I have been studying the questions of Pontius Pilate. Each question of Pilate has encouraged us to consider our own encounter with Jesus. Pilate’s question, “Are you a king then?” should encourage us to consider Christ’s lordship in our own life. Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). If Jesus is telling us that this is THE REASON He came into the world, it is worthy of every person’s attention. It should be reason for everyone to pause and inquire for more information. Yet, Pilate dismisses Jesus. “Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, ‘I find no fault in Him at all'” (John 18:38). During my nearly 25 years of ministry, I have seen many respond to Jesus with the same response as Pilate. They have nothing really against Him, they just have no interest in hearing what He has to say. Pilate was asking the right questions, he just didn’t listen close enough to the response.
We live in a culture today that rejects absolutes. Can anything be true? What makes something right or wrong? What makes something to be true?
According to Barna Research Group, the number one source to determine whether something is true or not is personal feelings. We might ask, “Is lying wrong?” Most of us would certainly say “Yes!” The next question we must ask is “Why is lying wrong?”
Our measure for determining right from wrong must flow from the character of God (cf. John 18:37-38).
Why is lying wrong? Because God is truth! Why is murder wrong? Because God is life! Why is hatred wrong? Because God is love! Why is justice right? Because God is just! Why is purity right? Because God is pure!
If we are going to understand TRUTH, we must know the person, character, and nature of God! The better I know the person, character, and nature of God… the better we can understand truth. Judges 17:6 reminds us of the impact of the fall (sin), “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” When Christ is not King in your life, then you are left to determine “what is right in your own eyes” (e.g. feelings, parents, church, illegal, etc.).
When Christ is the King of your life, then the Holy Spirit begins to develop the character of God into your life. It is a measure of authenticity. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (cf. John 8:31-32). If you want the ability to discern right from wrong, then you must know the character of God.
Stewardship is the careful and responsible management of resources that belong to someone else. For the Christian, stewardship acknowledges that all we have belongs to the LORD. While we may give the first ten percent of our earnings to the church, we are to honor Christ will all that we have (even the 90%). On occasion, I am asked questions about tithing versus generosity. The questions are often couched in these terms… “Isn’t tithing an Old Testament teaching that doesn’t apply to us?” and “Didn’t Jesus teach us to give generously instead of a legalistic tithe of 10 percent?” To answer these questions we must first have a biblical understanding of tithing. Then we must have a biblical understanding of what Jesus would have meant by generosity.
Where is tithing supported in the New Testament?
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23). Jesus commended the Pharisees for their obedience to the law concerning the practice of tithing. It was their failure to show love for others that Jesus condemns. They neglected God’s desire for His people to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly (cf. Micah 6:8). Jesus is making it clear when He says “These you ought to have done” is in reference to their practice of tithing, but it should not be “without leaving the others undone” (e.g. things such as justice, love kindness, and walk humbly). Giving a tithe (10% of your gross income) is only part of what Jesus desires, it must be matched with an attitude of love, kindness, and humility.
In addition to Jesus’ comments on tithing, the author of Hebrews acknowledges that Christ is the proper recipient of our tithes. “Here mortal men receive tithes, but there He receives them, of whom it is witnessed that He lives” (Hebrews 7:8). This passage makes it abundantly clear that tithing is an act of worship in which Jesus is the recipient of our tithes.
What does it mean to give generously?
I once heard someone say, “The New Testament doesn’t demand 10%, Jesus taught us to be generous and I feel like I can be generous and give less than 10%.” Let’s look at how Jesus would define “generous.”
Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” Matthew 5:17. Since Jesus did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets, we must examine what Jesus did. A brief examination will reveal that Jesus raised the standard!
What is the standard? How did Jesus raise the standard?
Jesus identified the standard with the statement, “You have heard…” and then He raised the standard by saying, “but I say…” For example, “You have heard ‘don’t murder,’ but I say ‘don’t be angry'” (Matt. 5:21-22). “You have heard ‘don’t commit adultery,’ but I say ‘don’t look upon a woman in lust'” (Matt. 5:27-28). Other examples include: swear only to God –> don’t swear at all, eye for an eye –> turn the other check, compelled to go one mile –> go two, love neighbor and hate enemy –> bless those who curse you.
Scripture is abundantly clear that Jesus never lowers the standard! He always raised the standard. When Jesus instructed His followers to be generous, this was not a “loop hole” to “give less,” but a command to raise the standard. There is no doubt that the accepted standard was a tithe and Jesus raised the standard to generosity! You cannot be generous and give less than the standard.
What are the results of generosity?
