By Mike Willis
In recent months, Dr. Jack Kevorkian has received national attention because of his assisting those who are suffering to commit suicide. A jury in Michigan recently declared him innocent of committing a crime in assisting someone to commit suicide. The jury decided he was trying to end pain not to put someone to death.
Years ago, doctors made a decision to depart from the Hippocratic Oath in order to perform abortions. Now Dr. Kevorkian has departed from a second part of the Hippocratic Oath formerly taken by doctors. The Hippocratic Oath reads as follows: “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel. Further-more, I will not give to a woman an instrument to produce an abortion” (A Treasury of the Familiar 47). The rejection of the Hippocratic Oath is the rejection of the brighter lights of pagan ethics, in preference for the darker side of pagan morality.
As I have read of Dr. Death’s work in assisting people to commit suicide and to reshape America’s concept about euthanasia, I wondered what would have been the outcome had Dr. Kevorkian met Job.
Job Was A Likely Candidate For Suicide
The book of Job relates the story of a God-fearing man who was subjected to horrible suffering. Consider these horrible things that happened to this godly man:
1. Job lost his wealth. In one day, Job lost all of his fortunes. The Sabeans attacked, killing some of Job’s servants and taking his oxen and asses; lightning (fire of God) destroyed his sheep; the Chaldeans took his camels and slew others of his servants. Job changed from being a rich man to a pauper in one day. Several of those who lost everything in the stock market crash of the 1920s committed suicide, but Job did not lose heart.
2. Job lost his children. On the same day that these events happened, his seven sons and three daughters were together when a tornado (a great wind) hit the house they were in and killed all of them. I have known people whose faith was severely tested by the loss of one child, but what about Job losing all ten? Job said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21).
3. Job lost his health. The Devil next afflicted Job’s body with “sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown” (2:7). His flesh turned black (30:28,30) and became worm infested (7:5). He was so disfigured in appearance that his friends could not recognize him (2:12). His illness lasted for months (7:3). His suffering was so great that he could not sleep at night (7:4). Job lost all hope of things ever being better (7:7,13-14). 4. Job lost his social position. He was no longer respected in the community (12:4; 17:6). His friends turned against him (6:14-21). He became lonely (19:13-20; 30:29). He did not think that God was listening to his prayers (23:8-9).
5. His wife lost her faith (2:9). She who had been his faithful companion in the good times reacted to Job’s miserable condition by saying, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die.”
Job Wanted To Die
In his agony, Job expressed his desire for death to come and relieve him of his misery. He said,
Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived. Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it. Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year, let it not come into the number of the months (3:3-6).
Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave? Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in? (3:20-23)
So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life (7:15).
My soul is weary of my life (10:1).
Job became so despondent that he wanted to die.
What If Dr. Kevorkian Had Come to Job?
Can you imagine what might have happened, if Dr. Kevorkian had come to Job when he was suffering to this extent? Kevorkian might have used his platitudes to justify his doctor assisted suicide. He might have said, “Job has a right to choose to die without anyone imposing his moral judgments on him.” “The right of privacy should keep the state out of the decision to be made by the patient and his doctor.” “Job has a right to die with dignity.” “The quality of Job’s life has made life not worth living.” Kevorkian may have even persuaded himself and the press of his day into believing that he was acting magnanimously by putting Job out of his misery.
We Would Not Read of the Patience of Job
If Dr. Kevorkian had come and satisfied Job’s yearning for death, the Scriptures would not have spoken to us of the “patience of Job” (Jas. 5:11) nor placed him alongside Noah and Daniel as examples of godliness (Ezek. 14:14,20).
Dr. Kevorkian’s Morality
When one contemplates the scene of Dr. Kevorkian confronting Job, he is impressed with the fact that two different moralities would come into conflict if the two met. I do not know Dr. Kevorkian; nevertheless, the following conclusions may be logically drawn about his moral standard from his work in assisting people to commit suicide.
1. Dr. Kevorkian judges life solely on the basis of this-worldly existence and without consideration of life beyond death.
2. Dr. Kevorkian believes that when the number of unpleasant moments exceeds those that are pleasant, the quality of life is sufficiently poor that its value is gone.
3. Subjectively devised criteria for determining “quality of life” are used for making the decision of whether or not to commit suicide.
4. Kevorkian believes that he is magnanimous in his work of “relieving” human suffering by doctor assisted suicide.
5. Suicide is a morally neutral choice that autonomous man should be allowed to make without state interference and moral judgments from those who disagree.
The decision to commit suicide is a logical choice for one who has rejected the fundamental premises of Christianity. If there is no life beyond this one, no judgment, and no heaven or hell, why not choose to end life when its sufferings are unbearable? Suicide is sometimes the response of one frustrated by trying to live without God. Life leaves one with an intolerable emptiness and loneliness, even when he is rich and prosperous. Some who have so much to live with have nothing to live for. So they end their life in suicide, the disappointing result of a consciously chosen godless lifestyle.
