A YOUNG MAN in my extended family committed suicide this week.
In my community, we’ve had several school-age kids kill themselves in recent months. One was a 17-year-old scholar and athlete with a good sense of humor and a perfect score on his ACT college entrance exams.
A few years back, two junior girls in a high school near me both took their own lives. First one, killing herself at her home. Then the other, two days later, stepping in front of a train.
Suicide is common enough that it’s the tenth leading cause of death in this country.
Suicide in the Bible
There’s no indication that suicide was common in Bible times. King Saul was an exception. Exceptionally depressed about losing God’s backing, and mortally wounded in a battle lost to the Philistines, “Saul took his own sword and fell on it” (1 Samuel 31:4).
Though the Bible doesn’t directly condemn suicide, many argue that Scripture opposes it—at least in principle.
- You must not murder (Exodus 20:13). That includes ourself. So said Bible experts even from early Christian centuries—such as Augustine in the A.D. 400s.
- Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! (Psalm 42:5). Suicide suggests we’ve lost all hope—even our hope in God.
- When Judas. . . realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. . . . and went out and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3, 5).
- When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey, went to his hometown, set his affairs in order, and hanged himself (2 Samuel 17:23). He backed the wrong man in a coup: Absalom, who revolted against his father King David. Ahithophel may have figured he was doomed.
- The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:27-28). Romans tended to execute soldiers and jailers who let prisoners escape.
What does the Bible say happens to suicide victims?
Some religious folks say that anyone who commits suicide is doomed to eternity in hell.
For support, the religious folks point to Bible verses like this:
“I’m telling you, if anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy the person who did that. God’s temple is that sacred to him. People, you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Casual English Bible
Yet suicide wasn’t the topic of that letter.
The writer, Paul, was pleading for unity in a fractured church. Most Bible experts say Paul was talking about people who tear a congregation of Christians apart with bickering, eventually destroying the community of faith. God will destroy the destroyers.
The Bible doesn’t say what happens to a person who commits suicide.
In fact, speaking from the realm of the dead, prophet Samuel had this to say to King Saul, who would kill himself a few hours later by falling on his sword: “Tomorrow . . . you and your sons will be here with me” (1 Samuel 28:19).
Suicidal Saul would end up with saintly Samuel.
When it comes to judging the eternal destiny of suicide victims—or anyone else—most Christians say it’s best to leave that to God.
He knows people better than we do.
Even we know that many of the people who take their own lives are physically ill and not thinking rationally.
God knows that, too.
Much of this article is resurrected from at article I wrote in 2013, after the 27-year-old son of high-profile pastor Rick Warren took his own life: “What does the Bible say about suicide?”
Blog subscribers who win books this week
- Sandra Burchardt
- Erwin Vasquez
I give away free books every week to randomly selected Stateside subscribers to my free blog or my newsletter.
Winners get to choose from a stack of titles.
Note to the winner: send me an email and I’ll give you the full list of books from which you can choose.
The deal’s good for a month, or for as long as I have giveaway books available.