What does the Bible say about suicide?
Imagine receiving a question late at night from someone that says something like, "My life is meaningless and there is no point in living. If you don't convince me otherwise, I am going to commit suicide in the next hour." What would you do? What I did the first time this happened: I wrote the best possible response I could come up with in 10 minutes and sent it to her. Thankfully, I heard back, and she stated that she had decided not to commit suicide, but, unfortunately, I never heard back from her again after that.
Recent stats say that over one million people a year commit suicide. Just imagine how many people consider committing suicide but never go through with it. When I was a teenager, I briefly contemplated committing suicide. But thankfully, God slapped some sense into me, even though I was not a believer in Christ at the time. Suicide is the ultimate admission from a person that he/she does not have (or at least is not experiencing) the abundant life God promises through Christ (John 10:10). Suicide is the ultimate "I give up" statement. It is a surrender to the belief that a life is so messed up that there is no possibility of salvaging anything from it.
Suicide is a permanent "solution" to temporary problems. It is so sad to hear news reports about teenagers who commit suicide after a relationship break up, or due to bullying at school, or due to some other trivial issue. While it obviously did not seem trivial to the person who committed suicide, in the grand scheme of things, there is nothing that warrants suicide. Problems that seem so overwhelming today will be looked back upon years later as virtually meaningless. Especially for the Christian, with eternity in mind, there is nothing that could happen in this world that would justify committing suicide.
The Bible mentions six people who committed suicide (Judges 9:54; 1 Samuel 31:4-6; 2 Samuel 17:23; 1 Kings 16:18; Matthew 27:5). None of them were righteous, to say the least. The Bible nowhere explicitly states, "it is a sin to commit suicide," but the Bible does condemn murder (Exodus 20:13). Suicide is "self-murder," therefore suicide is a sin since murder is a sin. Aside from the "do not commit murder" command, suicide is also a sin for the following two reasons, one theological and one practical: (1) it is God and God alone who has the right to determine life and death, and (2) suicide reveals a belief that God is not powerful enough to help you solve your problems.
The vast majority of people will agree with us that suicide is a sin. The debate begins, though, with the question of whether suicide is forgivable. Typically, a suicide-related question will be along the lines of: "For God to forgive us, we have to repent from our sins and confess our sins to God. If someone commits suicide, he/she has no opportunity to repent or confess. Therefore, suicide is not a forgivable sin. Anyone who commits suicide is sent straight to hell." There is one primary problem with this line of thought: it does not recognize that Jesus died for ALL of our sins. When God purchased us with the blood of Christ, ALL of our sins were paid for (1 Peter 1:19). If a person who has truly received Jesus Christ as Savior, thereby demonstrating that he/she has been redeemed, reconciled, forgiven, justified, etc., by God, commits suicide, the sin of suicide was covered by the blood of Christ. Now, we can question whether a true Christian could commit suicide, but, if a true Christian were to commit suicide, it would be forgiven. Verses that connect confession with forgiveness (such as 1 John 1:9) are referring to relational forgiveness between a believer and God, not the judicial forgiveness that was perfectly accomplished by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No, suicide is not an unforgivable sin. Suicide is not greater than the price Jesus Christ paid with His atoning sacrifice.
A side issue related to suicide that we are often asked about is whether Jesus' death should be considered a suicide. After all, Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him, yet He did nothing to avoid it. In fact, He walked straight towards it. Isn't that suicide? No, it most definitely is not. Sacrificing your life on behalf of others is not suicide. Suicide is intentionally killing yourself. Yes, Jesus willingly sacrificed His life, but Jesus did not kill Himself. Similarly, a fireman who dies trying to save someone in a fire did not commit suicide, even if he knew running into the burning building would very likely cost him his life. Another biblical example would be Samson (Judges 16:26-31), who pushed down the pillars of the temple, knowing that it would take his life. However, it was Samson's goal to destroy the Philistines. Samson was willing to sacrifice his own life in order to achieve that goal, but the goal was not specifically to commit suicide. Sacrificing your own life in order to save others is an admission that "you are not your own…you were bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20), and that God's purposes for your life are greater and higher than your preferences.
What does the Bible say about suicide? Simply put, suicide is a sin. It is never the right thing to take your own life. What does the Bible say about suicide? Don't do it! If you are an unbeliever, God is able to redeem your life and give you a true purpose for living through Jesus Christ. If you are a believer, God has already redeemed your life, and no matter how horrible your current circumstances, God can accomplish great things through the rest of your life.
S. Michael Houdmann
What does the Bible say about suicide?