C.H. Spurgeon

Sinners, let me address you with words of life; Jesus wants nothing from you, nothing whatsoever, nothing done, nothing felt; he gives both work and feeling. Ragged, penniless, just as you are, lost, forsaken, desolate, with no good feelings, and no good hopes, still Jesus comes to you, and in these words of pity he addresses you, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out."

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Playing Judas: Suicide

In my recent book entitled Playing Judas, I cover the biblical story of Judas in light of examining ourselves as Professing Christians. With the news of Robin Williams passing, causing many to ponder thoughts surrounding depression and suicide, I thought I'd share my chapter on suicide (specifically Judas Iscariot's suicide). In no way is this meant to be directed toward Robin Williams, or to be used as a means to say he went to hell.



It is estimated about one million people commit suicide each year, with depression (specifically, untreated depression) believed to be the number one cause. Although, it is assessed that approximately 30,000 die from suicide each year in America, there is evidence that suggest nearly 750,000 souls attempt to take their own lives every year. So, what would be the number of attempts worldwide? And, what of the ones we do not know about? How many souls are leaving this world each day – each second – which may not be ready to meet God?

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: [Hebrews 9:27]

Even if someone does not believe in God, heaven or hell, or even an afterlife, surely one would agree that suicide is the end of one person’s life but affects more people than just themselves. What of those left behind? What message are we sending them in taking our own life? Would we not be selfish in our thoughts and actions? Should we not consider others?

Perhaps we leave our parents feeling guilty they could not protect us from it. Maybe our children or siblings will do the same, merely following in the footsteps of one they looked up to. What of our spouses and friends, left with broken and meaningless relationships we once shared? How does a church cope with the loss of one who preached or taught faith over unbelief, hope instead of doubt, endurance through trials and tribulations, and living for Christ, only to give up hope at the end of their rope?
We do not live or die unto ourselves. How we live and die affects people and society around us, whether we realize how great or small it may be. If it merely affects one person, we should consider how the impact may change them – and perhaps for the worse, rather than the better. And, to claim to be a Professing Christian within the Professing Church, we have sworn allegiance to no more live unto ourselves. We are the Lord’s!

For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. [Romans 14:7-9]

For this portion of the book I want to be sensitive, because of the emotions which can surround this topic (especially if one has considered or lost someone to suicide), but I also want to be realistic and scriptural at the same time. Sometimes how we feel does not always line up with truth, but truth often times needs to be laced with grace so our emotions will be able to listen. So, hopefully I can share this with enough grace to allow the reader to at least consider it. Please remember my purpose of this writing is to help people by learning from Judas, not hurt them by calling them Judas. I would rather none of us be found Playing Judas.

To begin, let’s define a few terms:

  • suicide – to take one’s life intentionally
  • depression – a state of sadness, gloom, dejection
    • sadness – unhappy, grief, sorrow, mournful
    • gloom – full or partial darkness, dim
    • dejection – lowness of spirits

Now, I am not an expert in relation to suicide, all of its causes, or how to resolve one’s thoughts or tendencies toward taking their own life. I would strongly suggest one pray to God and read scripture, but I would also encourage one to seek out all the help they could possibly get from family, friends, church, co-workers, groups, doctors, therapists, etc. The more support we can get during any difficult time in our lives the better the outcome will most likely be. But, not only do we need to seek out wise council, we have to be willing to accept and follow sound advice.

So, let’s take a look at suicide and depression in the case of Judas Iscariot, and see how his sad example might help us and others both in the physical and spiritual realm.

Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. [Matthew 27:3-8]
What are some possible things which may have led Judas to suicide?

  • Confronted with sin (his embarrassment, humiliation)
  • Left the other Eleven apostles (his friends)
  • Handed over Jesus Christ (his master, teacher, spiritual leader)
  • Turned away by the Religious (his church)

Who was left for Judas to turn to? In his mind, possibly no one. He had forsaken his church (for good reason) to follow Jesus, yet now had forsaken his friends and Jesus for personal gain (thirty pieces of silver). When he tried to return to his church (religious leaders) they rejected him, and he could no longer find friendship with the world (those who opposed Christ), the flesh (himself), or the devil (Satan having previously possessed him). We do not know of his parents, siblings, or possible friends at this time in his life, but most likely he left all to follow Jesus.

