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This is a study of the second-most common cause of death among teens, and a common cause of death among other ages. Yet a form of it has been legalized in some places. It is also discussed several times in the Bible so it should concern all Christians.
What would that topic be? Suicide!
The suicide rate for teens tripled from 1960 to 1990, so it is second only to accidents as a cause of death to teens. And for every teen who succeeded in committing suicide, 50-100 attempted it. At least 1 of every 20 teens attempted suicide in 1990! (Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, Heritage Foundation, p. 12; see chart)
In November, 1994, the State of Oregon passed a referendum allowing physicians to assist terminally ill patients commit suicide. In January, 2006, the US Supreme Court refused to overturn that law.
The news frequently mentions people who attempt suicide, often famous people. The problem really hits home when someone we personally know attempts it.
Why is suicide so common in our society? What does the Bible say about it? What is the solution to the problem?
Why is there so much suicide in society today?
People tend to think the purpose of life is to achieve physical advantages. If one is a failure in these physical things, life is not worth living. When people think they have failed in life, they may consider suicide.
* Physical possessions - People go head over heels in debt for house, car, camper, boat, furniture, etc. If they can't pay, financial pressures build, so depression and thoughts of suicide follow.
* Physical attractiveness - Society emphasizes beauty, handsomeness, and fashion. Dissatisfaction with our appearance may breed thoughts of suicide.
* Athletic ability - People think they must be athletic, their team must win, else they become depressed, etc.
* Social acceptance and popularity - If people think they are not accepted by their peers, popular or even famous - or if they lose the fame they once had - they may consider suicide.
* Physical pleasures - We seek the good life, party, and live it up.
If we believe our self-worth depends on these material things, then life without them may seem not worth living.
When people become overwhelmed by the consequences of sin, they may consider suicide.
* Sexual affairs - Some consider suicide when their sexual immorality is discovered by a spouse or parents, they become pregnant, get VD or AIDS, etc. (or they fear these things).
* Family problems - Fighting, conflict, abuse, divorce, physical violence in the family may lead people to feel life is not worth living.
* Homosexuality - Society says homosexuality is "gay," yet the suicide rate for homosexuals is 12-14 times higher than for heterosexuals.
* Abortion - Women who have aborted a baby often become suicidal as a result of their guilt and grief. One chapter of Suicider's Anonymous served 4000 suicidal women, nearly half of whom had had abortions (A.L.L. About Issues, 4/82).
* Alcoholism and drug abuse - Addicts become so depressed by their habit they seek suicide as a way out.
Music, TV, books, magazines, movies, computer games, etc. contribute in many ways.
* Materialism and pursuit of pleasure - These are encouraged by advertisements, the lives of heroes, and many programs.
* Immorality of all kinds is justified and encouraged.
* The Occult - Kids become deeply involved in role playing and fantasy games, computer games, books, and movies after the fashion of "Dungeons and Dragons." They pretend to practice witchcraft, wizardry, magic, astrology, and Satanism. Others experiment with Satanism or witchcraft and the sins involved. Resulting depression may lead to suicide.
* Violence - Entertainment feeds a steady diet of violence of all kinds till people think it isn't so bad.
* Negativism and discontent - Entertainment constantly portrays crisis after crisis, focusing on death, grief, anger, and discontent. Life is one big soap opera. Problems are often not solved. Little that is good, wholesome, beautiful, or uplifting is presented. This feeds depression.
* Personal examples of heroes - Many movie stars, music idols, and even sports stars live immorally, encouraging their fans to do the same. Many commit suicide.
* Open advocacy of suicide is even found in some movies and songs. For example the lyrics (often not used on TV) of the theme from MASH say: "suicide is painless. It brings on many changes, and I can take or leave it if I please ... And you can do the same thing if you please" (via Pro-Family Forum Alert, 5/84).
Our society has justified abortion and mercy killing (euthanasia) till killing seems justifiable at times. If you can kill an unborn baby because it isn't wanted or will have an "inferior quality of life," why not kill any human from birth to death for the same reasons? If you are miserable, inferior, handicapped, seriously ill, why not take your own life?
Humanists and other people who defend abortion and mercy killing often defend suicide. Humanists believe:
"The right to ... abortion and divorce should be recognized ... the individual must experience a full range of civil liberties ... This includes ... a recognition of an individual's right to die with dignity, euthanasia, and the right to suicide" - Humanist Manifestos, p. 18,19.
Humanism is the most influential philosophy underlying the education of young people. No wonder young people think suicide is a good alternative. The predominate philosophy behind their training believes it is a "right"!