We must be careful that our next conclusion is not “prosperity gospel.” That is “we give in order to receive.” After all, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35. Giving with a proper heart strengthens our own faith. Our generous giving teaches us to always put God first in our lives. The tithe was the first 10%. Generous giving is a reminder that God is the source of everything we have. Generous giving is an act of worship to God. Generous giving helps the church accomplish God’s mission in the world. Generous giving shows we acknowledge that everything is the Lord’s (not just 10% but 100%). Generous giving keeps us from becoming materialistic. Generous giving comes from a heart of gratitude and a reflection of the mercy and grace we’ve been shown.
Whatever amount we give, it should be given because of a thankful heart not because of obligation. “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Suicide is a difficult subject. When I hear of a suicide in our community, I know that people are going to have questions. What does the Bible say about suicide? Isn’t suicide a sin? Don’t people who commit suicide go to hell? Is suicide the “unpardonable sin”? The most important thing to do is to think biblical about such difficult topics. We must approach our understanding of suicide through the teaching of the Bible and not based on what “we’ve been taught” or “always heard.” The Bible must be our authority.
Let’s begin by looking for examples found in Scripture. Have you ever thought, “What good is my life?” Rebekah felt that way. “And Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife of the daughters of Heth; like these who are the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?'” (Gen. 27:46). She began to question the value of her own life. Jonah, Elijah, and Job all expressed suicidal thoughts and feelings.
King Saul was in battle against the Philistines and his sons were killed. The Philistines pressed hard against Saul. “Then Saul said to his armorbearer, ‘Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me.’ But his armorbearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him” (1 Sam. 31:4-5).
Samson took his own life, while also seeking to take the lives of the Philistines with him. “Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, ‘O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!’ And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. Then Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines!’ And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life” (Judges 16:28-30).
Perhaps one of the most familiar is that of Judas who betrayed Jesus. “Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ And they said, ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’ Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:3-5).
These examples of thoughts and suicides provide us with the backdrop for developing a biblical worldview of suicide. Historically, Christians have concluded that Samson’s suicide was a justified act of war. Similarly, Saul was at war and sought to avoid shame and abuse at the hands of the Philistines. There is no doubt that Christians have historically objected to suicide. Suicide was and is sinful. Some have asserted that because there is no opportunity to repent, it is a mortal sin. In other words, suicide becomes the “unpardonable sin” because you cannot repent after having committed the sin (more on this in a moment).
Many Christians throughout history have been opposed to the sin of suicide, but reject the notion that it is the unpardonable sin. Scripture makes it clear that the unpardonable sin is “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.” “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men” (Matthew 12:31). To be clear, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is to reject the conviction of the Holy Spirit unto salvation. When the Holy Spirit convicts someone of their sin and they refuse to repent and accept Christ as their Lord, they have blasphemed the Holy Spirit.
The idea that suicide cannot be forgiven because the individual did not have an opportunity to seek forgiveness after committing the sinful behavior is a distorted view of the Gospel. Let me be clear, suicide is morally wrong and ought never to be considered by the Christian. Thomas Aquinas asserts that suicide is sinful because (1) it is contrary to natural law and to love, (2) it causes injury to the common good, and (3) it is a sin against God. It is God’s role to determine death and life (cf. Deut. 32:39).
The Gospel is clear. When a person accepts Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are forgiven for every sin they have ever committed in past as well as the future. That’s the amazing gift of grace. I’ve often said that from the perspective of the cross (over 2000 years ago), all of my sin were future tense (even those I committed yesterday). The forgiveness of our sin is settled at the moment of our salvation.
Everyone needs salvation. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus died for our salvation. “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Our salvation is a gift, not something we earn through good works. If there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, there is nothing we can do to lose it. It is a gift. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We are saved by grace. “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Romans 11:6). Our salvation comes through faith. “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). So, God saves all who call upon Him regardless of their sin. “For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10;13).
So, the Bible is clear… “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
Rest assured, if your loved one accepted Christ as their Savior, they are in heaven. If suicide supersedes God’s grace, then God’s grace is insufficient and our salvation is maintained by our own behavior. However, the Holy Spirit has sealed our salvation (cf. 2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30; 1 Pet. 1:5).
What about Judas Iscariot? Judas was never saved. Therefore, he never lost his salvation. You cannot lose something you never had to begin with. Scripture makes this fact clear, “But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father'” (John 6:64-65). Those who are truly saved cannot lose their salvation. We can conclude from Jesus’ words that Judas was never saved and that Judas’ act of suicide was not the determining factor of his lack of salvation.
Suicide is a problem. It should never be viewed as “the only way out.” Some Christians may be reluctant to share that suicide is not the unpardonable sin in fear that a Christian contemplating suicide may say, “Well if I’m going to heaven anyway…”
I believe truth always prevails.
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Need help? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255 (24 hours, 7 days a week).
Dr. Chris Dortch has been in vocational ministry since 1993. His blog is aimed to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."