The tenth leading cause of death in the United States is suicide, and among teen-agers from 15 to 19 it is the second leading cause of death. These statistics are based upon the official record. It is estimated that almost twice that figure would be closer to the truth. And at least four times as many have attempted suicide without succeeding.
According to a leading psychologist, suicide is the second largest cause of death among college students, and they have a suicide rate 50 percent higher than for the country as a whole. One student takes his own life every one and a half hours somewhere in the U.S.
There are some interesting and alarming facts about this burgeoning problem of self-destruction. It's downright terrifying to think that our world is in such a mess that life has become unbearable for so many. It's not the ignorant, uneducated class who are making up the statistics either. In Los Angeles County alone at least one medical doctor kills himself every month. Women try suicide three times more often than men, but three times as many men die. And strange as it may seem 500 children or adolescents die every year by their own hand. The way things are looking right now one out of every hundred Americans who die this year will be a suicide.
While we're thinking of so many student suicides, let's ask the question as to why so many bright young people on the threshold of life, choose to lay it down instead of take it up. Most of them leave notes behind, and if you could gather all of these notes together and paste them on one page you would read the story of the short-comings of our society. Many students sit at the feet of those who do not believe in God. Some teachers profess belief in God but the majority these days do not. Students get to studying into philosophy and psychology, and they lose all idea of a God. They build up the theory that in themselves they are complete; that there is no limit to which they may develop. Then some begin to look at themselves and begin to feel an inferiority complex. Perhaps they conclude that they are not as capable as others, and suddenly they are gone. The godless teachers have taken away the idea of God. They have destroyed faith in a hereafter; they mock at any hope of a life beyond. Then, since there is nothing left to look forward to, many students just decide to end it all.
Suicide is infectious. You might say that it is contagious. Many times the suicide chart shows that if one individual ends his own life, many others may do likewise, following his example. A professor in one of the universities took his life; in a very little time after, six of his students had followed him in committing suicide.
There is a text that I want to read in Exodus 20:13. "Thou shalt not kill." There is the commandment, Thou shalt not kill. Now please do not draw any conclusions on today's subject until it is all finished. But right here in the beginning of our study I want to state that an individual who intentionally takes his own life has broken the commandment of God, but we are trying to determine if a suicide can be saved. We see the suicide lying there, and I turn to God's Word and find that he lies there condemned and apparently without hope. That suicide is held up to scorn because he has broken the commandment which says, "Thou shalt not kill." We point the finger of scorn because the suicide broke that one commandment. Yet how many, thought of as perfectly respectable, may break any other of the nine commandments, and people think nothing of it. I think it is fair that we look at this subject today in that light.
What is the attitude of the public on this subject of suicide? I was reading today from one writer who feels that a man's life is his own and that he has a right to end it if and when he cares to; it is nobody's business. If he finds that there is no more pleasure in this life, he has a right to terminate life, this man teaches. I say if a man is just a beast, if he lives just to satisfy hunger, thirst, or passion, then that attitude is all right. If we are living an animal existence, then it is as all right to end that life as it is to turn off a light or a motor. But let us remember that God said, "Let us make man in our image." Paul says, "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price." And again, "No man liveth unto himself." We are weak and defiled from centuries of degeneration, yet we are above the brute creation. We draw our life from heaven, made in the image of God. God gave us life, and only God has the right to take that life away.
Another writer says, "If there is a God he has no right to interfere with suicide for if there is a God, (and this man doesn't believe that there is) that God is immortal and so can't commit suicide. Not being able to die and being all-powerful, it is impossible for Him to sympathize with us in this life, therefore God has no right to interfere, if man chooses to end his own life."
I find the answer in the Bible. When he says that God can't die; that he can't suffer with us, he has laid himself open to condemnation from the Bible. For One of the three Members of the Godhead came down to this earth and gave His life! That should silence that accusation forever. Jesus said, "I lay down my life. No one can take it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself." Friends, I want you to remember that Jesus went right down through the trials of this life and packed into thirty-three short years all the agonies and temptations that most people suffer in three score and ten. So I say the heart of God, Whom we worship, is sympathetic. He sees and feels with the hearts of those who are contemplating suicide. Jesus' great heart of love yearns over the pitiful individual who, in despair decides to end it all.
Now, why do people take their own lives? I want to make this statement: The sin of suicide, taking one's life over there at the end of the trail, that is not the primary sin, but the primary sin is this building up of sin which leads up to the final step. In other words, a person starts back there, earlier in life, battling and struggling, and then he finally gives up; he loses hope and off he goes from a high bridge or out of some window; his life is ended. It is a life marked by lack of faith in God that finally terminates in suicide. It seems so horrible to us the act of suicide, but to God it is what leads up to it that is the primary sin. Murder of self is just the climax of hopeless doubt. How could a man end his own life if he believes this wonderful assurance, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God." Romans 8:28.
