The American Medical Association recently announced a change in its position on physician-assisted suicide. Despite the findings of its own ethics board, the AMA decided to reduce its opposition to physician-assisted suicide to a neutral position, sending the question back to its board of ethics for further study. This essentially opened the door for this position to change to one more favorable to the physician-assisted suicide proponents. This article will examine this development in light of Scripture and plain common sense.
The first thing we need to understand is where life comes from. This understanding is foundational to how we view man’s life in general. There are two competing worldviews, something any regular reader of this blog knows very well. I discuss both regularly. For the purposes of this article, I will skip past determining which worldview is correct and assume that we are approaching the question of physician-assisted suicide from a Biblical worldview. If you want to learn more about worldviews, you could start with my article here.
Having assumed a Biblical worldview, we must base our decisions on Scripture. While the Bible never mentions physician-assisted suicide or suicide at all, it does tell us a little about the value of a man’s life. In Genesis 9:5-6 the Bible lays out the punishment for killing another man, and explains the reason why the punishment is so stiff. “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” Bear in mind, this commandment was given before the Law of Moses. This command was not done away when Christ fulfilled the Law. While the ceremonial portions of the Old Testament Law were removed, and the letter of the law was fulfilled, this command never changed.
Something to notice also that the penalty is high because of what the crime represents. When a man kills another man, he has, accidentally or otherwise, defaced the very image of God. Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Throughout the Bible, God uses one thing as a picture of another. He uses marriage as a picture of how the relationship between Christ and the church should be. He made man as a picture of Himself. Think about that for a moment. The Almighty Creator God of the universe made man deliberately in His own image. Man was created, in part, to look like God. When a man or woman is killed, God’s image is destroyed. This is part of the reason why man’s life is so special.
While it is obvious that God takes killing very seriously, the physician-assisted suicide movement tries to get around this because these individuals want to die. The movement often touts “dying with dignity” and “dying without suffering” as reasons why it should be legalized. God has a response to that too. In 2 Corinthians 4:17 it tells us why we suffer. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” In other words, our sufferings are meant to bring glory to God and mold us to be more like Him. For more on suffering, you can read my article here.
Further, it is God Who determines when a man’s life ends. No man should determine that. Hebrews 9:27 tells us “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” Notice the word “appointed” in that verse. The word literally means “reserved”. In other words, God has reserved a particular time for each man and woman to die, and then be judged for their works. An interesting example of this occurs in 1 Kings 19:4. Elijah is running from Jezebel and he asks God to kill him. He wants to die with dignity as it were. Instead, God gives him more work to do in 1 Kings 19:15-18. That work turned out to be very important. Two kings of two different nations arose because of Elijah’s work, and a new prophet was called to replace him. Jehu, King of Israel, would slay Ahab’s family and eliminate Baal worship in Israel for a generation. All because God did not let Elijah “die with dignity”. Elijah intriguingly escaped death entirely. Instead, he was caught up into heaven in a chariot of fire, an ironic end for a man who once wished God would kill him.
God’s word is clear. Physician-assisted suicide is an affront to Him. Man is made in God’s image and anyone destroying that image has a sentence of death decreed by God four thousand years ago. Further, it is God Who determines whether a man should die or not. He has a particular time set for each man to die and it is not for man to decide when that is. Until such time as the Lord calls us individually to judgment, we ought to continue in our service to Him, and let Him worry about the rest of it.