Surely, Judas experienced:

sadness – unhappy, grief, sorrow, mournful

Judas was truly mournful when he realized he had “betrayed the innocent blood” (Jesus Christ). Grief had to have overshadowed him greatly when the religious crowd refused to allow him to return the blood money. His sorrows must have been great, feeling as though he could turn neither to the apostles nor the religious leaders, nor any longer even unto Jesus Christ.

Sadness can come upon us in the blink of an eye, and sometimes it can be very grievous and seem unbearable; especially if we have created it ourselves and we see no quick way out of it. Hope can be lost, replaced with depression.

gloom – full or partial darkness, dim

There were those in England, such as George Cheyne in 1733, who believed the gloomy weather caused a “melancholy disposition” over people which was partial to blame for the suicides of that time. Perhaps some still consider this to be the case for certain persons even today. Do you feel differently in gloomy weather?

In the emotional sense, we can feel as though we are likewise in a storm, with darkness all around us, and no way to escape. Though we might see light – a glimpse of hope – we may be afraid to take the leap, so we stay in the shadows of fear and doubt. Till we lose all hope, and the pain overcomes us so great we would even choose death to escape it.

In the spiritual sense, scripture contrast the light and the darkness; whereas even partial darkness is full in condition. The darkness blinds us to the hope in Christ, and we are left believing death is our only escape.

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. [Matthew 6:22-24]

dejection – lowness of spirits

There can be no doubt that Judas indeed had lowness of spirit when his conscience confronted him with the realization of what he had done, and being unable to undo it or make any penance by returning the money.

But, are these justifiable reasons for one to take their own life? Jesus saith, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” [Matthew 11:28] Is not turning to suicide then turning away from Jesus and his call to find rest in him? For, how can one truly say they are trusting in Christ if they allow the things of this world and in their life to bring them to the point of suicide? Are we not told to deny ourselves, take up our cross (daily), and follow Jesus Christ? [Luke 9:23] To end one’s on life is denying God who made us and Christ who gave himself for us; especially, if it truly be so that we are Professing Christians.

So, what does God say about suicide? At first glance, there may be some who believe the bible is silent on the subject. It is true the word “suicide” is not present within scripture, but that does not mean it is permissible or condoned by holy God. Is it truly prudent to presume something is acceptable or excused merely because we do not see or understand a direct command against it? Would we teach our children such? Does “I didn’t know” or “You didn’t tell me” remove guilt or make one innocent? We are not justified by ignorance.

If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance, in the holy things of the Lord; then he shall bring for his trespass unto the Lord a ram without blemish out of the flocks, with thy estimation by shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering. [Leviticus 5:15]

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. [Acts 17:29-31]

The term “suicide” was conceived by Sir Thomas Browne in his work Religio Medici; whereby he appears to praise it. Before this time, suicide was known as self-murder or self-assassination, with two schools of thought being:

The individual was stealing from God, and leaving themselves no time or means to repent before dying. It is the opposite of perseverance and hope.

The act “takes away all reason and virtue and all the noble trial and satisfaction of them; so that on Principles of Nature itself, it must be deemed utterly unlawful.” [John Henley]

In Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 we are given the law of God, with one being “Thou shalt not kill.” So, can suicide be defined as self-killing? Is it not depriving one of life “in any manner”, to bring about death? Does not suicide make the individual a murderer? By all accounts it does.

By acknowledging suicide as what it truly is – the murdering of oneself – it separates those of suicide and those who are martyrs by definition. A martyr is one who willingly suffers torment or even death, but not by their own hand – nor by their own hand bringing it about, as in the cases of suicidal-murder. Some may see a fine line between the two – at least in some cases – but the line is definitively there nonetheless. One may claim that those who refuse to escape martyrdom are likewise committing suicide, but such is not the case if their life is taken by another. The murderer is the one who kills life, not the one from whom it is taken.

