A couple of weeks ago I followed a conversation about suicide on Facebook. This got me thinking about suicide. The first thing I did was look at the major catechisms and what they said. You can find the fruit of that in this blog post. In this short post, I give the basic principle concerning suicide. There is a lot of emotion associated with suicide. My intent is not to open wounds for those who have lost loved ones to suicide. My heart breaks for the darkness that act can bring. Still our emotions do not dictate truth. The key question is not how do we feel, but what does the Bible teach?
The Basic Principle
God is the one who has the right to give and take life. Therefore the killing of someone, including self, without God’s consent is unjust and is murder. What are legitimate reasons for the taking of life? I will not defend these or get into all the possible exceptions. But the Bible teaches that we can take a life (1) to defend ourselves or another against an attack and (2) that duly appointed governmental authorities, following a fair and just trial, can take a life where the law allows. I realize these are necessarily brief. But the point is that suicide does not fit either of these God appointed exceptions even if we give them the broadest definition.
Therefore the intentional killing of one’s self is murder and is a sin. There are no Biblical principles to contradict this and numerous ones to support it. It has been the almost universal teaching of the church from the beginning. Murder is the unjust taking of a life. Suicide, including euthanasia, fits in that category. Helping someone kill themselves is helping someone commit murder and should be treated as such.
This does not make every suicide equal in its gravity. For example, a man being tortured in a prison camp who takes his own life is in a different category than a man who lost his money in the stock market or a young girl who kills herself because her boyfriend left her. The Roman Catholic Catechism says, “Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.” This is helpful, but in our age where someone commenting on your hair could be construed as a “grave psychological disturbance” it can create too big a loophole. Still it is good to remember that not all suicides are equal in gravity just as not all murders are equal in sinfulness. Nonetheless, suicide is murder.
In my next post I will look at some difficult questions about suicide.