This began as answers to a number of arguments against masturbation that were submitted anonymously by one person. We have since added to and altered the article. Anything in black is from Paul and/or Lori, while things in blue are from others.
Please note that this discussion is about masturbation in general and about whether or not it is inherently sinful. For the most part, we are thinking of a single person, not a married person. Certainly, there are scriptures that apply to a married person that do not affect an unmarried one in this matter.
Let’s start by saying that in the past we would have been quick to agree masturbation was wrong. We believed that ALL masturbation was sin and we could string together Bible verses to “prove” that. However, as we continued to study, it became more and more clear to us that the Bible did not really address the issue. When we applied to masturbation the same standards of interpretation we used for everything else, we could find no Biblical prohibition.
And, since we are married and very happy sexually, this is pretty much an academic argument for us. Being convinced masturbation is wrong would not affect our lives. On the other hand, there are many for whom this issue is far from academic and we pray that we can help such people become convinced in their own minds. Certainly, masturbation is wrong for anyone who feels it’s sin, in accordance with Romans 14:23b “for whatever is not from faith is sin.” The question we need to deal with is whether or not masturbation is, in and of itself, inherently sinful.
I think the Word talks about this subject several times, just not directly.
My question then would be “Why would God not be very clear about it?” We have a very hard time with the idea that knowing what is right and wrong requires great discernment or the ability to dig deeply into the scriptures. For more on this see Why Didn’t God Call It Sin?
When the Bible says, “if a man cannot control himself he should marry” I don’t believe this is only talking about sexual immorality with another person, because another scripture says, “exercise self-control” I read that to say control YOURSELF.
The apostle Paul makes it clear that there are those who cannot continue to control themselves and therefore should marry. He says this not only to the young but also to all widows under the age of 60! In 1 Timothy 5:11 Paul indicates that these women will “feel sensual desires” and will “want to get married.” We would agree that there is more to marriage than just avoiding sexual sin and that the gift of celibacy must be much more than just the ability to say no to sex. This does not change the fact that Paul made it very clear that many do not have the ability to go a life time without sex.
When people do masturbate and then “feel guilty”, is it really guilt or conviction? When we sin against “the temple of the Holy Spirit” we always feel a sense of shame, that is because we just did something against our body that the Lord himself occupies.
An excellent point. Is it conviction from the Holy Spirit or condemnation from man or Satan? We know single men who feel convicted the moment they look too long or too closely at a woman, but feel no guilt when they masturbate. If their conscience was seared, would they be so easily convicted about lust? On the other hand, we know married men and women who feel great guilt when they have sex with their own spouse. Clearly sexual guilt can be inappropriate and not of God.
Is masturbation denying our flesh or “gratifying our flesh”?
When we eat dessert, do we deny the flesh? Does air conditioning or hot water for showers deny the flesh? “Denying the flesh” does not mean we should avoid anything which feels good, it means we should avoid fleshly sins. If masturbation were listed as a sin, then it would be included in denying the flesh, but since it’s not called a sin, it’s not included.
Masturbating leads to other sexual sins, self control over masturbation helps us avoid other sexual sins.
The idea that avoiding masturbation will somehow make a person less likely to commit other sexual sins is not biblically supported and we think such an idea comes from what Paul calls “self-imposed religion” in Colossians:
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations – “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, … These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.Colossians 2:20-21, 23 NKJV
Paul says that “neglect of the body” seems wise to man’s mind, but it is “of no value” in dealing with the flesh. We have heard some say that the single who does not masturbate is training him or herself to also deny the temptation to have premarital sex. This sounds good, but in practice, it does not seem to work. On the contrary, those who “deny” themselves masturbation seem to be more prone to sexual sin with a boy or girlfriend. Some who have “tried it both ways” have said that masturbation makes it much easier for them to remain sexually pure on a date.
Marriage is reserved for MAN AND WOMAN together to become one. Sex is made for marriage alone, masturbation is a sexual act…
That would depend on how you define a sex act. Sex with one’s spouse is physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and possibly procreational. Masturbation is only physical. In seems to us that comparing masturbation to sex is like comparing an IV to a gourmet meal. Masturbation does temporarily remove our “sexual hunger,” but it does nothing for the hunger we have for intimacy with another person.