What does scripture say of murder?

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom
of God. [Galatians 5:19-20]

1 John 3:15 tells us even one who “hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” This is not to say that everyone who commits suicide hates themselves, but to show the severity of hate and murder Christ brought about this point. Both can have eternal consequences! For who is the “eternal life”? Jesus Christ [John 14:6]. And murder brings forth death (the enemy of life).

“Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” [Romans 8:9b] To be “none of his” is to remain in one’s sin; a murderer. If we be his, we are to “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:6-7] We have help in Christ. Do not turn from it!

Here is what makes suicide the greater sin, or disservice – if one wishes to define sin in levels of severity against humanity. The killing of oneself is murder, and the very act removes the opportunity for the individual to seek repentance of the sin and reconciliation with God before meeting him face-to-face at either the Judgment Seat of Christ [Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10] or the Great White Throne Judgment [Revelation 20:11-15]. We will not discuss the topic of these two judgments here, but we do know that after death is “the judgment”. [Hebrews 9:27] That is our standing before the Judge; for “every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” [Romans 14:12]

Now, I realize there are numerous reasons why persons may commit suicide, and some may legitimately be due to mental illness or other causes outside the scope of our study here. There is no way to answer every question about suicide satisfactory, nor would it be fair for me to condemn all souls to hell who have taken their own lives. Neither has been my purpose.

Even so, before one quotes “Judge not, that ye be not judged” [Matthew 7:1], let us remember scripture also declares “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” [John 7:24]; for “he that is spiritual judgeth all things” [1 Corinthians 2:15]. Who then is spiritual? Those who have the “the Spirit of God” and “the mind of Christ”. [1 Corinthians 2]

For this reason, I would ask the reader (even one who has been hurt by a loss or wishes to study suicide further) to strive to consider any discussion or study of suicide objectively in light of truth and not merely by emotion or justification for oneself or one’s family or friends who may have taken their life. We cannot simply wish someone into heaven, nor can we merely believe that God may not judge one for taking their own life because we care about them, we believe they are a good person, or would rather blame someone or something else. We must be honest with ourselves and with each individual situation.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. [Philippians 4:8]

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; [2 Corinthians 10:5]

There have been those who have sought to condone or even praise suicide for the sake of love (being unable to live without someone) and honor (or the restoration thereof). Do these not yet then become idols? A person, thing, or purpose which does supersede God in our heart, soul, mind, or strength? Are we not commanded to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength”? [Mark 12:30]

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. [Luke 14:26]

We understand this (that is “hate” in this context) to not mean “murder” (whether in deed or motive) which Christ did teach against, but rather likened unto all things must be secondary in our lives to our love for God and Jesus Christ. Do we love someone more than Christ, and only live for them; whereby we would desire death over living life without them? What of honor in the eyes of man? Does it yet precede our obedience to Christ and sacred honor before holy God? Shall we slay ourselves in seeking to gain the honor of men and risk the curse of God?

Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. [Matthew 10:28]

Do we yet become lovers of our own selves, desiring death over the loss of any pleasures of this life? Do we have a form of godliness which helps our outward image, yet leaves those around us at a loss when those things which we lived for no longer provide us with a reason to live? Do the perilous times have us embracing death rather than life?

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. [2 Timothy 3:1-5]

Or have we become self-haters as we look at ourselves in light of what we perceive to be reality (both physical and spiritual)? Michel Montaigne believed “it is against nature for one to despise oneself – a sickness peculiar to man and not seen in any other creature” – and considered “self-hatred as a kind of vanity and writes that it is by a similar vanity that we wish to become something other than we are.” [Jennifer M. Hecht] Are we double minded? [James 1:8]

Within the Professing Church (that is within the religious institutions rather than the world, as some would say), there may be found what has been called “Religious Melancholy”; namely the idea that spiritual leaders have caused many to think there is no hope for them. Robert Burton (The Anatomy of Melancholy) claims ministers (though, surely not all) go about “making every small fault and thing indifferent an irremissible offence, they so rent, tear, and wound men’s consciences that they are almost mad and at their wit’s ends.”

