Masturbation is the sexual stimulation of one’s own genitals, usually to the point of orgasm.

Is masturbation serious? Some Bible scholars view masturbation, saying, “The Hebrew and Christian Bibles are silent, neither denouncing nor encouraging the practice. The biblical story of Onan is traditionally linked to referring to masturbation and condemnation thereof, but the act described by this story is coitus interruptus, not masturbation.”[1] Protestant “Theologians toward the middle of the 20th century began revising previous teachings, and some today even take pro-masturbation viewpoints. Some view it as an act of self-indulgence and even a sin of the flesh and believe that the practice is principally considered a sin because of its invitation to lust.[2] Those who view it within the range of allowable sexual behavior encourage it as a guard against adultery, pre-marital sex, or other forms of non-allowable sexual behavior, and as a method of balancing differing libidos between spouses.”[3]

 Before delving into the problems of masturbation, it is best that we consider some things first. It was God, who gave men and women, the natural desires of sexual attraction, as well as the physical pleasures, which are a result of stimulating certain parts of the body. However, Adam and Eve naturally leaned toward good, and would, therefore, have perfect control over their sexual desires. In fact, they did not even have clothes and went around naked. The first couple was together for a very long time in the Garden of Eden, before they sinned, and were expelled. It would seem that they never had relations throughout that time, as they would have likely procreated, and had children in the Garden of Eden. [4] Their desire for sexual attraction would not have been dysfunctional as that of imperfect humans after the fall when sin entered the world. They were busy carrying out the duties that God had given them, like naming the animals, caring for the garden, knowing there was an eternity for the procreation, but knowing that they would sin one day. – Romans 5:12.

Because Adam and Eve rebelled against the sovereignty of God, sin entered into the world, this means sexual desires were just the opposite of their descendants, for we have inherited the disease of sin, missing the mark of perfection. (Gen. 6:5, AT) “When the Lord saw that the wickedness of man on the earth was great and that the whole bent of his thinking was never anything but evil . . . .” (Gen. 8:21, AT) “. . . the bent of man’s mind may be evil from his very youth. . . .” (Jer. 17:9, ESV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?

The main reason for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is to procreate and fill the earth. Being that God is the Creator of all, including humans, he has the right to set the moral standards of what is good and what is bad. Of Course, Adam and Eve disregarded this, when their rebellion demonstrated that they felt that they did not need his standards, but could determine for themselves what is good and what is bad. The Bible is quite clear that sexual relations are to be between one man and one woman, who are married. Anything outside of that would be adultery if married, or fornication if unmarried.

The imperfect human lacks the self-control that perfect Adam and Eve displayed. Those who are single have sexual desires that are not able to be satisfied. In fact, the male human body has a way of dealing with such stress to the body, which is by nocturnal emission of semen. Is masturbation another way for single men and women, to deal with the stress and frustration of pent up sexual desires? No. While it is true, that masturbation does no physical harm if practiced in moderation. However, as Christians, we are not concerned with the physical aspect, but rather the spiritual aspect.

The Bible on Masturbation

The Bible condemns quite clearly such sexual sins as fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality; masturbation is not mentioned. (Genesis 39:7-9; Leviticus 18:20, 22-23; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) Another factor to consider is that the language of the New Testament, Koine Greek, contained several words to describe the practice masturbation in the Greek-speaking world, but they are not used in the New Testament.

While the opinion of most physicians is that masturbation is harmless physically, it seems that the human conscience rejects it, as most are not as comfortable talking about masturbation as they are about another bodily function, like washing your hands. If you doubt me, the next time you are at a restaurant, and the women excuse themselves to freshen up, when they return, ask them if they masturbated. If it is as natural, you will not have any reservations about asking, and they will not have any embarrassed or angry looks on their face. This may sound extreme, but it makes the point.

Adam and Eve were created in the image of God and were a reflection of his qualities and attributes. Even after the fall, in our state of imperfection, all humans still maintain a good measure of that image. We all have a moral nature, which produces the faculty of conscience. This moral nature and associated conscience are seen in that most countries have laws that are based on the Bible’s moral values, do not kill, do not steal, and do not commit adultery, and so on. Why is it that most people feel guilty, ashamed, dirty, embarrassed, or abnormal when discussing masturbation? It is the conscience that God gave us.

Put to Death Evil Desire

Colossians 3:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Therefore, Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

The … two words belong together. “Lust” (epithymia) and “passions” (pathos) or “evil desires,” as translated in the NIV, generally refer to strong desires gone bad. Although the word can, on occasion, be used of an honorable desire (1 Tim 3:1), the normal use is negative. It refers most often to the misdirected fulfillment of bodily appetites, usually sexual appetites. A passion is uncontrolled and habitual lust. When lust goes unchecked, a passion for what is forbidden arises. Habits are formed which feed each other. Lust encourages passion, and passion produces more perverted lust.[5]

“Deaden, therefore, your body members,” urges the Bible, “as respects . . . sexual appetite.” (Col. 3:5) This “sexual appetite” is not the new sexual sensations that most youths feel during puberty, of which there is no need to be ashamed. “Sexual appetite” exists when these feelings are intensified so that one loses control. Such sexual appetite has led to gross sexual immorality, as described by Paul at Romans 1:26-27.