One thing which is a major cause of a suicide is love. A young man falls in love with some young lady, and places every trust in her, then she falls in love with someone else and marries him. The young man takes poison to end his heart ache. Many lovers have said, before suicide, "There is nothing left for me to live for!" Where do I find their counterpart in the Bible? I find it in Genesis chapter 3. After God had created man, he said, "It is not good for man to live alone." He created Eve to be a companion to Adam. Then Eve took of the forbidden fruit, you know the store, she was condemned to die. She brought the fruit over to Adam and said, "Adam, it is wonderful. I wish you would try it. I feel so good, I am beginning to be as wise as a God." Oh, friends, when Adam saw what had happened, he was overwhelmed with grief. He had not tasted of sin. He said, "Here is Eve, my loved one, my darling companion. My whole life is wrapped up in her, and here she has gone into sin, and God said she would have to die. I'll eat the fruit and die with her, I can't live on alone!" And Adam committed spiritual suicide that he might die with her. If he had remained true in that time of test, God could have supplied another companion for him, and could have wiped away all of that sorrow. Take courage, for Jesus is able to supply the needs of your poor bleeding heart! He is able to fill that aching void in your bosom. The time is coming when God will wipe away all tears from your eyes and there will be no more sorrow. Hold on a little longer, "Have faith, dear friend, in God."
There is another cause of many suicides. I picked up a paper one day and read that a bank in a certain city had gone on the rocks. A few days later I picked up the paper again and found that the president was found dead in his room, a revolver by his side. I read another article telling of the number who committed suicide as a result of the stock markets crashing. So few are willing to sacrifice for God, but I find that many, many people offer their lives as a willing sacrifice for money. It is a terrible thing to think that money can wrap itself around a man's heart until he will die if he can't have it. If men would look more at the sign of the cross and less at the sign of the dollar, there would be far fewer suicides. Follow the suicide record as it goes higher and higher. As the stock market goes down, the suicide graph goes up. It shows that people have placed a value of this life in terms of dollars and cents. They have lost sight of eternal rewards and heaven's sure promises.
Suicide is taking a toll even from among those who are God's children, I want to read you a text found in I Corinthians 3:17, "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." Now there is a strong statement. We pick a man out and use him as a suicide example. He destroys his life with a bullet or a poison pill. But over here are a whole host of people who are committing suicide. They are doing things which they know are shortening their lives, and they defend themselves, "Isn't that my own business? Is it any body else's business what I do?" It is God's business. One man ends his own life in five seconds. Another ends his over a period of five or ten years, with something else. Many a so-called Christian, by evil habits, is guilty of committing gradual suicide on the installment plan.
There is another reason why some commit suicide, cherished sin. Sin has some so thoroughly tangled up in a net; they try to get out, but the harder they try, the worse things seem to get; they feel themselves in a hopeless condition. I think of a man in the Bible. It is King Saul. He was humble in the beginning of his reign. At first he was willing to do what God told. Later he came to something he didn't care to do, and detoured around that. Again he came to a place where he didn't want to do what God said, and he sidetracked around that. You read the record of Saul. After trying to dicker with God, he came to the place where he could say, "Oh God isn't so particular after all. I know I shouldn't have done what I did, but what else could I do? After all, God isn't so particular." So Saul tried to cover up his sins by saying God isn't particular. God finally refused to talk with him. Finally Saul came to the place where he decided there was nothing he could do to get out of his troubles. He saw his son, Jonathan slain in battle, so when he could bare it no longer, Saul threw himself upon his own spear and killed himself, committed suicide. He had thought that little sins didn't make any difference. That is one of the devil's best traps. So many say, "Do you think it makes any difference? Would God be so particular about little things?" The individual becomes so entangled in sin, he feels there is no way out. Suicide seems the easiest escape.
I want to read Matthew 27:3-5, "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." Judas was a Christian, he had been baptized. Judas had cast out devils and healed the sick; he had every mark of being a Christian.
But my friends, Judas had allowed his thinking to go wrong. He tried to do something different from what God had planned. And that is the way that we so often do. Judas had not spent one penny of that fatal money. He came back hoping to deliver the Son of God. He didn't think that Jesus would allow himself to be captured, condemned, and crucified. When Judas realized what was actually taking place, he rushed out of that place and threw his body down from that tree, suspended by a rope. The next day as they were going out to Calvary they saw that tragic sight, one of the twelve lying at the foot of that tree, a suicide! How that must have hushed the crowd. Oh how many are betraying our Saviour today? Cherished sin with its strangling hold, led Judas to a suicide's grave.
But can a suicide be saved? I can only draw this conclusion as I read my Bible: If a man's mind has come to the place where his mind is out of order, but his life is otherwise right with God, God will not hold him accountable. God holds us accountable only for what we know we are doing. Here is a text for you to take home with you, "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." James 4:17. I take comfort in the fact that there are some who do not realize what they are doing. They go to a suicide's death unintentionally. I thank God that I am not to judge. I find hope in that today.