Does the Bible forbid suicide?

Suicide is always tragic. Often it is the last despairing step of those who have lost all hope. Christianity has long taught that suicide is a sin. Now the wrongness of suicide is being questioned. What does the Bible say about suicide? Though the Bible mentions seven acts of suicide it does not specifically condemn any of those acts. The context of several of those accounts, like that of Saul and Judas, gives the impression that suicide is the act of a wicked man.

An understanding of the Biblical view of human life is essential to answering this question. All human life is sacred. Space does not allow a full exploration of this idea, but from the very first mention of man the Bible makes clear that human beings are unique creations. Man was created in the image of God. The destruction of that image is a great evil. God told Noah after the flood, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Genesis 9:6) In Numbers 35 God instructs Israel how to deal with murder and murderers. He impresses upon them the seriousness of taking a human life, “for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.” (Numbers 35:33) Any violence against a person is an assault against the image of God. This is why God forbids murder. This is why suicide is a sin.

The Bible’s commands against killing people must logically include killing oneself. The same reasons that make murder a sin, the desecration of the image of God and the extreme selfishness necessary to murder another, are the same reasons suicide is a sin. The individual has no right to plot the destruction of any human life. The person has no more authority over whether he lives or dies than he does over whether his neighbor lives or dies.

Suicide is an extreme act of selfishness. Whatever other motivations are behind suicide, the person ultimately decides to value his own escape from discomfort over the grief it will cause those left behind. Suicide sees the person’s own suffering as more important than anything or anyone else. Suicide declares “I will make the decision when my time on earth is done.” Such arrogant selfishness violates the command of God to love Him supremely and to love others selflessly. (Luke 10:27)

The example of the Psalmist is instructive of how to consider despair and death. David knew the brevity of life and many times felt the approach of death. His life was by the violence of men and grief of soul. In all things, David trusted the Lord. David went through times as dark and difficult as any faced by a person, yet he trusted the Lord. He gave no voice to suicidal thoughts, but said “My times are in thy hand.” (Psalm 31:15) His example shows how to respond in those times when, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” (Psalm 22:15) The right response is, “My soul fainteth for thy salvation; but I hope in Thy word.” (Psalm 119:81)

Suicide is not unforgivable. But, whether it be through a self-administered gunshot or a physician administered lethal dose, the willful killing of self is a sin.

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