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Questions & Answers
Good News Magazine
January 1979
Volume: Vol XXVI, No. 1
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Questions & Answers
Good News Staff

   What does the Bible say about suicide?

   The Bible gives no specific command regarding suicide, nor does the word itself appear in the Bible. There are, however, references to seven people who killed themselves: Samson (Judges 16); Abimelech (Judges 9); Saul (I Samuel 30; Saul's armorbearer (I Samuel 31); Zimri (I Kings 16:18); Ahithophel (II Samuel 17:23); and Judas (Matthew 27:5). The earlier conduct of all seven was morally corrupt, and except for Samson their suicides were simply attempts to escape their well-deserved fates.
   Suicide means self-murder and murder is forbidden by the Sixth Commandment: "Thou shalt do no murder."
   God has not given an individual — even one who could rightly judge himself deserving of the death penalty (as could most of the above) — the right to pass such a sentence. Suicide is not an acceptable way of escaping punishment, dishonor or the like.
   In a different case, however, Samson died a hero, because his suicide was in fact a dedication of his life, at long last, wholly to the service of God in the liberation of Israel from the Philistines. His motive was not just to kill himself to escape. Christ Himself similarly gave His life for others.
   Since a suicide experiencing quick death or unconsciousness has no opportunity to repent of his murder in this life, some have wondered if suicide is the unpardonable sin. The answer is no, because the unpardonable sin is only unpardonable because it is something a person refuses to repent of.
   God is merciful, not willing that any should perish (II Peter 3:9), but He simply has not called most people to repentance in this life. They will have their chance in a resurrected life after the millennium in the period known as the White Throne Judgment.

   We are puzzled as to why our Lord treated the fig tree that way, because it had no fruit when he was hungry.
Mrs. M.S.
Lewisburg, Pa.

   Commentaries generally agree that fig trees in the area of Palestine produce fruit for much of the year, if they bear at all. Unlike most trees, the fig tree first produces its fruit and afterward its leaves (see Song of Solomon 2:13) — though the time of figs, mature fruit, is not yet (Mark 11:13). The immature fruit, though green and hard, is considered edible if one is sufficiently in need. It was not out of the way for Jesus to look for fruit in March since the tree was shrouded with luxuriant green leaves, making a show of being a worthy tree. But when Jesus found nothing on the tree, He used it as an example to teach His disciples — and us — some spiritual principles. Seeing the tree was obviously worthless as a fruit bearer — not just at that time of year but all seasons — He had no compunction about cursing and killing it as an object lesson for all.
   First, with a tree having leaves but not figs, an element of deception is involved. Secondly this incident teaches that the outward appearance and show is not what counts with God. What counts is production of fruit (Luke 13:3-9; Galatians 5:22-23). It matters not how much we profess to be Christians if we bear no fruit. And the rapid drying up of the fig tree pictures how we will likewise be cursed and die, if we are found to be barren at the time Christ calls for an accounting.
   In Luke 13:6-7 (Revised Standard Version), Jesus expressed the principle this way: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, 'Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down.'" Then the vinedresser prevailed on him to leave the tree for one more year, to cultivate around it, and to fertilize it, to see if finally it might possibly bear fruit, "but if not, you can cut it down."
   The parable shows the long-suffering of God, and His willingness to give every possible aid. But finally His allotted time for production comes to an end.
   Though the fig tree, like the olive and the vine, was a symbol of the Judaean commonwealth, which was about to be cut down, verses 1 to 5 make it clear that Jesus meant the lesson to apply also to each individual.
   John the baptizer also told the Pharisees and Sadducees: "Bear fruit that befits repentance... Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 3:8, 10, RSV).

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Good News MagazineJanuary 1979Vol XXVI, No. 1
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