For many years much research has been conducted to attempt to find ways to relieve and preserve many people from the physical miseries of health defects, and some of them from facing, from a human viewpoint, premature and imminent death. Most of the research is essentially the result of man’s fear of death, his desire to put it off for a while, and finally, according to his own thinking, his hope that someday man will have control of life so that he will not have to think about death. Much of this research, then, is a result of a humanistic longing or drive to live long, and if possible, forever on Earth to give better assurance for man to plan his own ordered way in life and to carry it out. By faith we know and may be thankful that this is not possible.
This well-known trend in medical history also has an influence on how we think and what we do. It is appropriate that we set aside a little time to consider this trend, focusing on a particular phase that may affect us in our lives. The purpose of this article is an attempt to present some scriptural guide-lines to influence us in our thinking about donating body organs for the purpose of transplanting them into other persons. First, we will consider why man wishes to live for many days and years in the Earth. Then we will view what man has been doing in an attempt to preserve longer life in many individuals. Finally, in particular, we wish to consider how we should think about donating or appropriating our body organs for the purpose of transplanting them into other persons to attempt to extend longer life in them, thus helping to promote one of the modern methods used as an attempt to preserve longer life in certain individuals. The desire of man to live long in the Earth is not new and will continue. The attempt of man to transplant body organs into other persons is relatively new and may prove to be a passing fad, but only time will tell.
God did make man capable to live forever on the Earth. But Adam, the first man and representative head of the human race, forfeited his right to live forever on the Earth by his own willful disobedience and fall from perfection. In Adam, then, all men fell. As a result of his disobedience, fallen man had to begin to deal with his self-inflicted problem, namely death. He had been warned by God Himself, but he gave no heed. God had said, “…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Genesis 2:17).” Yes, man remembered and did know, it was death, and included therein, the many miseries that lead to death, including sickness, with which we deal in this particular article. But it is also after the fall that we received the promise of the coming of the second Adam, Christ, Who is now gathering up His chosen in His loving arms to carry them through the wrecks of time, and Who sent His Spirit to dwell in and among them, even to help us at this time, to help us to understand that though we should take an interest in promoting and preserving human life on Earth, we have no abiding and everlasting country or city on this Earth, but we have a promise, not only that He will restore something to us again, but a promise that He will give His chosen a better life in a better country and city hereafter, better than that which Adam even knew in Paradise before he fell.
Since the fall, then, the days and years of the earthly existence of man are limited. Some people never live to see the light of day. Methuselah lived to be 969 years old. The general pattern of the life span of an old man has tended shorten, maintaining somewhat of a level preceding the days of the beloved Psalmist David. After the fall and before the flood, the ages of many men approximated a thousand years. After the flood, the age of man was soon cut to a hundred years with the average tendency to lessen. In the days of the famous Psalmist, it is evident from Psalm 90:10 that seventy years was considered to be the expected age of an old person because David states that it is unusual strength that characterizes a person who lives to be four score years, and that additional days will usually be in much labour and sorrow.
But man often does not live for seventy years. Furthermore, man was created an earthly creature. His will and desire are for the things of this Earth. Also, he was created a creature of order. He wants order in his life and want to order it. He wants to make plans for the future. He wants to carry out his plans and do that in health and happiness. He does not want sickness and, humanly thinking, untimely death to stand in his way, at least not for a long time.
Man without the promise would want to live as long as possible. All his will and desire can only be for the Earth alone. He loves and desires his way of the Earth. He is little troubled and would prefer to keep it that way, forever, if possible. He always fears death. It troubles him. He, in almost every case, would want to put off his everlasting doom. Besides, there might be something of renown that he might be able to accomplish, if he only would have the time to perform it.
