What does the Bible teach about euthanasia?
The word euthanasia means “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy” (Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary). There are two totally separate matters here in this definition, Biblically-speaking.
The first matter is the practice of killing the hopelessly sick or injured. Some people maintain that individuals that have terminal cancer should have the option of receiving a lethal (deadly) injection. This would kill them instantly, as opposed to a possible lengthy and painful death.
Once that is argued, then the subject comes up as to those who are in a coma state. Should they be left in that condition? Or should they simply be injected with something lethal?
And then what about the paralyzed? Do they have any real quality to their lives? Would it be better to just end their frustrations and limitations?
What about the mentally handicapped? Those who have the mentality of a small child. Those who will never grow up. Should they be put out of that situation by a lethal injection?
Actually, this practice has already been going on in America since 1973 with unborn babies. In some procedures, a saline solution is injected into the womb, which literally burns the baby to death. That is a routine option for those who are told that “something is wrong with the baby (fetus).” Rather than bring a baby into the world with some handicaps, a lethal injection (abortion) is recommended by many doctors.
Where does it all end? What do you do with people who are severely injured at accident scenes, put them out of their misery by killing them right on the spot?
What do you do with the elderly who are in severe pain from arthritis, put them out of their misery by killing them?
What is the definition again? The word euthanasia means “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy” (Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary).
One man claimed that he was doing this in regard to King Saul. 2 Samuel 1:4-10 says, “And David said unto him, How went the matter? I pray thee, tell me. And he answered, That the people are fled from the battle, and many of the people also are fallen and dead; and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also. And David said unto the young man that told him, How knowest thou that Saul and Jonathan his son be dead? And the young man that told him said, As I happened by chance upon mount Gilboa, behold, Saul leaned upon his spear; and, lo, the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him. And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called unto me. And I answered, Here am I. And he said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite. He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me. SO I STOOD UPON HIM, AND SLEW HIM, BECAUSE I WAS SURE THAT HE COULD NOT LIVE after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord.”
Here was an incident that could be classified as euthanasia. How did David respond to this action? Did he consider it as a mercy-killing? No, David treated it as murder. 2 Samuel 1:13-16 says, “And David said unto the young man that told him, Whence art thou? And he answered, I am the son of a stranger, an Amalekite. And David said unto him, How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the LORD’S anointed? And David called one of the young men, and said, Go near, and fall upon him. And he smote him that he died. And David said unto him, Thy blood be upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the LORD’S anointed.” Euthanasia is NOT mercy-killing, but murder.
One point is that we never know when someone is hopelessly sick or injured. Some things seem hopeless to us, which are not. God can perform a miracle, and turn around the worst situation. One of my grandfathers was diagnosed by the doctors to be dying on more than one occasion, and the family was called in to see him. But in each case, he pulled out of it and lived on longer. What if the family had decided on euthanasia? They would have been killing a man whom God had ordained to live on for some time.
Job seemed hopelessly sick and dying. His wife was in favor of self-euthanasia. She told her husband, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die” (Job 2:9). How did Job receive that advice? In the next verse he said, “But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” Job admitted that whether we suffer with pain in life, or whether we do not, is in the hands of God to decide.
As to people in a coma, we find that situation with Nabal. 1 Samuel 25:36-38 says, “And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken: wherefore she told him nothing, less or more, until the morning light. But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that HIS HEART DIED WITHIN HIM, AND HE BECAME AS A STONE. And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died.” Notice that Abigail did not practice euthanasia upon her husband when he went into that coma. She left her husband in God’s hands, and it clearly says that “GOD SMOTE NABAL, THAT HE DIED.” It is never given into our hands to finish off the sick. That is God’s place and timing.
What about the paralyzed? We have an example of a man who was paralyzed or handicapped in regard to both of his feet, so that he could not walk. 2 Samuel 9:1-13 says, “And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake? And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he. And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is LAME ON HIS FEET. And the king said unto him, Where is he? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lodebar. Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar. Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant! And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely show thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually. And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such A DEAD DOG AS I AM? Then the king called to Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said unto him, I have given unto thy master’s son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house. Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master’s son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master’s son shall eat bread alway at my table. Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then said Ziba unto the king, According to all that my lord the king hath commanded his servant, so shall thy servant do. As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons. And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Micha. And all that dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants unto Mephibosheth. So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and WAS LAME ON BOTH HIS FEET.” Even though Mephibosheth called himself a “dead dog” because of his handicapped situation, David did not put him to death, but cared for him willingly and met his needs.
What about the mentally handicapped? It is a good thing that they were not just taken out and killed, or David himself would have been killed one time when he acted like he was in such a state. 1 Samuel 21:10-22:1 says, “And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands? And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard. Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me? Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house? David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him.”
Even the unbelieving nations did not normally practice euthanasia with their mentally insane. Consider how Nebuchadnezzar was allowed to live when he went crazy, and how he actually recovered from it after seven times (seven years?), and went on to live a normal life after that. Daniel 4:29-37 says, “At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”
So there is never a time when it is permissible to kill the sick; or the injured; or the physically handicapped; or the mentally handicapped. Their lives are in the hand of the Lord.
But there is also a totally different subject in that definition. Look at it again. The word euthanasia means “the act or practice of killing or PERMITTING THE DEATH of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy” (Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary).
When it comes to the permitting of the death of someone who is sick or injured, that can be a totally different situation. If someone has been dying with cancer or some severe illness, and stops breathing, it is not a sin to omit trying to resuscitate the person. If God has allowed the heart to stop, then you are now trying to prolong the person’s pain and illness. The context of the situation must be taken into account. Hezekiah was praying and crying that he might recover from his illness; when, in fact, it was God’s time for him to die. 2 Kings 20:1-7 says, “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying, I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake. And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.” Hezekiah would have been better off to die when God said it was time, because in those 15 extra years, he had a son who would be very wicked, and seal Israel’s judgment. 2 Kings 20:21-21:16 says, “And Hezekiah slept with his fathers: and Manasseh his son reigned in his stead. Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD said, In Jerusalem will I put my name. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever: Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them. But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel. And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying, Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols: Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down. And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day. Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.”
The more machines that man invents, the more difficult the decisions become as to when to put people on those machines, and when to take them off. When has a person truly died? James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” If the spirit has left a person, putting a machine on him/her to make the lungs expand and contract is not going to bring that spirit back.