Seven Questions About Suicide: Answers from the Bible

I was recently going through some of my sermon notes, and discovered this manuscript from February 2009.  I pray it may be an encouragement to some.

1. Is suicide a sin?

The answer is very simple, yet very clear... Yes. The fifth commandment (Ex 20:13) plainly says "you shall not murder."  Suicide is the murder of oneself, just as homicide is the murder of someone else. Both are murder, and both are equally wrong in God’s eyes.

Some might ask the question, “If it’s my life, and I desire to end it, isn’t that my prerogative?” The answer is “no.” Scripture portrays God as the rightful keeper of our days. Ecclesiastes says “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die.” The Psalmist says “our times are in God’s hands,” and also says, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Taking one’s own life is an act of rebellion against God who alone has the right to determine the length of our days.

This is especially true for the Christian, as we are told in Scripture “do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” Especially for Christians, Jesus purchased us with His blood on the cross, and we have no right to use His temple (our body) to sin against Him, whether it be through the act of suicide, or otherwise.

So is suicide a sin? For all these reasons, yes.

2. Is suicide an unforgivable sin?

The answer is... “only in the sense that once you’re dead you can’t ask God’s forgiveness for a specific sin.” Now, is suicide unforgivable in the sense that if a person commits suicide they go straight to Hell?... Absolutely not!

There is a widespread belief that suicide is an unforgivable sin in this sense, but that is a fallacy. While suicide is a grave sin to be sure, there is absolutely nothing in the Bible to suggest that it is unforgivable, or that it is a straight ticket to Hell.

To understand this, we have to understand the breadth and the depth of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. (Read Col 2:13-14) Some people mistakenly believe that what Jesus accomplished for them on the cross was merely the potential of forgiveness. They view forgiveness as something Jesus gives them in little pieces as they ask for it.

And so, tragically, they live their life in constant fear of Hell, because what if they die before they have the chance to ask forgiveness for whatever their latest sin was? And this is largely the logic behind the belief that suicide is an unforgivable sin.

But if you look at those verses we just read, v13 clearly says that Jesus has forgiven us all our trespasses. It used to be when they crucified someone on a cross that they would often write out the list of their crimes and pin it to the cross with them. Because Jesus died for our crimes (sins) and not His, v14 says it was as though He took the entire list of our crimes (sins) and pinned it to His cross. In other words, He looked into the future at my life and yours. When He died in our place it was for every sin we would ever commit... past-present-future. Jesus doesn’t give us forgiveness in pieces... The last words He said before He died were, “It is finished.” Meaning, the work is done. The sacrifice is made in full. God’s wrath has been appeased. There is nothing more to do.

You might say, "Josh, if that’s the case, why are we taught as Christians to ask forgiveness for our sins?"... Not for relationship, for fellowship.

Suicide, as horrible a sin as it is, was paid for in full at the cross. To say that God cannot forgive suicide is to put man in the place of God as the master of his own destiny. God is bigger than suicide, and He knows His children, and He knows how to preserve them to Himself, even when we make poor decisions.

3. For what reasons do people commit suicide?

There is no easy answer to this, as the possibilities are many and varied. We are going to look at three examples from God’s Word that deal with spiritual/internal reasons for suicide. Obviously, this is not an all-inclusive list, as many suicides can be attributed to health-related factors such as mental illness, etc. But here are some spiritual/internal reasons:

Rejection: (Read 2 Sam 17:23) Ahithophel was a trusted advisor to David and Absalom. In fact, Scripture says his advice was considered as advice from God Himself. But when another’s (David’s spy) advice was taken over his, he was severely stung by this rejection, put his household in order, and hung himself.

Guilt: (Read Mat 27:3-5) Judas could not bear the thought of what he had done in taking money to betray Jesus, and thus hung himself.

Hopelessness: (Read Acts 16:25-28) The Philippian jailer, as a Roman soldier, would have been executed if the prisoners in his care escaped. When the divine earthquake took place, and he saw the prison doors open, he lost of all hope of living. He was in absolute despair. This kind of utter hopelessness is common in victims of suicide.

