What does the Bible say about self-mutilation/suicide, if anything?
Self-mutilation and suicide are serious issues in anyone’s life. These occur sometimes when a person is depressed, discouraged, lonely and hopeless. It is important that no matter how discouraged one may be or if we have already committed one of these sins, we need to know that God will forgive us.
Self-Mutilation Is Prohibited
Self-mutilation occurs in the Old Testament in a number of passages. It occurs in false religions. Here is an example from the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.
Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire–he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no-one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no-one answered, no-one paid attention. (NIV) 1 Kings 18:24-29
Self-mutilation was a common practice in false religions. So it is not surprising that God prohibits this practice in Leviticus and other Old Testament passages. Here is one verse.
Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD. (NIV) Leviticus 19:28
Now we must ask, “How does this apply to pierced ears, noses and “belly buttons?” God never condemns this type of practice even though the Israelites did these things (Exodus 35:22, Isaiah 3:21, Ezekiel 16:12). Self-mutilation is prohibited when it is connected with religious practices. Does God approve of someone cutting off their body parts and cutting themselves? This type of self-mutilation is characteristic of demonic possession.
When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no-one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No-one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. (NIV) Mark 4:2-5
This New Testament example of a demon possession included self-mutilation. It is not normal for people to do this. It is characteristic of behavior brought on by evil spirits.
A previous question and answer has partially addressed the issue of suicide. It gives several Old Testament examples of suicide. God does not approve of suicide. Check out the study on “What does the Bible say about suicide?” This can be seen from an old and familiar passage. It tells us that suicide is a sin.
You shall not murder. (NIV) Exodus 20:13
This command is directed at each of us. It is important to notice that it does not say, “Do not murder your wife.” It does not say, “Do not murder your neighbor.” It does not say, “Do not murder yourself.” Why? Because we are not to murder anyone, including ourself! Some believe that suicide is an unforgivable sin but God has never said that! I would encourage you to read the previous question and answer.
Self-mutilation and suicide are marks of a struggling believer or a non-Christian who desperately needs God. All of us struggle from time to time. There have been times of pain in my life when I would have liked to escape from this world, but Jesus has ministered to me by His Holy Spirit.
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. (NASB) Hebrews 4:15-16
For those who are struggling, remember that Jesus wants you to cast your care on Him.
. . casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. (NASB) 1 Peter 5:7
Trust in Him. Friends can help, but only Jesus can calm and comfort the broken heart.
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