of Ahithophel, Ahithophel foresaw the disaster that would befall the rebellion. When he saw that his counsel was not followed, "he saddled his donkey and arose and went home to his house, to his city. Then he put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died; and he was buried in his father's tomb" (2 Sam. 17;23).
Zimri was a servant of King Elah of Israel and commander of half of his chariots. He murdered Elah and his entire family, took over the palace and ruled for seven days. As Omri, commander of the army closed in to take the kingdom away from him, "Zimri saw that the city was taken. . . He went into the citadel of the king's house and burned the king's house down upon himself with fire, and died" (1 Kgs. 16:18).
6. The case of Judas Iscariot is so well known as to need little comment. When Judas realized the full nature of his betrayal of Jesus, he sought to correct his error. Seeing that his evil deed could not be undone, he hanged himself in remorse and despair (Matt. 27:4-5). Judas could have been forgiven for his betrayal of Jesus, just as Peter was forgiven for denying him. But Judas lost his faith, and flung himself into an eternity apart from God.
To these six cases of suicide, some would perhaps add the name of Samson. Samson is more properly viewed as a casuality of war. He would, no doubt, have spared himself if there had been a way to do so and still accomplish the victory over the Philistia (Judg. 16:30).
The Scriptures also record a case of near suicide. Paul and Silas had been arrested, beaten, chained and imprison-ed. In their cell, they were singing and praising God when an earthquake occurred. "And the keeper of the prison, awaking from asleep and seeing the prison doors open, sup-posing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, 'Do yourself no harm, for we are all here"' (Acts 16:27-28).
Suicide Does Not "End It All"
Some think, when life becomes unpleasant, that suicide is the way to "end it all." This is a sad and serious mistake. Physical death does not end it all. The Bible clearly indicates that both consciousness and memory survive the grave. In Luke 16, Jesus tells of the life and death of two men, Lazarus and an un-named rich man. "So it was that the beg-gar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.' But Abraham said, `Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented"' (Lk. 16:22-25).
Physical death did not end it all for Lazarus. Physical death did not end it all for Abraham. And physical death did not end it all for the "rich man." Physical death does not "end it all."
Perhaps when Judas flung himself into eternity, he hoped he would erase the memory of the betrayal. But memory survives death (Lk. 16:25). Perhaps he was simply carrying out the penalty he believed he deserved for his crime. Perhaps. But he could have had forgiveness instead.
Some misguided souls embrace suicide as the way to become a hero. Abimelech didn't want to be known as the ruler who was killed by a woman but suicide did not make him anyone's hero. In the short term, one might think suicide will help a person to make his mark, to be truly noticed, talked about and remembered, but as we look back over all of recorded history, we do not see anyone who became a hero by suicide, or who has been any longer remembered as a result of that act than he would otherwise have been. Suicide simply is not the way to a hero's death.
Not A Highway to Heaven
Throughout history, some have turned to suicide as the route to be re-united with a friend or loved one who has died. This too, is a great mistake. Since the Bible indicates two distinct destinies after death, it is not certain you would be re-united with your friend, even in death. In fact, if your friend is in the place of comfort, suicide is not the path that will lead you there. Willful sin does not lead a person to heaven.
If, on the other hand, your friend is not in the place of comfort, he does not want you to be where he is and you don't want to be there (Lk. 16:27-28).
False Doctrine Takes Its Toll
There are numerous false doctrines and philosophies that have been promoted over the past several decades that have paved the way for a multitude of suicides.
"Some misguided souls
Materialism is the idea that the here and now is all there is, that there is no hereafter, that spiritual values are not real. This philosophy is diametrically opposed to the teaching of Jesus: "One's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Lk. 12:15). When the stock market crashes, many of those who emphasize only the material things in life crash along with it. Many fail to find real meaning in life because they are trying to find it in earthly possessions and worldly relationships. The false doctrine of materialism has led many to commit the ultimate crime against themselves.
Another outgrowth of our materialistic society is the concept that suicide is not wrong that "I have a right to do anything I want to my own body." This too is in op-position to the teachings of the Scriptures. Paul would re-mind us, "You are not your own. . . You were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:19-20). While it is true that what Paul said applies especially to Christians, in a sense it is true of all since Jesus tasted death for everyone (Heb. 2:9). Jesus bought me, body and soul. I do not have a right to do anything with my body or to my body that violates his will.
Some well-meaning religious teachers have twisted certain passages of Scripture to support their theory of "once saved, always saved." One such teacher in California a few years ago was counseling a person who was depressed and suicidal. The teacher did indeed attempt to persuade his "patient" not to commit suicide, but at the same time, he continued to assure him that suicide would in no way jeopardize the welfare of his soul. Needless to say, the "patient" committed suicide. The false teacher and his false doctrine were partly responsible. The Bible does not teach that the sins of any accountable person will be forgiven automatically. Christians are taught the necessity of repentance and confession of their sins to God, in order that they may be forgiven (Acts 8:22; 1 In. 1:9). Suicide forever closes the door to such repentance and confession, and thus thwarts the plan of salvation God has given for the erring Christian.
Many preachers and religious leaders in our modern day society are too "kind and merciful" to preach about hell. In fact, in the universities and seminaries of most denominations all the passages teaching about hell and its horror have been re-examined and "explained away." But a closer look at the Bible will show that they are still there!
No preacher was ever kinder, more merciful or more loving than Jesus, yet he preached more about the reality of hell than any other Bible personality. He was too wise to be mistaken, too honest to deceive us, and he loved us too much to withhold from us the vital truth about hell: "And if your hand makes you sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. And if your eye makes you sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched" (Mk. 9:43-48). He who believes what Jesus taught about hell is not likely to commit suicide.
"Do Yourself No Harm" (Acts 16:28)
Now, let us return to Paul's admonition to the Philippian jailer, "Do yourself no harm."
The jailer perceived that Paul and Silas had something he lacked. They had been beaten, bound and imprisoned, but instead of cursing and grumbling, they were singing praises to God. The earthquake shook open the prison doors. They could have escaped, but they did not. The jailer "called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, `Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"'
He knew they had a contentment he had never known. Their response: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." But how could he believe on one he knew nothing about (Rom. 10:14)? "Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house."
Upon hearing what Paul and Silas preached about Jesus, the jailer repented of his sins and obeyed the gospel Paul preached. "And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household" (Acts 16:28-34).
An hour before, he had been in despair. He had been about to take his own life. Hearing the good news of Jesus, believing that gospel, and obeying it brought salvation and rejoicing to the jailer's house in the same hour of the night.
Having become a Christian, the jailer immediately began to help bear the problems of other Christians. The first step in making your life meaningful as it is supposed to be is to become a Christian.
Of course, being a Christian does not magically dissolve all problems. But God has promised to supply the strength necessary to bear up under whatever tests, temptations and problems life may bring (1 Cor. 10:13). Jesus has invited us to cast our cares upon him, with the assurance that he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7).
He has also given us the responsibility to help our brothers and sisters in Christ as they bear life's burdens, with a realization that they will also help us in bearing our own burdens as we go through life (Gal. 6:2).
Finally, Paul assures the faithful Christians that life's greatest problems are temporary and relatively insignificant in view of eternity: "Therefore we do not lose heart . . . 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" (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 9, p. 6-8