What Does the Bible Say About Euthanasia?

by Christian Townson

The Canadian advertisement opens with a woman staring at an ocean sunset, follows with slow-motion images of music, dancing, and a gathering of friends. It ends with the tagline, “All Is Beauty.” This might be an ad for cosmetics, a travel destination, or insurance. But this advertisement is different – at times beautifully moving, and yet heartbreaking. The product being sold is death.

Also in the news, a Veteran Affairs Canada (VAC) employee reportedly suggested euthanasia as an option to a Canadian Armed Forces veteran as an alternative to medical care. The veteran was being treated for a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. One who had vocationally offered to lay her life on the line in service of her country learned how little this representative of the Canadian government valued that life. Canada has even studied the money it might save in its healthcare system through medical assisted suicide.

The culture continues to make a troubling turn as it embraces euthanasia, importing the practices from Europe or our neighbor to the north. It’s worth noting the trends in Canada, not just because of their direct impact on the lives of Canadians, but because they may be a window into an American future. Even today, ten states have legalized physician-assisted suicide. Please note that for the purpose of this article, we will focus specifically on euthanasia rather than the withdrawal of life support. In the case of the latter, the patient’s condition or illness is the cause of death after the artificial means of keeping them alive are removed. With euthanasia, the person chooses to receive an injection that directly causes death.

We must note the circumstances around euthanasia are often heartbreaking. Terminal illness and pain often accompany the stories of those considering assisted suicide. They long for release. They do not want to be a burden. They resist losing control of their own lives. They want to find joy by any means necessary, both for themselves and their loved ones.

As Blaise Pascal noted, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” King Saul fell on his sword to avoid future pain (1 Sam. 31:4-6). Even Judas, as he felt remorse for his decision to betray Jesus, ended his own life, seeking relief from his guilt (Matt. 27:5).

Why would believers stand in the way of someone looking for an end to their pain?

  1. Euthanasia is Playing God: Unlike measures to extend and preserve life, our calling is not to unnaturally shorten the days God has granted a person. In Job, we see that God numbers our days: “Man who is born of a woman is few of days…Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass.” (Job 14:1a, 5) God also says, “Honor your father and mother” (which is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3). God is the Giver of Life. Our calling is not to be takers of life.
  2. Humans are Unique in God’s Creation: Any animal owner who has taken a pet to be euthanized doesn’t soon forget the experience. Watching a beloved animal die in a doctor’s office is painful because it is unnatural. But humans are not simply animals; we are uniquely made in the image of God. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).  God gave us the precious gift of life. We must not take that gift lightly.
  3. God is at Work in our Pain: For the believer, our pain causes us to look toward glory and the promise of heaven. For the unbeliever, God points to a need for Him in every stumble, spasm, or shortened breath. Countless “deathbed conversions” over the centuries show that the Spirit may be nearer to us in those final hours than in the totality of a lifetime. He may use this time in calling a soul to the greater rest only He can offer.
  4. Called to be Comforters: The modern medical field is Christian in origin – you need only look at the names of your local hospitals to see the historic impact of Christianity on providing aid and comfort to those suffering. As believers, we’re called to pray and care for the sick. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). We are called to be comforters in the hour of need.
  5. Euthanasia Fails to Bring the Peace it Promises: Another name for euthanasia is "mercy killing." The mantra for euthanasia centers on the relief it provides for the patient. Most are terminally ill, and they want their suffering to end. They want to be "free" of their pain, and for the doctors to “mercifully” end their life. They are looking for hope in death, but as the Bible says, our hope centers on Christ.

    Death does not lead to peace but judgment. Only those in Christ will experience God's love and mercy. Many who choose euthanasia may leave the world's suffering only to experience eternal suffering. They stand separated from God's love forever. Hebrews 9:27 says, "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." God has appointed our day of death. God is in full control of life and death. He is the only one who can grant peace. Euthanasia does not bring the peace it promises.
  6. Assisting Suicide Breaks God’s Law: “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13) “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:17) We don’t typically use that term in the context of euthanasia but must see the connection. God never presents murder as a viable option. Instead, He promotes humanity to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18). God made humanity in the Imago Dei, His image. Suicide of any kind, medically assisted or unassisted, denies God's image and commands.

God alone gives life and sustains it. He is at work in our pain.  Christians, pray and act to show people that the Lord God Almighty fearfully and wonderfully made each of us and is with us each minute of the life He has granted us.

Euthanasia is a very sensitive and difficult topic, but the Word of God doesn't remain silent. If you'd like to understand what the Bible has to say then click here: https://tinyurl.com/fefved8d 

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Christian serves as the Director of Mobilization/Missions as he leads the For the Nations ministry for The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN. He will be married to Danyel as of September 2022. 

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