What the Bible says about Euthanasia...
Euthanasia is a topic under intense discussion in our 21st century culture. It usually revolves around the intentional and compassionate taking of someone's life due to pain or suffering through terminal illness or injury either by yourself or the assistance of others. Various derivations include active and passive approaches where the decedent directly brings about their own death, or it is done by outside parties or mechanisms. Some also categorise euthanasia as voluntary/involuntary/non-voluntary,and even medically-assisted suicide.
On the one side of euthanasia sits murder (where others assist with a death), with the other side harbouring suicide (which is self inflicted for reasons other than compassion--due to intolerable pain or suffering). The Bible deals with murder and suicide on a number of occasions but the topic of euthanasia has become difficult issue to understand. We must look farther ahead than just the immediate relief of pain and suffering and explore a more comprehensive world and life view.
At first glance, euthanasia seems to be a compassionate approach to those suffering pain and terminal disease. In the midst of that kind of endless suffering, it seems easy to grant their request. Or assist them in bringing about their end. And there lies the rub....
THE SANCTITY OF LIFE
The Bible is very clear about the taking of a human life:
- First, humans are not allowed to take human life for selfish reasons. Just war and capital crimes death sentences sanctioned by the state are the only justifiable ways to take away a human's life. Any other act of life-taking in a calculated, premeditated way is wrong in God's eyes.
Exodus 20:13 (NIV)
"You shall not murder.
Genesis 9:5-6 (NIV)
And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.
6 "Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made man."
- Secondly, suicide in the Bible is mentioned only casually and without too much comment other than noting the contexts of each case as abnormal and unacceptable either socially or morally. (See Matthew 27:3-5, II Samuel 17:23, and II Kings 16:18-19)
- Thirdly, voluntary euthanasia that is [medically] assisted is also frowned upon considering that King Saul's asking for his servant to finish him off--resulted in the servant's own death for failure to honour the King in taking his life. (See II Samuel 1:5-10)
YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN
One typical response in defence of euthanasia is that our bodies are our own and that we can do whatever we like with our bodies...including ending our lives.
Not so says the Bible...
All human beings are image bearers of the living God. God created us with certain finite traits of His own infinite, eternal and unchangeable personality...
Genesis 1:26-28 (NIV)
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.
God is sovereign over all things that happen in the universe...including our lives and we must look to His leadership over us in life and in death.
Romans 14:7-9 (NIV)
For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.
8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
PURPOSE OF THIS LIFE IS TO PREPARE FOR THE NEXT
A major flaw in the thinking surrounding euthanasia is the idea that it all ends with the ceasing of a biological function. Or alternatively, that involuntary/voluntary euthanasia will automatically transport you to your understanding of some kind of hopeful "after life".
But the Bible says there is life after death of either a glorious nature or...one of despair and ruin. One thing is for sure--you will meet God face to face.
Hebrews 9:27 (NIV)
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement,...
2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV)
For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)
"Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'
23 Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Revelation 20:11-15 (NIV)
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.
13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.
14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
15 If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:1-8 (NIV)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
6 He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.
7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
At issue when one is contemplating taking one's own life or taking someone else's life to end their suffering...is whether or not we believe God is in control. Can God intervene in space, time & history to change things? Can God use the present situation to further His divine purposes using you or the suffering person?
What if God chose to miraculously heal in order that your testimony before others would glorify God? What if God chose to humble you with pain and suffering in order for your faithful walk before Him to be an inspiration to countless others in the same situation. What if your suffering amidst trials and tribulations was the instrument of countless numbers of people coming to God?
In other words...
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Old people and and those injured or sick must not be selfish in their thinking and only do what is best for themselves. Trusting God to overcome and provide purpose in their life situation is important. Consider the tasks that the old have to teach the young:
Titus 2:1-5 (NIV)
You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.
2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Should the pain and the suffering be of such an elevation as you or your friends can no longer bear to deal with it, one last word from God should remind us of his love and provision for us...
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
1 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NIV)
He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
Scripture taken from the
HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society,
Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House
An excellent resource on this subject is A Life Worth Living - The Euthanasia Debate published by The Church & Nation Committee of The Presbyterian Church of Victoria 1995.