Bible Teaching About Suicide

On August 11, 2014, Robin Williams was found dead at his home in Tiburon, California USA, the victim of an apparent suicide. This unfortunate discovery caused many people, including Christians, to consider the devastating quandary of suicide. What made this event especially challenging was that this Hollywood actor portrayed a life of comedy and happiness.

I recall that while I was enrolled in seminary and living at my parents home as a bachelor (2004-2006), my neighbor committed suicide. That tragic occurrence jolted me and confronted my thinking. The sad reality is that suicide increasingly touches our lives.

Some Facts about Suicide

  • Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans every year.
  • In 2004, 32,439 people died by suicide.
  • There are twice as many deaths due to suicide than HIV/AIDS.
  • Between 1952 and 1995, suicide in young adults nearly tripled.
  • Over half of all suicides occur in adult men, ages 25-65.
  • For young people 15-24 years old, suicide is the third leading cause of death
  • There are an estimated 8 to 25 attempted suicides to 1 completion.
  • The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression.
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old Americans.
  • An average of one person dies by suicide every 16.2 minutes.
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide.
  • There are three female suicide attempts for each male attempt.

The events I’ve mentioned and the stats I’ve cited prompted me to pause and ask what the Bible says about suicide. I looked up all clear instances of suicide in Scripture, which included Exo. 20:13, 1 Sam. 31:4, 2 Sam. 17:23, 1 Kin. 16:8, Matt. 27:3-5 and Acts 16:27. While the Bible does not answer every question about suicide, especially in the medical and psychological realm, it certainly provides crucial insight that we need in order to avoid taking steps towards suicide and to respond to suicide in a stable, wholesome way.

Ultimately, my Bible study taught me that suicide is a hopeless response to problems in life that fails to embrace the change that God provides.

Suicide is a hopeless response to problems in life that fails to embrace the change that God provides.

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at what I discovered.

Suicide is murder.

God forbids murder (Exo. 20:13). As a human being, you are fashioned in the image of God, who gives you life. You did not choose your birth, God did. And you do not choose your death, or another man’s death, for self-motivated reasons. God chooses who will be born and who will die. Suicide usurps the authority of God over life and death as murder.

Suicide is provoked by personal failure.

This personal failure may be related to unrelenting guilt from sinful choices or excruciating sorrow from personal loss. If a person loses public respect, experiences a damaged reputation or faces severe consequences resulting from poor choices (like divorce, romantic separation, investment losses, credit loss, job loss, academic failure, professional collapse or something similar), they may encounter increased temptations to commit suicide.

  • Consider Ahithophel, the top adviser to King David, who once enjoyed an esteemed public reputation as a very wise person. But when Absalom revolted against David, Ahithophel followed Absalom, becoming his top adviser instead. When Absalom ignored his advice, he committed suicide (2 Sam. 17:23-24). Why did he commit suicide? Because his professional reputation was ruined.
  • Do you remember Zimri, who was a king of Israel? To become king, he killed the sitting king in a coup. As a result, he ruled Israel instead, but only for one week. When one of his officers, Omri, besieged the city, Zimri committed suicide by entering the royal palace and setting it on fire around himself. His guilt from personal treachery and sin provoked him to do this (1 Ki. 16:18-19).
  • Then, of course, there is the infamous Judas Iscariot, who developed a close relationship with Jesus Christ for several years. But when he realized that Jesus would not liberate Israel and establish an Israelite kingdom at that time, overtaking the Roman government, he abandoned Jesus. He turned in Jesus to the crooked Jewish authorities for thirty pieces of silver, which was the price of a slave, the modern equivalent of $25-30. After the authorities seized Jesus, Judas experienced deep remorse and overwhelming guilt over betraying an innocent man to death, which motivated him to return the money and hang himself (Mat. 27:3-5).

Be aware that suicide, though often affected by spiritual factors such as these, can be complicated by physiological factors of various kinds, not all of which are the result of sinful choices. Substance abuse (alcoholism, cocaine, marijuana, etc.), certain legal medications (with side effects), post-pregnancy for some women and depression of any kind may all heighten the risk of suicide. And since I am not a medical doctor, I cannot offer any advice about these things.

Suicide is an act of hopelessness.

We notice this clearly when King Saul died on the battlefield, the victim of suicide. Prior to that battle, God had revealed to him through Samuel, the prophet, that he would lose the battle, die along with his sons and relinquish his kingdom to another man not in his family. This was devastating news indeed, with no hope of escape. So when the battle reached a climax, and it became clear that the enemy would capture and kill him, he asked his battle assistant to kill him instead. His assistant refused, so he killed himself to avoid capture (1 Sam. 31:4-5). An overwhelming sense of sheer hopelessness persuaded Saul to do this.

So suicide, or murdering yourself, occurs for many reasons, including intense personal guilt and tremendous personal loss, especially when the prospects of a resolution seem bleak and hopeless. When factors like this encircle a person, that person may consider suicide, and may follow through with this terrible act. Why?

Suicide is the result of failing to view life from God’s perspective.

