Just by reading that word an image or a thought has come to mind for you. Maybe it’s a family member or friend. Maybe it’s a commercial on depression medication. Maybe it’s an image of hell.
It’s not something we’ve really covered yet with our moral dilemma dialogues. But it’s the topic Logan and Gene will be tackling this month when they examine the 2008 film Seven Pounds. Will Smith stars in this movie directed by Gabriele Muccino (Pursuit of Happyness). This is one of Smith’s least known films, but quite possibly his most thought-provoking (and second highest rated, according to IMdB). If you have not seen it you may want to give it a viewing before reading on. Major spoilers will be included in this moral dilemma dialogue.
Tim Thomas (Will Smith, known as “Ben” through most of the film) is haunted by the seven lives he’s responsible for taking, including that of his wife. Looking for redemption, he devises a plan to save seven other lives of those whom he determines to be good people. This plan however will come at the cost of his own life, and he’s fully aware of that. Thomas meticulously plans each step in the process. He enlists the help of his best friend to see it all through once he has passed. What he didn’t plan on was falling in love with the one whom he would give his heart to, literally. Thomas follows through with his plan, and kills himself so others may live.
Suicide. That is the issue at discussion here. Logan and Gene will present opposing views on whether Thomas’ suicide, specifically as shown in this film, was the good or right choice. I think all of Christendom, and all of humanity for that matter, can agree that taking your own life for no good reason is deplorable. But what if you have what you believe is a good reason? What if your suicide is somewhat similar to a sacrifice? What if it’s to “even the scales” for something you’ve done?
In part one below, Logan will deny the premise that Tim Thomas’ suicide was a good thing, using scripture to support his position. In part two, to be posted later today, Gene will present the opposite conclusion.
The tale of Seven Pounds is an emotional one. Tim, burdened with overwhelming guilt, determines to give his organs to save seven people following his suicide, in order to, in his mind at least, atone for his sins. Watching the film again for this post, I was very conflicted. On the one hand, I strongly believe that God alone has the right to take a life, meaning that even taking our own is usurping a right that we do not have. On the other hand, he’s not just taking his own life, but in a sense, he’s giving his life to others. Is there a black and white answer?
First of all, it cannot be denied that Tim does good things. By human standards, he’s a very good person. Even aside from the lives he saves by donating his working organs, he saves an elderly woman from abuse in hospice care facility and gives a new life to a woman fearing for her life because of her abusive boyfriend. These are good things that he does. But even a great man can be misguided.
With that said, there is a problem I cannot get around when it comes to this film. While Tim may be giving life to others, it still does not get around the fact that he is taking his own life. The primary question is this: is there ever a circumstance in which it is permissible to take your own life?
Interestingly enough, the Bible never directly addresses suicide. There are, however, a few characters that committed suicide. The most obvious, Judas, killed himself after he betrayed Jesus. Ahithophel, an adviser to Absalom, killed himself after Absalom didn’t use his advice. In both of these cases, the people who killed themselves were not looked at as good people.
However, there is also Samson to consider. Samson, having been disgraced and subdued by the Philistines, destroyed the structure that the Philistines were partying in, killing them and himself by doing so. Was that suicide? It’s markedly different from the previous two stories because the point was not to kill himself; that was just a necessary part of the outcome. Was that what Tim was doing?
There is also a concept in scripture that indicates that God alone is the giver and taker of life, which is why murder is so serious. Job credits God as the giver and taker of life (“The LORD gives and the LORD takes away; blessed be the name of the LORD”, following being told of the deaths of his children). So what about Samson? Samson did not say “I will kill myself so that good will come.” Instead, he said “I will strike a blow against the Lord’s enemies, and if I die, so be it.” Therefore, I say that the answer is no. The taking of our life is a right that is reserved to God alone. He is the giver and taker of life.
This does not, however, invalidate Tim’s goal to save life. Had the film depicted a dying Tim intent on saving lives when he passes, the film would be a beautiful expression of self-sacrifice. But that isn’t what we have. So we have to also address the underlying question: why did he do it? Was it really about saving these people? Not really. He didn’t even know these people. It was really about finding a way to atone for his sins. But saving those people, as well as killing himself, did not erase his sins. It didn’t bring the car crash victims back from the dead. It was ultimately all in vain.
So instead of a moving story of self-sacrifice, it’s really an expression of how twisted things become when people look somewhere other than God for redemption. The moral thing for Tim to do is not to kill himself. The moral thing for him to do is live his life in a better way from that point on.
Feel free to comment below on what you thought of Logan’s reasoning. Then go ahead and check out part 2, where Gene gives his take on this dilemma.