Augustine continues with his discussion of death and suicide. He argues that killing a human being is always wrong unless specifically commanded by God or done with the proper authority and carried out in an appropriate manner. He then goes on to say that killing oneself is always wrong for any reason – it is wrong if you believe that a better life is coming, if you just can’t take the circumstances of your current life, if you are ashamed or guilty. There is no good reason to take your own life, he argues. It is not a “great soul” that forces a person to kill themselves, but what he calls a “weak soul”.
This is not because death is a great tragedy in itself. As Augustine has already shown, death is only a terrible event for the person who has lived terribly and is going to spend eternity in torment. The problem with killing yourself is the “killing” part of that equation, which is why Augustine prefaces parts of the suicide discussion with comments about murder. Killing is wrong, and so killing yourself is wrong.
Having said all that, most of us have known friends or family members who have committed suicide. It is a terrible loss. Death consistently reminds me that this world is not all that God made it to be. And suicide is one of the worst examples of that reality. There is always something lost when someone takes their own life – a life yet to be lived, a soul yet to be enlarged, an image bearer whose reflection of God we have not really seen. We all lose out on the special contribution that a person could make to our experience of life, God, and His creation when a great soul takes their own life. And every soul has the potential to be a great soul.