“… and though I gave my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3b/KJV).
What is St. Paul here really aiming at? To be honest I do find this part of the verse somewhat difficult or obscure.
So far in verses 1 to 3 Paul has been contrasting commendable gifts, activities or achievements with love. Of course I know that there is much dispute among Christians concerning the practice of spiritual gifts. Yet the phrase in the last part of verse three seems to be on a quite different level. What is the use of giving one’s own body to flames and thereby imperil himself?
To be honest I have never done research on the history of religious or philosophic concepts of suicide. Possibly some people in the olden days held that bringing their own lives to an end could be a good thing in given situations.
I would say God has given life to man. Therefore man by himself ought not to bring his own life to an end.
Eternity with God is that which really counts. During our lives on this earth God would seek to speak to us and teach us things that are of eternal importance. Whoever should commit suicide would thereby rob himself of valuable opportunities to learn from God.
Could suicide in any case be profitable to man? Some would probably hope to escape unpleasant or unbearable circumstances.
Yet the bible teaches us that there is an afterlife. Having died we will be forever either in God’s presence or far from him. Therefore taking decisions on this earth we also ought to consider their impact or consequences in eternity.
Now in chapter 13:1-3 Paul stresses the importance of love. Love is what God is looking for in the lives of Christian believers.
Just now I am thinking of a fireman. In some cases there may be individuals locked in a burning building. A good fireman will seek to deliver these persons if at all possible. In order to do so he may have to go through the flames and accept the danger of catching fire himself. Of course he will not do so to end his own life. He will seek to cope with the perilous flames in order to save others. To a certain extent he will expose his body to flames if unavoidable. Yet he will do so to save others and not to end his own life.