Man with the promise also desires to live long. He has his conscious inclinations in the place that he knows best. He is on this Earth and in a sense desires it too. But he is not of this Earth. This Earth is not his end or his goal. His deepest and greatest desire is in the land of promise, a better and permanent dwelling. Yet, while he is here he wants to tell his children about the promise and how to keep the way of the promise. He wants to discuss the promise in his home, with his neighbor, and among the brethren. He also feels a calling to perform many other tasks as well. He wishes for time to perform them. And yet, he is much troubled with a lot of sorrow. Disease afflicts his body and sin troubles his soul. His body fears death, but his soul longs for deliverance. Death is the passage to that deliverance. His heart is on the promised land. Thus, he thrives in the realm of the covenant of grace.
In the realm of the covenant of grace there have been those who have desired long life. The Israelites portray an outstanding example. We find this out especially when they were about to leave their bondage of Egypt and were bound for freedom in Canaan, the promised land. First, long life was desired so Israel could get into the land of promise, which was to them a picture of heaven, the land of everlasting rest. They looked forward to a happy and restful life in a land where they could reap that which they did not sow, a land that would be flowing with milk and with honey, a land where their enemies would flee from before them, a land where peace and happiness would dominate, they thought. And then, long life was desired so Israel could live happily and restfully for many days and years in Canaan. It was a privilege for Caleb and Joshua to live long to get into Canaan, to be there for a while, and then to be delivered to their everlasting rest. For them long life was the reward for having obeyed the commandments of God and having witnessed and spoken by faith the truth.
We too desire this life and wish to live long and happily. We look forward to the remainder of the day, month, year, and even to the next. We all make plans for the future. Children look forward to growing up. Young people make plans for a career and marriage. Even the old make plans for tomorrow and maybe next year. Not only do we make these plans, but we also desire many days and years in happiness without the inconvenience of ill health to hinder us from carrying them out. Should we become ill, we want health restored so we can continue to carry out our plans. We must use the means available to improve or restore health, if possible. We must also have some plan of order in our lives, though we may not think that our plans are the final word on what will be carried out, nor may our final desire be this life. God also has His plan, complete and perfect, in our lives. His plan is above our plan.
Throughout the ages, man saw that life is not often happy and long. He thought that it appeared that his dream for happier and longer life would never be realized if he did not attempt to do something about it himself. Therefore, throughout the ages in appropriate times and places there were men who busied themselves in some laboratory to experiment on many things, groping about in frustration, driving themselves to find a way to repair the defective human body in an attempt to get control of the human body to promote longer life, at least to get more people to live to the age of seventy years, and if possible, if a reasonably healthy body can be maintained, to attain to a longer life. Among them, there was also the man without the promise hoping to find the possibility of an endless life on Earth without God.
For many years and in many places knowledge of most diseases together with their cures was rather narrowly limited. Many diseases were left undiagnosed. Some diseases were diagnosed by Grandma, a neighbor lady, a medicine man, or an itinerant physician, almost alike. The so-called simple disease probably could be cured by eating a certain plant that would commonly be called a weed or by drinking the right water, whether it be sun or stone purified, or maybe mineral. Some of these remedies did suffice as cures. Every now and then we find out that Grandmother was right when she prescribed this or that remedy that many modern people would frown upon. Sometimes her remedies worked when the physician was proven to be mistaken. The so-called serious diseases which might involve a major or vital organ of the body were dreaded if realized because it was known that death would have to be impending and imminent.
Since the turn of the last century, many cures have been found for many diseases which were previously a great mystery and misery to man. But cures were not always effective and possible. Some people lived better with less blood, and some lived better or were cured with more of it. Some people lived better when diseased organs were removed. Some had diseased organs that required replacing. In some cases a part of a body could be replaced by rearranging the cells of a person’s own body. In other cases replacements would require a vital organ from another body to restore partial or enjoyable health. This is to imply that a body organ replacement would never restore what can be called normal or optimal health which one could probably enjoy if it were possible to keep the original organ and restore it to health in one’s own body.
