High-profile pastor Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life,” lost his 27-year-old son late last week. The young man, Matthew, apparently took his own life.
A statement issued by Rev. Warren’s church, Saddleback Valley Community Church, said that Matthew struggled throughout his life with mental illness, deep depression and suicidal thoughts.
We grieve with Rev. Warren, his wife, Kay, and their two children.
At times like this, some folks wonder what exactly the Bible says about suicide – and especially what the Bible says about the fate of people who commit suicide, if it says anything at all.
One of my books, Bible Snapshots, has a section in it about this. I thought it might be helpful to pull out the excerpt for you.
SUICIDE DOESN’T APPEAR to have been very common in Bible times.
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.
Does suicide lead to hell?
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:
“Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person.”
1 Corinthians 3:16-17, NCV
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.
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