Suicide, Part 1
Suicide has been in the news recently. South Dakota news agencies have reported that there has been a 40% rise in suicide rates in SD. Nationally, a megachurch pastor in southern California committed suicide about a week ago. With these issues in the headlines, an important question for us to consider is, “How should Christians think through suicide?” One way is highlighted for us in Phil 1:20–26. This passage helps us develop a biblical response to suicide.
In this passage, Paul encounters the same mindset that those who commit suicide encounter—it is better to die than to live. Paul states this very idea in v. 23: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Nevertheless, Paul’s desire to die is counterbalanced with his conviction to continue serving others. This is mentioned in v. 24: “But to remain in the flesh [i.e., to continue living] is more necessary on your account.” Paul ends this thought experiment with the conclusion that, because it is better for the Philippians that Paul live, it is best that he continue his earthly ministry (v. 25).
Paul’s example teaches us two lessons. First, it is not evil to desire death. Paul himself desired this (v. 23). Sometimes this world weighs so heavily upon us that we long to depart this life and be with Christ. It is OK to think thoughts like that. Nevertheless, service to others is greater than the pleasure(s) that death offers Christians. This is point two. Every decision Christians make, even the decision of when to die, should be based upon a love for others. As we have life, we should live it for the “progress” and “joy” of others (v. 26). To live for others is better than to die for self.