In the last fifteen years or so, organ replacement by transplanting has become a major field for laboratory research. Tests, experiments, and trials in animals have been conducted, and in some cases, in persons as well, in the case that a person’s life was considered to be nearly expired anyway, hoping that this could be the possible solution to restore partial health so that the person could then lead a relatively happy and productive life, with, hopefully, many years added to it. This has led to a small amount of success.
In order to have the appropriate organ for a particular transplant, there must be the donation or appropriation of such organs. Eyes, hearts. kidneys, and perhaps other organs as well, are sometimes used for this purpose. The organs of young people approximating twenty years of age are usually considered the best contributions. Then we must ask ourselves the important and pertinent question: May or should we donate or appropriate parts of our bodies for the use of experimentation and the implantation into other persons?
Before we answer this question, let us stare a certain premise. As it was stated before, the purpose of our lives is not for the Earth alone. We must keep the way of the promises. We have been instructed in them and know them. We must love God above all else, and we must love our neighbor as ourselves. God has poured out of Himself to us. We are in our bodies. Our bodies. then, are the temples or dwelling of God, the Holy Spirit. We must love them, first because we love God, and then also, because we love the neighbor and ourselves. We must not love the neighbor more than ourselves, but as ourselves. That means that we allow the neighbor and ourselves as much happiness as God will allow and also that we, the neighbor and ourselves, live as long as it is the will of God that we should live. This also means that we may not deliberately or unnecessarily harm, tamper, or interfere with the functioning of the body to cause infections or other diseases to set in and to invade or even to destroy the body. It also means that we may not interfere with the health and life of our own bodies for the love of another man, or to the respect of a fellow man in contrast to the love and respect of God above Who gave the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.
If we should ever come face to face with the question, whether we should donate or appropriate an organ while we are still in the body, then we should ask ourselves the following questions:
- May the risk of giving this organ seriously hurt me or shorten my life?
- Am I deliberately promoting deficient functioning of my own body?
- Am I by this act helping some other man to attempt to preserve the life of another at the expense of the one that God gave to me?
- Is the possibility that the other person’s body will reject my organ rather great, that the donation or appropriation be of no benefit to either person and probably detrimental to both?
- Is my love for my neigh greater than my love for God?
- Is my love for my neigh greater than my love for myself?
- Do I have special respect or favor for persons who are considered to be superior in leading productive lives for the social and economic and political benefit of society over against those who are humanly considered to be less productive or advantageous for the general welfare of society and humanity?
The question is open for each saint to answer for himself before God in his own situation. If the answer to any of the questions above is yes, surely our answer before God and man must be no. It could only be pleasing to God if all the answers can be answered no. For, before God we must also answer these questions:
- Do I sincerely believe it to be pleasing to God to do this?
- Is it in the keeping of the commandments of God to love Him above all, and therefore, my neighbor and myself?
These questions also demand an answer, the answer of yes, with all the heart where the commandments are written. May our decisions in regard to this question be sanctified in Christ Who purchased everlasting life and happiness for us.
Perhaps it may usually be more acceptable to arrange donating or appropriating our organs at the time of our death if there are favorable conditions for this. Then we are finished with them and some of the above considerations do not enter in. But in the case that we are appropriating them, we still may not show respect of persons, but we may appropriate them to relatives and friends or the spiritual brotherhood in contrast to donating them to the general public. In the grave, the body decays. In the resurrection, we will be made new, not for this Earth, but fit for New Jerusalem in the new Earth and Heaven.
However, it currently appears that artificial organs meet with better success in prolonging life than the organs of another person do. If this should be proven to be true, the question of organ donations may become antiquated and forgotten.
In conclusion, our drive or fight for earthly life must be in the keeping of the commandments of God and must portray the principle of fighting sinful humanistic methods of characteristics or drives to show we are the chosen vessels to be made fit for everlasting life above in the New Jerusalem in the mansions beyond, where happiness will abound and life will not end. We are weak, but God is strong to help. Seek Him.