Do we lower salvation so low that it is merely trampled by every man’s foot, or raise it so high that it is impossible for any man to obtain it even through grace? Do we discard the fallen brethren or seek to restore them? Do we love because God loved us? Do we forgive because God forgave us? Or, do we “beholdest thou the mote that is in [our] brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in [our] own eye”? [Matthew 7:3]

Some (to promote martyrdom, yet not all) have even determined to liken the self-murder of persons with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary, claiming he actually committed suicide himself; for he did say, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” [John 10:15] But, perhaps not all of the story is being observed:

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. [John 10:16-18]

Jesus says a couple of interesting things here:
  • Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
  • This commandment have I received of my Father.

How many persons who have committed suicide claim:
  • I was commanded by God.
  • I lay down my life – why? That I might take it again.

People do not commit suicide (at least, not that I know of or have read about) that they might take back up their life yet again. Sadly, most are due to them no longer wanting anything to do with their life; whether due to love (or the loss thereof), honor (or the restoration thereof), depression, or mental illness. Death is seen as an end, as an escape from that which plagues one spiritually, emotionally, or physically. There is no man (or woman) who has the “power to take it (their life) again”.

John records Jesus’ words, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” [John 15:13]

He goes on to say:

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another.” [John 14:14-17]

Death was not the reason for Christ laying down his life. Death is not the reason why one is to lay down their life for their friends. Love is the reason. Jesus Christ chose to suffer the cross because he loved God the Father in obedience, and because he loves mankind in giving us forgiveness of sin and entrance into eternity with him by his sacrifice. When you hear stories of soldiers giving themselves (laying down their lives) for fellow soldiers, it is not because they want to die (to take their own lives) but rather desire to save their friends (that they may live!). Neither our life nor our death can pay our sin debt. Jesus did that which we could not so that we may live!

Judas did not commit self-murder (lay down his life) for his friends or Christ, nor because of love for either. Neither did he do so to take up his life yet again. It appears more so for a love of himself. A final act of selfishness. I realize some may discount this, but one must consider it.

Love: to have a strong liking or devotion for.
  • [compare also Latin libēre (originally lubēre) to please]

Selfish: to be more concerned with one’s own welfare, etc. than another’s.
Judas did not show love toward the other Eleven (or the many other disciples) or for Christ in his betrayal, but rather in regards to his own greed or personal purpose. He did not lay down his life that his fellow believers or Christ would live, but instead to escape his current predicament and/or feelings. Is that not likewise why many (I will not say all) suicides occur? Because they no longer want to feel the pain (or what it is they are feeling) or be exposed to what is going on within or around them (whether people, circumstances, or consequences past, present, or future)? Is it not more about self than others?

Some press that suicide restores (or brings about) honor to one (or one’s family) who has disgraced themselves (or their family), but do we see such honor restored in Judas’ hanging himself? Would it have not been more honorable (moral) to confess, repent, and make restitution by living the rest of his life as a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Was not Paul forgiven for persecuting Jesus [Acts 9:5; 26:14] (while yet religious) in the sense that he did persecute the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12], yet did repent and go forth as an apostle of Jesus Christ for the rest of his days? How many were persuaded to trust in the Messiah, the Savior, because of the life and witness of Paul?

Could not Judas Iscariot have possibly been given this honor had he lived, even as Peter who did yet deny the Lord thrice? Sadly, we shall never know. Just as we shall never know the positive, honorable impact (both great and small) so many souls could have had on individuals and society had they lived to tell their story instead of taking their own lives.  

What will your story tell? Surely more than your suicide would.

John Bunyan

To be saved is to be preserved in the faith to the end. 'He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.' (Mt. 24:13) Not that perseverance is an accident in Christianity, or a thing performed by human industry; they that are saved 'are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.' (1 Pet. 1: 3-6) But perseverance is absolutely necessary to the complete saving of the soul…. He that goeth to sea with a purpose to arrive at Spain, cannot arrive there if he be drowned by the way; wherefore perseverance is absolutely necessary to the saving of the soul.