Home Pastors Articles for Pastors We Are Not Our Own: On God, Brittany Maynard and Physician-Assisted Suicide

We Are Not Our Own: On God, Brittany Maynard and Physician-Assisted Suicide

How Then Shall We Die?

How then should we think about our rights with regard to death? Should life be in our control? Does it belong to us, to create or eliminate?

The apostle Paul did not leave us without help on this question. Whose are we? To whom do we belong? Who owns our body? He answers: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

These words were spoken to guide us in relation to our sexuality. But the principle holds for death. The more serious the consequences in regard to body and soul, the more firmly the principle holds. And death brings the greatest consequences to soul and body. It is the moment that sets the final destiny of both (Luke 16:26). Therefore, the principle holds at death: We are not our own.

Our bodies—their life, their death—belong to Christ. He bought them. They are not ours to dispose of as we will. They are his. And they exist for his will, and his glory.

Paul speaks this way not only about sexuality, but about death and dying.

“None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” (Romans 14:7-9)

All three points from 1 Corinthians 6 are here again, not in regard to sex, but explicitly in regard to death. Christ paid the price of his life to be the rightful Lord over the living and the dead. Therefore, we are not our own; we are the Lord’s. Therefore, we live and we die “to the Lord.” That is, life and death are not our private concern. They are not our choice. He bought us. He owns us. We live and we die to him—in reliance on him, in accordance with his will, for his glory.

Thus, “thou shalt not murder” is put on an entirely new footing. Not only do our lives belong to God by virtue of being created in his image, but now we are his—in life and death—by virtue of the purchase of Christ. We are doubly not our own. Our life and our death belong to God. He gives, and he takes. And he has put a double seal on that unique divine right: You are mine, by birth and by blood. You do not live, and you do not die, on your own terms.

What are his terms? We may risk our lives for the sake of saving others (Acts 20:24). God has put this privilege in our hands. It is part of the limited lifting of the curse of the fall. But the right to end our lives, he has not put in our hands.

Our Final Sufferings Are Not Meaningless

The fact that suffering almost inevitably increases with the approach of death is often a terrifying prospect. Even those who are fearless of death tremble at the process of dying. I have seen terrible suffering in the hour of death. At one young mother’s funeral, I said, “The great triumph was that she never cursed God.” Otherwise it was horrible.

But this tragic fact—which the suffering apostle knew better than any of us—did not change the truth: Giving and taking life belongs to God, not to us. And the suffering of our final days is not meaningless.

“Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Before anyone mocks the phrase “light momentary,” let that person realize that Paul was referring to his lifetime of suffering, the details of which are almost unbearable to read (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Such suffering was not light. It was not momentary. Except in comparison to the length and the glory of heaven.

But the point of this text is that our final sufferings are not meaningless. They are “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). “Preparing”—working, effecting, bringing about. They are not aimless tortures.

And the grieving spouses and mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters are not merely watching. They are serving, caring, loving. Yes, suicide spares them the pain of watching. But it also denies them the privilege of serving. There are moments in the tireless care of the dying beloved that are so intense with self-giving love that they would not be traded for any death.

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John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at DesiringGod.org. © Desiring God.