Evolution is taught as fact in science, and the moral consequences are justified in other courses. Kids are taught that they are advanced animals formed by chance forces of nature. So logically, like animals, humans have no life after death, no eternal rewards or punishments. Death just leads to a state of unconsciousness. And there are no absolute rules of right and wrong, so what's wrong with taking your life?
We are told kids need death education to help prevent suicide. But like nearly all such school programs, in the name of solving the problem, they actually contribute to it, because they refuse to teach absolute morals. School death education almost universally treats suicide, abortion, and euthanasia as just alternative ways of dying, so the kids must make their own choices without being taught moral standards.
What do we do if an animal is seriously ill and has no value in living? Put it out of its misery! But kids are led to believe they are just an advanced animal, there is no life after death, no purpose in life except to enjoy it, and no absolute moral standards. So, if life is unhappy, why not end it all?
Consider the following organizations (as reported in A.L.L. About Issues, 1/83):
"Hemlock" works for "active euthanasia of the terminally ill." It seeks to create opinion favorable to "self-deliverance" or "acceleration of death" (nice terms for suicide).
"Exit," the British equivalent of "Hemlock," published the book Guide to Self-Deliverance, giving clear instructions for how to commit suicide. Many followed their advice.
Dr. Jack Kevorkian was frequently in the news for "helping" many patients end their lives.
In November, 1994, the State of Oregon passed a referendum allowing physicians to assist terminally ill patients commit suicide. Several states have attempted to follow Oregon.
In January, 2006, the US Supreme Court allowed the Oregon law to stand (though it may yet be challenged on other grounds).
20 years ago people would not have given the time of day to such ideas. Now it is law in at least one state!
Society weakens the barriers against suicide and often even encourages it. Then often these same people cry crocodile tears about "why we have so much suicide among our teens"!
People who have no absolute standards may defend suicide. But Christians believe in the Bible. It is the only book that can speak authoritatively to this issue. What does the Bible say?
Abimelech was a wicked man who usurped leadership of Israel. When a woman dropped a millstone on his head, he had his armor-bearer kill him so people would not say he was killed by a woman.
Saul rebelled against God, so God rejected Him as king. He was about to be captured in battle, and fearing torture, he asked his armor-bearer to kill him. He refused, so Saul fell on his sword and the armor-bearer did the same. [1 Chronicles 10:4,5; cf. 2 Samuel 1:1-16]
Ahithophel was an advisor who encouraged Absalom to rebel against David. He gave advice that would have led to David's defeat, but the advice was not taken and David escaped. He hanged himself.
Zimri was a wicked man who killed the king of Israel and reigned 7 days. Then Omri led Israel against Zimri. Seeing he would be defeated, he burned his house down around himself.
Judas betrayed Jesus, then realizing his guilt, he hanged himself.
If a jailer lost his prisoners, he was punished with death. Thinking his prisoners had escaped, the jailer in Philippi was about to kill himself, but Paul stopped him.
[Samson (Judges 16:28-30) killed himself along with hosts of Philistines, but this was an act of war. He died, not because he no longer wanted to live or because he did not consider life worth living, but because he wanted to defeat the enemy. Many soldiers sacrifice their lives to win a battle.]
Note that every Bible case of suicide involved a wicked person who was driven to distraction because of the consequences of sin or because he did not use God's power to deal with problems.
There is not one Bible example of a faithful child of God ever committing suicide. Many faithful servants of God faced terrible hardships, diseases, and burdens. Worldly people might think they had plenty of reason for committing suicide, but not one ever did so. Why not?
Clearly people who serve God faithfully do not need to commit suicide. They have other means to handle their problems. Only when people have lost their relationship with God and do not have the means He provides to deal with problems, only then do they turn to suicide as a means of escape!
Genesis 9:2-6 - Men may kill only when God has so authorized. We are authorized to kill plants and animals because they are not in God's image. Killing a person is unauthorized because man is in God's image.
But if a person kills himself, is he killing a plant or animal? No, he is killing one who is in God's image! This is what God forbids. To kill yourself is murder as surely as if you killed someone else.
Revelation 21:8; 22:15 - Murderers will not enter the eternal city but will be in the lake of fire.
Romans 13:8-10 - Murder is wrong because it violates the principle of loving neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm. The right to harm self and neighbor stand or fall together.
Consider: If you have a right to harm yourself, then you have a right to harm your neighbor. If you have the right to kill yourself because you think your life is not worth living, then loving your neighbor as yourself would mean you may kill your neighbor if his life is not worth living!
Mercy-killing and suicide stand or fall together. To justify one is to justify the other. To condemn one, we must condemn the other!