Masturbation increases our sex drive.
Actually is does not. When a man has sex with a woman it satisfies his sexual hunger but raises his testosterone levels long term, which can result in an increased sex drive. However, when a man masturbates he only satisfies his hunger, his testosterone levels are not raised. We see this as evidence that a loving God designed masturbation as a “stop gap” measure for those who do not have a spouse.
Masturbating shows no sign of self control or denying yourself to honor the Lord. As with fasting, not masturbating is denying your flesh and depending on the Lord.
This assumes that the Lord intends us to not masturbate, something He has not told us.
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.i Corinthians 10:13 NKJV
Is masturbation a temptation to be avoided or is it actually the means of escape from sexual sin, provided by God for singles and for married folks who are refused sex? If it’s a temptation to be avoided, what is the way of escape that has been provided? Among those who feel it’s a sin, the “failure rate” at avoiding masturbation is very, very high. I know of no other sin which has such a high failure rate, so where is God’s way of escape? And if masturbation is a sin which is almost impossible to avoid, why is the Bible silent on it?
What is truly frightening is the people who feel so guilty (condemned, not convicted) at their failure to stop masturbating that they stop going to church, and fall away from the Lord. People say “I prayed for help and He didn’t help me.” Perhaps the problem is that they are praying for Him to take away something He intended them to use to avoid sin? Maybe it’s Satan who is whispering in single people’s ears about masturbation being sin? Those who fail to stop feel condemned and those who do stop are more easily tempted to fornicate. Satan wins either way.
I don’t understand why you say masturbation is not a sin, but pornography is a sin. The arousal to masturbate and the masturbation itself are the result of fantasies.
This is not entirely correct. While fantasies and sexual images can cause or increase arousal, God created us with a sex drive which needs no physical, mental or visual stimulation to affect us. In men, there is a need for release of built-up semen every 24 to 72 hours and a period of time without sex causes a growing desire for sex. In women sex drive varies greatly with her hormonal cycle and as she nears ovulation she will experience a strong desire regardless of her thoughts and actions.
I think masturbation is ok if done in moderation… The sin starts when done in excess. Excess being it is interfering in your daily life by utilizing a lot of your time. That could be said about a lot things, such as TV, the Internet, exercise, shopping, etc.
We agree with you on this. Of course, defining “excessive” can be tricky. There is a lot of evidence that most teenage boys and 20 to 30-year-old men will have an orgasm every other day if they can. This fits well with the time needed for the body to produce enough semen to feel a need for release. It seems likely that every other day is a sort of minimal need for the body and maybe for the mind in most men. For women, the issue of how often is too much is a lot less clear because their bodies do not have a built-in need for release.
Jesus said it was adultery to fantasize about having sex with a woman. So masturbation is sin because it is done while fantasizing.
The issue of fantasy is certainly part of the masturbation question. Fantasy about sex with someone you are not married to is sin with or without masturbation. It is possible to masturbate without any fantasy, which solves the problem.
It is impossible for someone to masturbate and not fantasize. Anyone who says they can do this is lying!!
We have heard this a number of times, but no one can tell us how they know it’s true. There are reports of very young children self-discovering masturbation (to orgasm) when they had no idea what sex was. These children obviously masturbated without sexual fantasies. If someone tells me they can do this, who am I to call them a liar? Isn’t it easier to control one’s thoughts for the time it takes to masturbate than to do it all day with the push of an unreleased sex drive?
I do not think masturbation will prevent premarital sex. Premarital sex has to do with the opportunity and temptation to have sex, masturbating or not. But it is kind of a safety switch for those who really want to follow Jesus’ teachings.
Exactly. It certainly is not going to prevent anyone who is not morally inclined to follow God’s Word. On the other hand, we have heard reports from individuals who wanted to avoid fornication who are convinced that masturbation helps remove some of the temptation. It’s like going to the grocery store on an empty stomach vs. having just eaten.
Jesus remained pure throughout his natural life with the help of the Holy Spirit and I just can’t picture Him masturbating.
This “argument” is common, but what does it prove? Can you picture Jesus performing basic bodily functions that we know He must have? This always seems like a red herring to us.
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