Should Christians be involved in the donation of their body organs in order to save others?

Scripture does not deal with the issue directly, so I would not presume to criticize another believer whose views might differ from mine. Each must act on his own conscience as before the Lord. However, the Bible is not completely silent on the question, as it sets out some principles that may be used to form our answer.

   The body of a saint is clearly precious to God. A whole chapter is given over to recording the burial of Sarah (see Gen. 23). Michael and the Devil disputed over the body of Moses (see Jude v9), and God buried him (see Deut. 34: 6). Joseph requested that his bones be carried into the promised land (see Gen. 50: 25; Exod. 13: 19; Josh. 24: 32; Heb. 11: 22). In the NT, John the Baptist’s disciples buried his decapitated body (see Matt. 14: 12), and devout men carried Stephen to burial (see Acts 8: 2). A number of Scriptures imply that the body is worthy of honour and care (see Rom. 1: 24; Col. 2: 23; 1 Tim. 4: 8 etc.). More generally, it is the body that will be raised by God, for “we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15: 51) and what has been “sown a natural body” will be “raised a spiritual body” (v44). As believers, we await “the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8: 23), when it will be transformed “into conformity to his body of glory” (Phil. 3: 21). The idea prevalent in some quarters that Christianity is wholly about the spirit and the soul is thus proved erroneous. Such a doctrine is in fact the logical extension of the old gnostic heresy that the fulness of the Godhead does not dwell in Christ “bodily” (Col. 2: 9, my emphasis).

   Those who insist that their bodies are their own to do with as they wish do not model themselves on Christ. His body was offered to God (Heb. 10: 10), and we are instructed to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, [which is] your intelligent service” (Rom. 12: 1). The body is for God, and we are not free to do with it as we see fit. Thus the idea of selling a body organ is clearly wrong for it is not ours to sell: “Do ye not know that your body is [the] temple of the Holy Spirit which [is] in you, which ye have of God; and ye are not your own? for ye have been bought with a price: glorify now then God in your body” (1 Cor. 6: 19, 20). Of course the reason people sell their organs is usually financial, but this only demonstrates that the practice is, in principle, little different from prostitution. We should never forget that “the body” is “for the Lord” (v13).

   What then about donating a body organ (whether before or after death)? Here, I think we need to be more cautious. An argument, could, of course, be made that helping (even saving) others in this way is a case of glorifying God in our bodies. As a counter to this, read 1 Cor. 6: 15, 16: “Do ye not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then, taking the members of the Christ, make [them] members of a harlot? Far be the thought. Do ye not know that he [that is] joined to the harlot is one body? For the two, he says, shall be one flesh”. Now this Scripture is not about organs, but bodies, and the body of the Christian is not to be made “one flesh” with an unrighteous person who “shall not inherit [the] kingdom of God” (v9). However, surely the same principle would apply to parts of our bodies, that is, organs? What I mean by this is that it does not seem right for even part of the body of a believer to be made one flesh with the body of an unbeliever. This would certainly rule out the practice of organ donation to persons unknown to the donor.

   However, I do not believe organ donation is ruled out altogether. Take another Scripture: “So ought men also to love their own wives as their own bodies: he that loves his own wife loves himself. For no one has ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, even as also the Christ the assembly” (Eph. 5: 28, 29). In the light of these verses, it seems inconceivable that a man would allow his wife to suffer and die from, for example, kidney disease, when he had a suitable kidney that he could donate to her. Her flesh is to be regarded in the same way as his own flesh, and similarly cherished and cared for. The same principles may extend to members of the same family (see Gen. 29: 14), for example, a mother in relation to her child.

   We do, of course, live in a culture that is obsessed with prolonging this life, (and, correspondingly, attaches no value to preparing for the next). To a degree, organ donation is but a reflection of this. As Christians, it is important that we do not become taken up with the same short–term view. The vital thing is not prolonging life by any means, but that Christ may be “magnified in my body whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1: 20, my emphasis).