Exodus 23:7 - Do not kill the innocent and righteous. Are you "innocent and righteous"? If not, then you surely should not kill yourself, for you are not ready to face the judgment! But if you are innocent and righteous, then this passage forbids killing yourself.
No one who kills himself can die innocent and righteous! To commit suicide is to stand before your maker guilty and unrighteous!
People usually commit suicide to escape problems. Sometimes loved ones say, "At least they are no longer suffering." But no matter how bad things are in this life, this is nothing compared to how it will be after death if you die in sin. How can you commit suicide and not die in sin?
There is a fate far worse than anything in this life. Suicide is no solution.
[Matthew 15:19,20; Exodus 20:13; James 2:11; Proverbs 28:17; 6:16,17; 1 John 3:15]
Acts 17:25,28 - Life is a blessing from God. Death is caused by the power of the devil (Hebrews 2:14,15). A person who chooses to live is using a blessing from God. A person who kills himself is using the power of the Devil. [Psalm 64:1; Revelation 21:4; 1 Corinthians 15:26; Genesis 3:16,19; Job 1:18,19].
1 Corinthians 6:19,20 - Your body is a temple of God. It does not belong to you but to God to be used for His glory. This is the fundamental issue between those who justify suicide and those who do not: Whose body is it and for what should it be used?
If one believes his body is his own, he may conclude he can do with it as he pleases. If he chooses to kill it, so what? It's his body! But if one believes his body belongs to God, he concludes it is not his to use as he pleases. As long as he continues in the body, he must use it to glorify God.
Romans 12:1,2 - Present your body as a living sacrifice to God. You serve God by living for Him. That is what your body is for. If you give it to Him, it is His to be used as He pleases, not yours to use as you please.
Acts 16:27,28 - Paul urged the jailer to not harm himself. Then he taught him how to be saved. Harming people is the Devil's way. "Do yourself no harm" is God's view. How could the jailer be saved and serve God if he killed himself? Neither can we serve God if we commit suicide. Note that those who serve God are opposed to suicide and urge others to avoid it.
God has a purpose for your life. You must use your body to serve and glorify Him. This is a stewardship - we use that which belongs to God to do His work. He will hold us accountable for our stewardship [Luke 12:42-46; 1 Corinthians 4:2]. You cannot serve nor glorify him if you take your life, therefore you cannot stand in judgment as a faithful steward if you take your life.
In the next section we will consider a final point: Suicide is a failure to trust God to help us endure trials and live a worthwhile life.
God's word not only teaches that suicide is wrong, it also gives us reason to live and helps us handle the problems that otherwise lead people to want to end their lives. It not only tells about evil people who committed suicide, it also tells about people who faced terrible problems but, instead of committing suicide, endured those problems through the help of God.
Consider the blessings God provides to help us deal with problems and some Bible examples of people who used God's help and so avoided what often leads people to commit suicide:
We earlier listed many immoral practices that often lead people to consider suicide. By following God's word, people can avoid these practices and thereby avoid the suffering and heartache that leads some people to consider suicide.
* Homosexuality - 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. [Romans 1:24-27]
* Alcoholism and drug abuse - (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) [Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:1-4]
* Sexual promiscuity - (1 Corinthians 6:9-11,18) [Galatians 5:19-21]
* Abortion (Luke 1:36-44; Romans 13:8-10) [Genesis 25:21,22]
* Family problems (Ephesians 5:22-6:4) [Colossians 3:18-21]
What a blessing to know that we can avoid the heartaches that lead many people to consider suicide simply by obeying God's word, so we never practice these sins.
People often despair to the point of suicide because of physical problems or disadvantages. These problems are often not as important as people think. We can overcome despair if we remember that spiritual circumstances are what really count.
Matthew 6:25-33 - Far too often we worry about material things we think we lack. Instead, our greatest priority should be to seek God's kingdom and righteousness. If we do, God promises our physical needs will be met.
Luke 12:15 - Life does not consist in abundance of material possessions. [1 Timothy 6:6-10; John 6:27]
Matthew 16:26 - If a man gains the whole world, but loses his soul, what has he profited? Conversely, if he has little in this world, he has the greatest blessing of all if he receives eternal life.
Instead of despairing over physical circumstances, we should remember that these circumstances are temporary and relatively unimportant. Spiritual circumstances are what matter, and these can be right for anyone. You may not be able to control your physical appearance, poverty, etc. But no matter what your physical circumstance, you can be right with God, and that is what really matters.
Even those who serve God may still suffer severe problems in life. But if we trust God, we have assurance that even these are never so bad that we need to commit sin, let alone commit suicide.
