My aunt is on a breathing machine right now and the family has decided to turn the machine off. She still has her mind. She can't talk because of the equipment in her mouth. She does have a feeding tube in her stomach. What is God’s will regarding life support and living wills?
First, Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 tells us that there is a time to be born and a time to die
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven – a time to give birth and a time to die. . (NASB) Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
God Has Determined the Length of Our Lives
Who sets the boundaries on our lives? Psalm 22:9 tells us that it is God who determines when a person is born.
Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts. (NASB) Psalm 22:9
And God determines when we die. The patriarch Job said,
Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with You; and his limits You have set so that he cannot pass. (NASB) Job 14:5
None of us can shorten or lengthen a person’s life. Only God can do that. Yet, God has promised that He will lengthen our lives if we will remember His teaching and obey His commands.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. (NASB) Proverbs 3:1-2
God lengthened the life of King Hezekiah simply because the king asked (Isa. 38:5). Our life from birth to death is in His hand.
Suicide Does Not Send Someone to Hell
Yet, it appears to us at times that we can shorten our life such as when a person commits suicide. Examples of suicide appear in scripture: Abimelech (Judges 9:54); Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23); Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), and Judas (Acts 1:18). In each example, it is clear that the Bible never approves of these acts. Suicide is a self-murder and since murder is condemned in the Bible, suicide is also condemned. Some believe that suicide will send a person to hell. But the Bible never says that. Suicide is a sin just as murder is a sin. Both can be forgiven. The only thing that sends a person to hell is not believing in Jesus and trusting Him to forgive one’s sins. It is also important to note that God does not condemn capital punishment, the killing of animals for food, insects, or infectious organisms.
The Bible on Euthanasia
What about the taking of another’s life on his/her behalf? One example of euthanasia is found in the death of Saul (1 Samuel 31:4-5). Here we are told that Saul was mortally wounded. That is, he was going to die. 2 Samuel 31:4-5 tells us that apparently Saul attempted to hurry his death by killing himself and 1 Samuel 1:4-10 indicates that the king was unsuccessful. Consequently, Saul asked an Amalekite to end his life and the soldier did. The rest of the chapter suggests that the Amalekite should not have done this because Saul had been anointed king by God.
But what about taking the lives of others? Medical science has accomplished great things. Today, people live longer within the boundaries that God has decreed for each of us, due to immunizations, new medical procedures, dialysis treatments, surgeries, breathing machines, and pacemakers. When is it wrong to end the lives of others? Since it was wrong for the Amalekite soldier to end the king’s life, then one must be careful about euthanasia. Scripture indicates that it is wrong to end the life of another even when a person is on the path to death. The only exception would appear to be when a person is “brain dead.” Under that circumstance, the person is dead and only medical science is maintaining the bodily functions. The other difficult situation is a person who is on a breathing machine. But in this circumstance the person’s brain is still active or alive and one does not know if and when the person may regain the usage of their lungs.
This is a difficult issue since scripture does not give us a clear statement about what to do. Therefore, we need to be careful and not make assumptions and take action that might be displeasing to God. Our heart should go out to the suffering person and love him or her through these difficult times.
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