A Departure From Christian Ethics
Doctor assisted suicide is another significant departure from Christian ethics. Like abortion, suicide historically has been thought to be sinful. One of the best treatises that I have read on suicide came from Augustine’s The City of God. Augustine made several arguments against suicide that I would like to pass on to our readers.
1. Suicide is murder. The Bible teaches “thou shalt not kill” (Exod. 20:13). Suicide is self-murder, but murder nonetheless. The man who commits suicide has reached the wrong conclusion about himself. He does not love himself (cf. Matt. 22:39). He hates his own flesh (cf. Eph. 5:29). Augustine wrote, “It is not without signification, that in no passage of the holy canonical books there can be found either divine precept or permission to take away our own life, whether for the sake of entering on the enjoyment of immortality, or of shunning, or ridding ourselves of anything whatever” (The City of God I:30).
2. Suicide is a reflection of a character weakness. Men choose to take their own lives because of a weakness of character, not strength of character. Worldly men desire pleasant days, not to devote themselves to the glory and service of God, but to have uninterrupted, luxurious license without uneasiness or disaster. When they see no hope of future days to be sent in self-indulgence, they reason that suicide is preferable.
They sometimes write and speak as if great personal strength of soul accompanies the decision to end their life. But, Augustine wrote, “If you look at the matter more closely, you will scarcely call it greatness of soul, which prompts a man to kill himself rather than bear up against some hardships of fortune, or sins in which he is not implicated. Is it not rather proof of a feeble mind, to be unable to bear either the pains of bodily servitude or the foolish opinion of the vulgar? And is not that to be pronounced the greater mind, which rather faces than flees the ills of life” (The City of God I:32-33). Indeed, the man who refuses to face the burdens which have come to him in the providence of God is lacking in hupomone (patience, steadfastness), a moral virtue to be added to one’s faith (2 Pet. 1:6).
Augustine understood that the adversities of life are used as temptations by the Devil to destroy man’s faith. Augustine reasoned that when God “exposes us to adversities, it is either to prove our perfections or correct our imperfections; and in return for our patient endurance of the sufferings of time, he reserves for us an everlasting reward” (The City of God I:42). Again he wrote, “There is another reason why the good are afflicted with temporal calamities the reason which Job’s case exemplifies: that the human spirit may be proved, and that it may be manifested with what fortitude of pious trust, and with how unmercenary a love, it cleaves to God” (The City of God I:14).
He spoke of the differences when wicked and righteous men suffer: “Wherefore, though good and bad men suffer alike, we must not suppose that there is no difference between the men themselves, because there is no difference in what they both suffer. For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing. For as the same fire causes gold to glow brightly, and chaff to smoke; and under the same flail the straw is beaten small, while the grain is cleansed; and as the lees are not mixed with the oil, though squeezed out of the vat by the same pressure, so the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked. And thus it is that in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme while the good pray and praise. So material a difference does it make, not what ills are suffered, but what kind of man suffers them” (The City of God I:11).
Christians have viewed the adversities of life as tools used by the Devil to destroy one’s trust and faith in God (Job 1:8-12; 2:1-6; cf. Luke 22:31). As so used, they are to be borne with patience, all the while maintaining one’s faith in Christ.
3. Suicide is a sin that leaves no time for repentance. There are many sins that men commit that leave us time to contemplate what we have done and turn to God in penitence, to seek his merciful forgiveness (see Rev. 2:21; Rom. 2:4). Suicide by its nature does not give man time to come to repentance.
4. Suicide is the exchange of temporary suffering for everlasting torment. Augustine wrote, “But this we affirm, this we maintain, this we every way pronounce to be right, that no man ought to inflict on himself voluntary death, for this is to escape the ills of time by plunging into those of eternity; … that no man should put an end to this life to obtain that better life we look for after death, for those who die by their own hand have no better life after death” (The City of God I:38).
In some cases, suicide is a result of mental instability and sickness. One can no more be condemned for having that than having chickenpox. Because we sometimes do not know the physical circumstances of people, we must be careful in our judgments for the sake of the survivors.
However, we are in a life and death struggle for the soul of our country. A new religion is invading a religion that denies God, that man has a soul, that there is a judgment, and that there is a heaven and hell. Its ethical ramifications lead to the approbation of such actions as abortion, suicide, and euthanasia. Dr. Kevorkian and his “ministry” are re-shaping American thought to approve this part of the ethics of this godless religion. Let us not be deceived by our compassion for those who are suffering into rejecting the Christian system of ethics for those of Dr. Kevorkian and his ilk.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 12, p. 2
June 16, 1994