One of the significant challenges of living in the present age is knowing how to die. That may sound crazy, but it really is a problem. Thanks to medical advancements, people who would have died quickly and perhaps even died in their sleep are now kept alive by machines, drugs, and demands for their organs. Unfortunately, in some cases, this has caused enormous pain.
Knowing how to die has also created a whole industry ranging from medical practitioners to organizations that major in helping people die. Compassion and Choices, Zero Population Growth, and various hospice programs are involved in this issue and have publications promoting their services. Switzerland and Holland have made assisted suicide legal, and France is struggling with the problem. Some states in the U.S. have legalized doctor-assisted suicide, and other state legislatures are wrestling with the concept.
There are many challenging issues in this question. In 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul wrote, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy and you are the temple of God.” Also, in that book, in chapter 6, verses 15-20, Paul condemns prostitution for the same reason.
The human body as a special creation of God is described beautifully in Psalms 139:14. Genesis 1:26-27 tells us that we are created in the image of God, referring to our spiritual makeup and not our physical bodies. However, the vehicle God created and in which His Spirit dwells is a wonderful creation we must protect. This principle prohibits suicide when the body can continue functioning if left alone. But if the body is dying and only medical intervention keeps it alive, that is certainly not the same as natural death.
When people know they are about to die, they have many things to do. Taking care of their possessions, repairing relationships, and making provisions for the next stage of existence are all essential. What we neglect to a great degree is the one thing we all fear the most–pain. In this day of medical advancement, we should be able to control pain in the physical body. Restricting the use of drugs to relieve pain in a dying person is cruel and flies in the face of what God has told us.
Proverbs 31:4-7 makes it clear that the “strong drink” of that day was not for Kings because it would pervert their judgment. Instead, it should be “for him that is ready to perish … let him drink and remember his misery no more.” God determines when a person dies, but we can address the pain involved and leave the difficult question of knowing how to die to the Lord.
— John N. Clayton © 2022