Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
Should Christians Contemplate Suicide?
by Rev Charles Seet
Text: Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17
Suicide has become an increasing problem in Singapore in recent years. It is reported that more are attempting suicide now, because of depression, stress, broken homes and broken relationships. Because of this, there is a need for us to understand what suicide is all about: What does the Bible teach about suicide? How should we regard a Christian who takes his own life? How should we deal with suicidal thoughts? How can we help to prevent suicide?
The Sin of Suicide
Suicide is a sin that breaks the 6th Commandment: "Thou shalt not kill." (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17) Human life whether our own, or of others, is a sacred trust we hold from God. Man is not the lord and owner of his own life. Therefore determining the moment of death is not man?s prerogative at all but God?s. In the Bible there are at least five persons who took their own lives: Saul and his armour bearer (1 Samuel 31:3-5), Ahitophel (2 Samuel 17:23), the Israelite king Zimri (1 Kings 16:18-19) and Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27:3-5). Biblical condemnation of their actions is seen by taking their entire lives into account.
But how sinful is suicide? Firstly, we must state that suicide in not a light sin. Thus, attempted but unsuccessful suicide should not go unpunished. A believer is not the owner of his own body. According to 1 Corinthians 6:19,20, you have been bought with a price and your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. It is the home of God Himself. So suicide is very serious. No Christian should ever contemplate suicide. No matter how people may excuse suicide with all kinds of mitigating factors, it is a sin needing repentance and God?s forgiveness. The act of suicide is not against oneself alone. Others are affected, often tragically. And many times this is the deliberate intent.
While we should sympathise with believers who attempt suicide due to psychological problems or depression, we cannot justify the solution they have chosen to deal with their problems. They should have turned to Jesus for refuge and hope (1 Samuel 30:6). However, we should not go to the other extreme of concluding that anyone who commits suicide is not saved. There are some who do that, arguing that no true born again Christian will ever take his own life. Therefore if a professing Christian does this, they would say that he was not a true believer. This sin is thought to be one sure evidence of an unregenerate state. Thus suicide is regarded as an unpardonable sin. There was even a time in Church history when Christians who committed suicide were not allowed to have a Christian burial. He was treated as condemned to suffer in hell. If we were to do this, we will become unnecessarily judgmental, and lacking in understanding. There are extreme circumstances that may drive even the most ardent saints to attempt suicide.
An analogy would help us to see why this position is unreasonable. Would a Christian, suddenly enraged and suffering a heart attack, go to meet God unforgiven? Is anger, in such instances an unpardonable sin? If the answer is no, then suicide is also not an unpardonable sin. According to statistics, a relatively small percentage of suicide victims take their lives after cool and calm consideration. The majority do it on impulse, on the spur of the moment, in a moment of weakness, to escape the misery they are experiencing or expecting.
Thus, no matter how serious it is, suicide certainly is forgivable, as any other sin is forgivable. The difference between this sin and most others is that for other sins there is normally a period of grace following the sin, to permit repentance. Though repentance is necessary to restore fellowship broken through sin, the relationship with God still remains intact. We believe that salvation can never be lost. But let us nevertheless remember that suicide is a grave sin, and therefore Christians should never contemplate suicide.
What should a Christian do instead of contemplating suicide?
One of the greatest causes of suicide is fear: Fear that is even greater than one?s fear of death. Fear is one of the greatest enemies of man. It makes people do things they would not normally do. Some respond to fear with antagonism, and rebellion. Others respond to fear with total despair and even suicide. Some who cannot overcome their fear end up becoming mentally unstable. And we who believe in the Lord sometimes find ourselves gripped by fear too. Since fear can cause suicide, we should learn how to respond to it.
1. Know That God Is with You
Psalm 23:4, says "I will fear no evil for Thou art with me." It really makes a great difference to know who is with you as you go through a trial or difficult situation in life. When you feel afraid to face any trial or difficulty, ask yourself: Who is with me as I face this crisis? It is not just any companion such as a trusted friend, or even an earthly father, but the omnipotent God, our heavenly Father, who loves you dearly. That thought alone can remove all fear from your heart.
Throughout the Scriptures this same assurance consoled God?s people whenever they faced any crisis. This consolation was given to Abraham. In Genesis 15:1 God said to Abraham, "Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." God was saying that He is all that Abraham needed. That thought will dispel all fear from his heart. This consolation was given also to Isaac (Genesis 26:24) and Jacob (Genesis 46:3,4). The same consolation was given to Moses, Joshua, David, Jeremiah, the disciples of Christ, and the apostle Paul. They all heard the same comforting words: "Fear Not! Be Not Afraid! For I am with Thee!" In every age this precious consolation has powerfully kept and sustained God?s people and given them the courage they needed for every crisis in life. And we who have become God?s beloved children through faith in Jesus Christ, have now inherited this very same consolation.
Jesus who said in John 14:27, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid," also said in Matthew 28:20, "lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." He also said in Hebrews 13:5, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." Paul the apostle testified in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In Psalm 139 David the psalmist also testified with the words, "If take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall Thy hand lead me and Thy right hand shall hold me."
So what should your response be when you are troubled by depression and suicidal fears? Simply trust in what God has said and then act upon it. The words of David must become your own words of response, "I will fear no evil for Thou art with me." With the apostle Paul you should confidently say, "If God be for us who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31) Remember: If God is with you, you can overcome any fear in your heart when you meet with any of life?s uncertainties or trials.
2. Commit All Your Cares to God
When you know that God is with you, you can pour out your troubles to Him. Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Do not keep these troubled thoughts to yourself, for if it is kept bottled up, it is liable to explode into sinful behaviour. Pour out your fears and worries to the Lord in prayer. One useful passage of scripture to use if you have great fear is Philippians 4:6,7. Here Paul tells us, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
The words "be careful for nothing" really mean "do not worry about anything." If you are the kind of person who worries a lot, and find it very difficult to cope with it, you should develop the habit of praying and committing all your cares to the Lord. As you pray, your worrying will gradually give way to a wonderful sense of serene calmness and peace. This is an inward peace that comes from God, a wonderful peace that passes all understanding. There is nothing in this world that can bring such perfect calmness and peace to the soul of the anxious or worried Christian, than prayer!
3. Discipline Your Thoughts
Another important means of obtaining the sense of peace and tranquility in your heart is not to allow your mind to dwell on negative and unrealistic thoughts which breed fear, depression and anxiety. A suicidal person sees nothing good in life. His whole picture of life is painted in dark shades of grey. To counteract this, the apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 what your thinking pattern should be: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." If you discipline your thought life to follow these guidelines, you will find it much easier to avoid depression and suicidal thoughts.
Since all that is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, attractive, virtuous and praiseworthy can easily be found in Christ?s teaching, Christ?s kingdom, Christ?s work in your life and even in Christ Himself, let your mind dwell on Jesus Christ and on things that are related to Him as often as you can. Instead of contemplating suicide, let all of us learn to contemplate fully on Christ! If we do this, we will find everything we need to go on well in this present life.