1 Corinthians 10:13 - God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. God absolutely promises that there is no such thing as a problem in this life that is beyond our ability to endure.
Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
James 5:10,11 - When we are suffering, we need to remember the example of men of God who suffered: Jesus, Paul, especially Job. [2 Tim 1:8; Hebrews 12:1-4]
Job 2:9,10 - Consider Job. Satan claimed that any man will turn against God if he suffers enough (1:10,11; 2:4,5). So he caused Job to suffer as much as any many ever has. He lost wealth, children, and health.
His wife lost faith, and said to curse God and die. That is a perfect example of suicide mentality. She did not say how he would die; but like people who commit suicide, she concluded his life was not worth living, so forget about God and die! That is exactly what Satan said Job would do!
If any man ever would have been justified in committing suicide, it was Job. Any one of the things he suffered have driven people to suicide. Even Job said he wished he had never been born (3:11,16). But he never attempted suicide. He is expressly held up as our example of suffering. If a man can suffer like Job did without committing suicide, surely no one needs to commit suicide.
These examples and passages show that God will never allow problems so great that we ever need to sin, let alone take our own life. To commit suicide is to fail to trust in God and to allow Satan to succeed!
Christians learn that problems can work for our good. Hardships need not depress us to the point of despair, let alone suicide. We may not know how good will come, nor should we expect things to always work out the way we want, but we can find good in the end.
Romans 8:28 - All things work together for good to those who love God. The context is talking about the problems we face in life (see vv 17-23, 31-39). This does not say that everything about life is good, but good results can come in the end.
James 1:2-4 - Count it joy when we face trials because they produce patience and maturity.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 - Paul asked for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, but God refused because it was accomplishing good. It kept Paul humble and dependent on God.
Trials make or break us. Many of life's greatest achievers accomplished their goals because they had to overcome adversity. Many great athletes had to overcome serious illness or handicap.
God tells us to keep on, we can endure, and if we do, good will result. Suicide is an admission that we don't believe that God can make good come from our problems. Suicide eliminates whatever benefit might have come; it allows the trials of life to destroy us instead of allowing them to make us better people.
[1 Peter 1:6,7; Romans 5:3-5; 2 Corinthians 1:8-10]
People who commit suicide have reached the point of despair, because they are relying only on human resources. They can think of nothing except the horrors of their problem, so they lose heart. They see no source of the strength they need. God grants the blessings we need to see us through.
James 5:13 - Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. A Christian knows he has a source of strength. He does not have to rely just on his own power.
Philippians 4:6-8 - Don't be anxious, but let your requests be made known to God and you will have the peace that passes understanding. Give God thanks, and meditate on things that are good, pure, etc. Paul wrote this book from a Roman jail, yet it is filled with joy. [1 Peter 5:7]
Job 1:20,21 - Note what Job did when things went so wrong in his life. "He fell to the ground and worshiped."
People in despair usually focus only on their problems. They wallow in self-pity, thinking only about how bad things are. Often they choose to avoid worship: they may neglect prayer, neglect worship assemblies, and don't want to talk with Christians.
If instead they learn to give God thanks and to meditate on what is good, and trust God to help them, then they have strength and peace beyond understanding.
People who are suicidal end their lives because they see no value in them. They see themselves as worthless, defeated failures, so why go on living? Servants of God know they are loved and valued by God, no matter how dark the circumstances of life may be.
Genesis 1:26,27; Psalm 8:3-5 - We are made in the image of God, a little lower than the angels. We are the most important of God's earthly creatures, superior to animals. Would God give us this position if we were worthless and unimportant to Him?
Matthew 10:29-31 - God loves us and is concerned about everything in our lives. He knows the number of our hairs. He knows when a sparrow falls, and we are of much greater value than sparrows. You are not alone and unimportant. God is not indifferent to your suffering. He cares. [Hebrews 13:5,6]
John 3:16 - God loved us so much He sent His Son to die to save us from our sins. [Luke 15; Romans 5:6-9]
Matthew 12:47-50 - Anyone can obey God and become a member of His family, the church. People do not want someone in their family unless they care about them. [1 Peter 1:22,23; Galatians 3:26,27]
People who realize their value before God are not likely to consider themselves worthless. Instead of despairing, remember that no one is unimportant to God, and no one needs to be a failure before God. Anyone can live for Him; and if we do, we are just as important to Him as any other Christian.
Again, people become suicidal because they see no reason to live - no meaning or purpose in their life. But God has a purpose for every person's life.
Romans 12:1 - Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Instead of destroying life, we should use it to serve God. This not only shows why suicide is wrong, it shows why we don't need it. We have a reason to live: to serve God and accomplish His will.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 - Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is the whole duty of man.