However, does not masturbation “put to death” these “evil desires”? Hardly, in order to masturbate, one must feed his mind on evil desires, as well as pornographic images. Like any addiction, it takes stronger content to achieve the same gratification. If you drink one beer a day, soon you will have to move on to two, to get the same feeling. If you look at pornographic images, soon they will have to be viler, to achieve the same results. Eventually, you will need the real thing because the imagination is not achieving the same outcome. The world is full of opportunity, where you will find yourself aroused in a wrong moment or an inconvenient time, and you will commit fornication if single, or adultery if married.

Your Thoughts Will Lead You Astray

Moreover, your using women or men objectively in your imagination will carry over into the real world. Masturbation means that you need to view and think of women as a tool, as a means to an end, as opposed to sensitive human beings. In addition, you will start to see your own body as an object as well, a means to self-gratification. Self-abuse is self-centered. The person loses sight of love and moves toward sexual pleasures. Our Creator intended man and woman to find their sexual satisfactions within the marriage bed, between one man and one woman, and within expressions of love.

How Does God View our Human Weaknesses?

Psalm 86:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

For you, O Jehovah, are good, and ready to forgive,
and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon you.

When we slip up and fall short, succumbing to masturbation, we certainly feel guilty, which is appropriate. However, we do not want to beat ourselves down to where anxiety and stress cause future failures.

1 John 3:20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.

We may find ourselves falling short on masturbation many times, as it has a stronger hold on us than we may have realized. This results in our feeling guilty, ashamed, dirty, embarrassed, or abnormal. We do not feel worthy of God’s Love. We need not think that God is no longer forgiving us, as this is exactly what Satan would like. The fact that you feel as distraught as you do means that God still loves you, and you have not committed the unforgivable sin. Simply be steadfast in the process of overcoming this habit, and continue fervently to go to God in prayer, begging him for forgiveness and cleansing and help. However, we as imperfect humans can be accredited a righteous standing before God, being accepted back into the family of God. He makes allowances for our imperfection.

Below is how he views a repentant sinner,

Psalm 103:8-14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Jehovah is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always find fault,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repaid us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is his lovingkindness toward those who fear him.
12 As far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so Jehovah has compassion on those who fear him.
14 For he himself knows our formation;
he remembers that we are dust.

 Isaiah 38:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

17 Look, it was for my welfare
that I had great bitterness;
but in love you have delivered my soul
from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
behind your back.

Micah 7:18-19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in lovingkindness.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.

You will notice in Psalm 103:12, that God removes the sins of the repentant one as far as the east is from the west. The picture being painted is, to the human mind that is the farthest you can remove something as there is no greater distance. In Isaiah 38, we are given another visual, God throwing our sins behind his back, meaning he can no longer see them, as they are out of sight, thus out of mind. In Micah, our last example, we see that God hurls all of the sins of a repentant person into the depths of the sea. In the setting of the ancient person, this meant that retrieving them was literally impossible. In other words, God has removed them, never to be retrieved or brought to mind ever again. This was the viewpoint that he had before Jesus ever even offered himself as a ransom sacrifice.

However, just because God is so forgiving, this will never justify sinning unrepentantly, as his patience will wear out, or the evil age of Satan will end when we least expect it. He hopes that you will continue to work toward setting aside the habit of masturbation, as it is an unclean habit.

Review Questions

  • Is masturbation serious?
  • Who gave men and women, the natural desires of sexual attraction, as well as the physical pleasures, which are a result of stimulating certain parts of the body, and how has imperfect man abused these gifts?
  • What do the Scriptures say about the mental bent of imperfect man and his heart (inner person)?
  • What is the main reason for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman?
  • Even though the Bible does not mention masturbation as a sexual sin with fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality, how do we know that it is biblical wrong?
  • How do we put to death evil desires?
  • How do our thoughts lead us astray?
  • How does God view our human weaknesses?

How does God view a repentant sinner?

[1] Coogan, Michael (October 2010). God and Sex. What the Bible Really Says (1st ed.). New York, Boston: Twelve. Hachette Book Group. p. 110.

Ellens, J. Harold (2006). “6. Making Babies: Purposes of Sex”. Sex in the Bible: a new consideration. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers. p. 48.

[2] Miller, Jeff (2008). “Masturbation”. Bible.org.

[3] Wright, Anne (2009). Grandma’s Sex Handbook. Intimate Press. pp. 123–146.

[4] For a discussion on the length of the creation days, please see, http://bible-translation.net/page/part-2-genesis-1-1-is-the-earth-only-6-000-to-10-000-years-old-are-the-creative-days-literally-only-24-hours-long

[5] Richard R. Melick, Jr, vol. 32, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, The New American Commentary, 291 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993).