Masturbation! A Sin for Christians?

masturbationAn answer to the oft-asked question of if masturbation is a sin for believers in Christ Jesus, and what the scriptures teach concerning it.

The Scripture is strangely silent about this universal issue, while not shy about all sorts of other sexual situations and perversions… in great detail concerning sex with animals, etc. Yet the bible says nothing about masturbation. This is odd, don’t you think?

Some, mistakenly, cite Onan in Gen 38:9 as suggesting that masturbation is a sin. In fact, “onanism” has become a synonym for masturbation. But this is obviously an error, and a rather daft one at that. We know what Onan did, for it is spelled out for us in lurid detail; and we know why it was a sin: he was maliciously using and cheating Tamar in way that was wrong. In any case, what Onan was doing was certainly not masturbating, and you have to be pretty dimwitted to miss this.

In fact, there is no place in scripture where masturbation is even mentioned, much less forbidden. This is a very odd situation since it is so common a human experience, and given that scripture speaks of other sexual sins (some fairly perverse and rare) without any shyness at all.

Since scripture does not forbid masturbation directly, neither should Christians in general. “Nothing beyond what is written” in terms of how we should help lead others to the Lord is the rule. But since you asked, or clicked, as the case may be, we will give you the best answer we can using what we do know from scripture as our guide. We should stick to emphasizing the things God has told us are important, and not be teaching things that the Lord has never expressed His opinion on.

To be sure, it is clear from Scripture that illicit sexual fantasies are forbidden, and this is a significant issue with masturbation.

Matt 5:28-29 (NIV) [Jesus:] “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

But what if no illicit fantasies are included in masturbation? Is the act then sinful? By scripture, there is nothing to indicate that it is. Specifically, if the act is done merely as a hedge against temptation and as the body requires then there is no need for the above sinful “crutches”. This is hardly exciting, and a rote act of keeping the body in submission. It cannot be done often, as the body is not that demanding if left alone by a perverted imagination. On the other hand, if we attempt a pent-up self-sex life, then we find that the body needs help from the soul through illicit fantasies, and then sin is clearly being committed.

I hope this is clear. Were it not for our perverted imaginations and lustful sense of expectation, our bodies would not cause us much trouble. It is our minds and hearts that need “treatment”. It is like rev-ing an engine near red-line at every traffic signal, and all the time it is running, and then complaining about the eventual engine failure. Sure the thing can rev, but not all the time. It was not made for that.

From Scripture, the line not to be crossed is the line of illicit imagination. And what a line! Minus the sinful fantasies, which are the fuel for most masturbation, all the fun and zest would be taken out of it. Thus, it would no longer be a topic of interest to you or anybody, any more than the act of going to the bathroom. It would be just “doing what was needed” to keep the body from exploding from within.

Sex was not created for this, you can be sure. That God allows masturbation to even work is a mystery (ever try tickling yourself?) and so it is reasonable to assume that it is a “gift” to keep ourselves from temptation.

Eph 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

Much like a person who is an Alcoholic must avoid any kind of drinking like the plague, where others can drink with moderation and without sin, the same principle applies here. So people might come to different conclusions concerning masturbation, and that is anticipated within our faith. Each man must live in holiness before the Lord in his/her own body, and this might mean different disciplines and personal leading in each case. What works for me or you… we should not impose on anybody else as a stumbling block.

Rom 14:12-13 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling-block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

The important thing is that we live holy before Him, and this is a matter that we should take very seriously. I assume this is why you are interested in this question, because you want to please God by avoiding any kind of sin. And when it comes to sexual sin in the thought-life, in our culture this is an easy temptation to fall into. So care and caution are appropriate as we consider these things and make choices before the Lord.

1Th 4:2-8 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God… For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Can you, in all honesty, masturbate without sinning against the clear commands of Christ? If yes, then we are never told that the act itself is impure or forbidden. But let us be honest and admit that it is not so easy to do if we are committed to avoid mental sexual sin.

In our society, where lust is in the air, how is it is possible to “learn to control our bodies in a way that is holy and honorable”? Well, the answer is that we can die. Really, spiritually. This is The Gospel as we have received it.

John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I pray that through what we do know, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, that you will be able to conduct yourself in purity and wisdom concerning this matter.

Romans 6:13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

9 thoughts on “Masturbation! A Sin for Christians?

  1. Sheldon Bass says:

    Speaking from my own experience and how God has dealt with me on this issue (years ago) of masturbation—The exact same scripture reference was brought to mind about looking and lusting. It truly is an issue of the heart and what we allow into our minds will determine the condition of our hearts. Personally, I don’t think It is possible to masturbate and not have images of what we’ve seen (women) flash across our imaginations. Practicing self-control of where our eyes wander and guarding our thoughts before the temptation comes, is, I feel, where the real work is to be done. If that is, we hope to live a pure and godly life. I can’t watch certain TV shows (many) because I know the images portrayed there. It also helps to try and view every woman we see as God views them—a precious soul.

  2. connor cook says:

    So I am a teen, and I face strong sexual urges to masturbate, is that wrong?

    1. christianguys says:

      Hey Connor! Having the urges is not wrong, God created us and part of that creation is sexuality! We have to be careful how we feed that part of us! We have to be sure to keep our eyes and heart where God wants us to have them and make sure we are not feeding those urges with pornography or other inappropriate thoughts! Email us and we can talk more!

  3. Tirivavi James Chiuta says:

    Wow. I am looking for material for ministering to Men and this article kills so many birds with one stone. May I please make reference to it. Please keep posting such powerful revelations. God Bless…

    1. christianguys says:

      We would be more than pleased for you to share the ministry and messages of Christian Guys with any and everyone! We would love for you to put links to our site out. Blessings!

  4. Jesseoftheforest says:

    I’ve read this exact same article on a few other sites. Did somebody write it and then other people just copied and pasted it to their sites?

    1. christianguys says:

      Back when this ministry got started, 7 years ago, we were looking for resources and found this article by a Christian man and his wife, because it was worded so well, we didn’t want to “reinvent the wheel” we contacted them about using the article, he granted us permission, and did not ask for any back-link, he stated he just wanted the resource out there! So it has been a main stay article on our site every since! -PM

      1. Jesseoftheforest says:

        Wow, thanks for the quick reply! I wasn’t actually expecting anyone to read much less reply to my comment at all, much less so soon. I understand your thinking here about not reinventing the wheel.

        I remember when I was a teenager just fifteen years ago or so, there wasn’t much of anything available to address masturbation with Christian teens. Not in a normal, human way, at least. Everyone who had anything to say on the subject from a Christian perspective seemed so distant from humanity, from reality, from even the issue itself. It was always called “masturbation”, even though every young guy knew it better as “jacking off”, and the writer/speaker could never say that he himself had ever done such a thing himself in a direct, clear statement. This tactic may have been to protect his image, but it really did nobody any good, I think. It just created distance between the writer and his reader. Can we just admit that jacking off feels good? Can we talk frankly about our beliefs about it based on our own experiences with it, both good and bad and figure out as one body united in Christ what is the best way to handle this matter in our lives? I hope the future of the church makes way for more open discussion and honesty and sets aside personal fears people might have of words or subject matters. Let’s get back to reality and talk more like real people.

        Thank you for this post, even though you yourselves did not write it. It is worth posting and spreading the message.

        1. Josh McSwaga says:

          Yeah bro I agree with you on this one.

          This article really really blessed me in how practical it was. It’s great to understand that we serve a God who wants to be personal with us and wishes us to give us true satisfaction.

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