When a person commits suicide, they reveal a faulty view of God and the life He has given to them. Here are some important principles to consider.

God made you (Gen. 1:26-28; Ps. 139:14).

You are not an accident. You are not the result of random chance or evolutionary mutations. You are the result of a loving God’s intentions, a person God made with deliberate love and care. If you are alive, He wants you to be alive. He greatly desires for you to fulfill your special purpose in life.

Jesus died for you, in your place (Isa. 53:6, 2 Cor. 5:21, Gal. 3:13).

You are a sinner who commits sin, and sin causes hopelessness. Though this is true, it is only half of the truth. It is the “bad news” half of the truth. The “good news” half of the truth is that Jesus Christ became a human being, lived a life without sin and died for you, in your place. Whatever death you deserve to die, He already died it for you. He only demands that you turn away from whatever else you are trusting on to rescue you from sin and death, and turn to Him instead. You do not have to die. Jesus died for you and turned hopelessness into true hope.

God accepts you in Christ (Eph. 1:6).

When you believe on Jesus Christ as your Savior, He not only removes the penalty of your death and the guilt of your sin, but He also gives you His right standing before God. God accepts you in Christ. Perhaps you’ve demolished your public reputation, or someone else has done this for you. Perhaps you have developed a perspective of yourself that is so abysmal that you see no point in living. Well, if you’ve trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation from sin, death and hell, you’ve been accepted into an everlasting relationship with God that will never go away. Get the picture. God wants you, and He wants you to live! He accepts you like He accepts Jesus Christ.

Through Christ, God provides all that you need.

First, He provides all that you need for cleansing and restoration from sinful choices (Prov. 28:13, 1 John 1:9). Whatever sins you have committed, God is able to forgive. To receive this full and complete release from guilt and shame, you must confess your sin, which means to “call your sin what God calls it.” Did you steal? Call it stealing. Say, “God, I stole. I’m a thief. Please forgive me.” Will God forgive you? Yes! It’s this way for any sin. Agree with God. Don’t call it a mistake. Or a little failure of some kind. Call it exactly what God calls it. If you will agree with Him, He will forgive you and cleanse you.

Second, He provides all that you need for lasting change. He calls this change being “renewed” in Romans 12:1-2. And He calls it “overcoming” in 1 Jn. 5:4. He calls it many other things, too. Through Christ, through the truth of Christ revealed in the Bible, you are able to experience a new way of thinking that enables you fulfill the complete will and purpose of God for your life, in spite of past failure. And He enables you to overcome any strongholds of wrong thinking and patterns of wrong behavior that influence your daily life.

You live for Christ and others, not for yourself.

What is life? It is Christ (Col. 3:4). It is living for Him and through Him. When you live for yourself, to advance your career, your wealth, your pleasure, your health and your reputation, you will lose. Such selfish living is empty living. No wonder it leads many to commit suicide, and countless others to consider doing so. Why did Jesus make you and die for you? So that you might experience an abundant life for His glory (Jn. 10:10).

And in living for Christ, life is also for others. Christ showed us how to prioritize meeting the needs of other people over meeting our own needs (Mk. 10:43-45). When we become absorbed by our own issues, we fail to help others around us and lose sight of our purpose. So this is the way God describes your purpose in life, love God and love others (Matt. 22:37-40). You cannot do this on your own. You must rely on God to enable you, and He will, regardless of your past and your present choices and circumstances. There is hope!

Exposure to genuine Christianity can prevent suicide.

Suicide moments in the Bible usually end in tragedy, revealing to us the kind of things that lead to this awful choice. But tucked away in the New Testament is a very encouraging occurrence, one that turns in a wonderful direction. It is the suicide that never happened, and this unfolded when two men were doing missions work, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to new cities in Eastern Europe (Acts 16:25-34).

Idol worshiping, idol selling opponents falsely accused these men, Paul and Silas. As a result, local authorities subjected them to whipping and imprisonment. As they lay in their prison cell, suffering from their excruciating experience, they decided to pray and sing songs of praise to God. Would you do that? I might have chosen to cry or complain instead. Or maybe get some sleep!

That same night, and earthquake shook the city, including the prison. The quake cause the prison doors to open, clearing the way for a jailhouse escape. If any of the prisoners had escaped, the government would have taken the life of the prison guard, in keeping with common law. So the prison guard pulled out his sword, preparing to kill himself (like Saul did in 1 Sam. 31:4-5). But Paul spoke up to inform him that no one had escaped. His life was preserved.

How did the prison guard respond? He turned to Jesus Christ alone for salvation. The influence of genuine Christianity, lived out by Paul and Silas in difficult circumstances, influenced the prisoners not to flee and influenced the prison guard to abandon his plans for suicide and turn to Jesus. Now that’s an encouraging story!

Has your life been touched by suicide? Are you struggling with thoughts of suicide even now? By God’s grace, may what I’ve shared in this Bible study post give you the thoughts you need to restore your confidence in God and your hope for living. God bless you!

To hear a full-length sermon on this topic, click here.
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