4. Where does the thought of suicide come from?

Well, not from God. 2 Timothy says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and a sound mind.” If suicidal thoughts are the result of rejection, they cannot be of God for God gives the spirit of love. If suicidal thoughts are the result of a guilty conscience, they cannot be of God for God gives the spirit of a sound mind. If suicidal thoughts are the result of hopelessness, they cannot be of God, for God gives the spirit of power.

If we wish to know where suicidal thoughts come from, we need look no further than the temptation of Jesus. (Read Luke 4:9-11) Satan, speaking to Jesus who is in an earthly body just like ours, tells Him to throw Himself off a building. And then he quotes some Scripture from the Psalms (out of context, his specialty) to convince Him to do this.

If Satan would try to convince Jesus to do harm to His body, how much more so would he do it to us? Jesus said that He came to this world so that we could have life, and life more abundantly. Scripture says of Satan that he has come to “steal, kill, and destroy.” If you are a Christian, Satan cannot have your eternal soul, but that does not mean he will not try everything in his power to destroy your happiness, your joy, and your very life.

And if any of you this morning are struggling with thoughts of taking your own life, you need to understand those thoughts are not from God. Nor are they somehow neutral thoughts just coming from your own head. Those thoughts are being planted in you by demonic suggestion. And when you’re confronted with those thoughts, you must fight back. Which leads us to our next question...

5. How does one combat thoughts of suicide?

If you read further in Luke 4, you see how Jesus does it... When Satan tried to get Jesus to cast Himself off a building He says “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” The important point there... He is quoting Scripture. Hebrews says the Word of God is “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.” The Bible is our weapon in Spiritual warfare.

What does that mean practically? It means that when Satan plants suicidal thoughts in your mind that you have a warchest of Scripture ready at your disposal. You remind Him that Scripture says he is the “father of lies.” You remind him that Scripture says God will not allow you to be tempted “beyond what you are able.” You remind him that God says in His Word, “I know the thoughts I think toward you. Thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” You remind him of the promise of God’s Word that says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And you remind him of the Scripture that says “Submit to God. Resist the devil. And he will flee from you.”

The Word is your sword, and those evil sprits tormenting you with these horrible thoughts aren’t likely to stick around when the Word of God is established in your mind and in your heart and upon your lips.*

6. Can a true believer entertain thoughts of wanting to die?

Unequivocally, yes. Let me give you just three examples...

When Job underwent his severe time of testing, he said, “May the day perish on which I was born, and the night in which it was said, ‘A male child is conceived.’ may that day be darkness... Why did I not die at birth?... Why was I not hidden like a stillborn child?”

When Elijah was threatened by the evil Queen Jezebel he went a day’s journey into the wilderness, sat under a tree and prayed that he might die.

After Jonah preached to the wicked city of Nineveh, and the people repented, he was so disgusted that God would forgive them that the Bible says he “wished death for himself” and said “It is better for me to die than to live.”

In these men we see everything from profound, personal tragedy, to fear, to just plain selfishness as reasons for wanting to die. But the point is that all of these men were God’s servants. And all of them struggled with thoughts of wanting to be dead.

Just because you have suicidal thoughts doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian. It just means you need to repent of those thoughts, refuse to entertain to them, and draw near to the Lord.

7. Is there really hope for the suicidal?

Without any hesitation or reservation... Yes! There is always hope in Jesus. Romans says “We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.”

To make this final point, I go back to the story of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16) who was prepared to kill himself when he saw the jail doors open. What happened?... Paul cried out with a loud voice, “Do yourself no harm! We are all here!” Then it says the jailer fell down trembling before Paul and Silas and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

And you know what happened? The very same night this man came so close to taking his life, he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, as did his entire family. They were all immediately baptized, and get this... The Scripture says afterward they set out a meal, and ate together and they rejoiced.

In one night this soldier went from being hopeless to rejoicing. That’s what Jesus can do.*

*These sentences should not be interpreted to mean that victory over suicidal thoughts is as simple as "naming it and claiming it."  I simply mean to say that victory is ultimately possible through faith in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.