Matthew 20:26-28 - True greatness comes from serving God and others. Everyone can do that, and it can give purpose to anyone's life.
In the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," money is missing from George Bailey's savings and loan. If he lives he will go to jail, but if he dies his wife will have insurance money. "You're worth more dead than alive." So he is about to commit suicide. But an angel is sent to remind him of all the people he had helped and how much worse off they would have been had he never lived to help them.
The point is that a man's life is valuable according to the good he does for God and for others. (The movie, however, emphasized doing physical and moral good, not the spiritual good of helping people be eternally saved.) You don't have to, be famous, rich, or do any of the things the world considers great. Just serve God and help people.
1 Kings 19:1-4,13-18 - Elijah had done great work in defeating the prophets of Baal. But he despaired because Jezebel was trying to kill him, and he thought no one else wanted to serve God. He asked God to take his life. He did not commit suicide, but he thought his life was worthless and may as well end.
God responded that things were not as bad as Elijah thought (7000 had not bowed the knee to Baal), and He had work for Elijah to do. Get up and go to work!
Suicide is not the answer to despair. God's answer is (1) Things are usually not as bad as we think. We focus too much on our problems and failings. (2) There is value in our lives if we will work for God. Search the Scriptures and find what He wants done, then search the lives of those around and find ways we can serve.
No life is worthless if it is being used in God's service. Get up and go to work!
What if a person has not been serving God and others? Often people are driven to despair by a sense of guilt and remorse over a life wasted living in sin. Once again, God has the solution.
Psalm 51:1-3,7-10 - David was in despair because of his adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband murdered. This kind of guilt and remorse leads many to commit suicide. But David found the answer: we can be cleansed of our burden of guilt. Our sorrow can be turned into the joy of forgiveness.
Luke 15:13-24 - The prodigal son lost his inheritance in sin and wasteful living. He was reduced to feeding hogs and would have eaten the hog slop. Many turn to suicide when they bear the guilt of living in sin and remorse for having lost wealth. But the prodigal repented and returned to his father, where he was received with rejoicing!
Romans 5:6-9 - Forgiveness is possible because Jesus died to bear our punishment.
Hebrews 7:25 - Jesus is able to save to the uttermost, so our sins are remembered no more (10:17). They will no longer be held against us nor eternally condemn us.
No one needs to live with a burden of guilt, let alone consider suicide. God wants to forgive your sins and relieve your guilt.
After death, we will be judged for our lives (2 Corinthians 5:10). If we die in sin, we face eternal death (2 Thessalonians 1:8,9; Matthew 25:41,46). But no matter how bad things are in this life, there is hope for a better life if we serve God faithfully.
1 Peter 1:3,4 - We have an incorruptible inheritance reserved in heaven.
James 1:12 - After enduring temptation, we inherit the crown of life.
2 Corinthians 4:16,17 - Affliction suffered in this life is light compared to the eternal weight of glory.
To have this hope, we must be forgiven of sins and serve God faithfully. Then our hope sustains us through trials and hardships. Suicide robs people of this hope, because one who commits suicide ends his life instead of living for God.
Suicide is ultimate hopelessness. One who commits suicide is admitting that he does not trust in God and has no hope. When we serve and trust God, then we have purpose and strength in this life and hope for the next life.
The Bible not only tells of evil men who committed suicide, it also tells of people who faced problems so great that modern "wisdom" would have justified suicide. Instead, faithful servants of God trusted God and served Him.
We conclude with a story that shows how God makes suicide unnecessary - the story of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16.
* Vv 16-25 - Paul and Silas had been unjustly arrested and imprisoned. That might cause some people to despair, but they trusted God, praying and singing praises. This is how Christians deal with problems.
* Vv 26-34 - When an earthquake opened the doors, fearing the prisoners had escaped, the jailer was about to commit suicide. Paul and Silas showed him how God could meet his needs. (1) They showed things were not as bad as they seemed - the prisoners had not escaped. (2) They taught him of Jesus. He obeyed by believing and being baptized.
In v27 a man was on the verge of suicide. In v34 he was rejoicing with all his family. The difference: faith in the Christ and the power of the gospel. What a shame if he had committed suicide! Think what he would have missed!
You too can have this power in your life. Jesus will not remove all your problems in this life, but He can solve your problem of sin, give you purpose in life, and show you how to have strength to deal with the problems of life. Serving God solves the problems that lead to suicide.
To receive God's forgiveness, we must believe, repent, confess, and be baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 10:9,10). If we have done this and gone back to sin, we must repent and pray (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).
Copyright 2006, David E. Pratte; www.gospelway.com
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