Why is self-injury considered under the Sixth Commandment?

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Mr. Bultitude

Puritan Board Freshman
From the Westminster Larger Catechism:
Q. 136. What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defence; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words; oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.
It seems that self-injury and self-destructive behaviors are considered violations of the Sixth Commandment just as much as injuring and destroying other people. What arguments did the Westminster Divines and like-minded theologians marshal in defense of this?


Puritan Board Senior
Since Heidelberg 105 makes the same point, Ursinus may be helpful:

"These causes are, 1. The image of God, which we may not destroy either in ourselves or in others. 2. The likeness of nature, and our common origin from our first parents. For as our neighbor must not be injured and hurt by us because he is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, so we are to inflict no wrong upon ourselves, for the reason that no man ever yet hated his own flesh. 3. The greatness of the price, by which Christ has redeemed us and others."

Possibly the shortest answer I can think of is related to the above, namely, that as image bearers, human life is not ours to take. This includes our own since we, both body and soul, belong to God. Taking our own life robs God of what belongs to Him.
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Staff member
Whatever the Commandments forbid they also require the opposite. The 6th forbids the hatred of any human life, so it therefore requires that we love all human life--even our own.
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