Tobit- Will I Go To Hell If I Take My Own Life?

Tobit 3:7-15

The scene of Tobit shifts to another location, Ecbatana in Media rather than Nineveh, and the voice shifts from first to third person. Sarah, like Tobit, is depicted as being righteous. Even though she is righteous, Sarah endures the burdens of an unrighteous person. She, like Tobit, pleads with God on the basis of her own righteousness. The contrasts between the doctrine presumed in these verses and that of Scripture are the same contrasts that we saw in Tobit’s prayer. The differences between the prayer of someone who is truly upright before God and someone who simply presumes self-righteousness can also be seen in the same contrasts we drew between Tobit and Job.

The doctrine presented in Tobit is so far away from Biblical doctrine that it is unrecognizable in light of God’s actual dealings with His people throughout the Old Testament.

There are a couple interesting notes that we might recognize as we read through these verses. First, the demon, Asmodeus, is named as the one who torments Sarah by killing her husbands. While Job recognizes the providence of God even in suffering, we see, again, that Tobit blames suffering on circumstances, the sins of others, and the work of particular demons. Once again, God’s providence as described throughout the Old Testament is entirely absent. Secondly, suicide is presented as an action that carries weight concerning not only the everlasting punishment of the one committing suicide but also the everlasting state of one’s father, who experiences honor or disgrace in that culture based on the actions of his children.

There is no place in the inspired text that even comes close to indicating that all those who commit suicide go to Hell or cause their family members to experience some sort of everlasting humiliation. In fact, even in cases which suicide is described, the Biblical text does not condemn those who take their own lives. It is only implied in the Old Testament that suicide is forbidden (Genesis 9:4-6, Exodus 20:13).

Here, we see how the conviction that those who commit suicide go to Hell made it into church doctrine. Even though the specific term used is “Hades,” the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew “Sheol” (the place of the dead), it can be seen that the cultural belief was that all action and inaction directly affected one’s everlasting state and possibly the everlasting state of others. If Tobit is seen as Scripture, this must be the consideration of the church. So, the Roman Catholic church had this view, especially through the Medieval era. This view persists in many traditions today. The thought is that a righteous person would never take his or her own life. This is not consistent with Biblical theology. The Bible is careful to explain that no one is righteous and that we are saved by grace alone. Everlasting hellfire and humiliation for the family members of those who commit suicide does not fit into sound Biblical doctrine.

Instead, we know that there is mercy and grace. Suicide has no bearing on one’s destination or everlasting state; only the will of God as God builds His own church and calls His people to Himself.

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