Mastering Masturbation: Is Masturbation A Sin?


Mastering Masturbation: Is Masturbation A Sin?

James C .Guy

*NOTE: This may be an offensive subject to some. It is something Christians need to consider, and attempts have been made to discuss it here in a modest manner.

I have been asked about this subject on many occasions, both and private and semi-public settings. I have even preached on it, although it is difficult to do with small children in the crowd. But, it is something that needs to be preached on, or at least dealt with in classroom settings for both adults and teenagers.

Many have asked me what THE BIBLE SAYS on the subject. Many Christians have experimented with it. Many practice it and many struggle with it as an addiction. For some, there are the additional struggles of pornography and other things that often accomplany habitual masturbation. But, the answer that many seek is to the questions, "Is Masturbation A Sin?" In order to answer it properly, we must look to what THE BIBLE SAYS. Read and study along both for yourself, and for those whom you may have the opportunity to help now or in the future.

The Bible does not specifically say that masturbation is a sin. Some would say this means it is not, but the Bible does not list each and every sin. Instead, it gives us principles to live by, and may give us listings of sins in general terms. For example, the Bible does not say, “thou shalt not smoke marijuana.” But most Christians understand principles that teach us we should not do so. The Bible doesn’t say, “----“ and “----“ are cuss words. But, we know that the Bible does teach us to watch what we say and that our speech comes from our hearts (Matthew 12:34). The same can be said concerning masturbation.

To say masturbation is a sin for everybody in every case would be binding what God has not bound. The Bible just does not specifically say such. But for many, masturbation is often a symptom of something else such as a heart of sinful sexual lust. The masturbation may not be a sin itself, but the heart of evil lust certainly is. We will look more at some specific scriptures in a moment.

First, I want to examine a scripture that is often pointed to as “proving” masturbation is, indeed, a sin. The passage is Genesis 38:8-10. Onan was supposed to take his sister-in-law as his wife which was both customary when a man’s brother had no children and would later be included in the Law of Moses with that purpose in mind (Deuteronomy 25:5). In this case, God has specifically commanded Onan to do so (see verse 8). Onan was killed, not because he may have maturbated, but because he disobeyed God by not giving his new wife a child. The sin was not the fact that he “spilled his seed on the ground” but it was that he did not do what he was supposed to do for his brother’s wife by giving her children.

Another verse that is sometimes given as “proof” that masturbation is wrong is Proverbs 6:27. Although the context is of a sexual nature, it is talking specifically about adultery and fornication with a harlot. What it is saying in modern, terms is, “if you play with fire, you’re going to be burned.” That may apply to our subject of masturbation in some respect, but it does not specifically forbid the practice.

So, what does the Bible have to say about this subject? Let’s look at several passages, principles, and considerations to help us in this study. Remember though, that each individual person must make up his own mind about the matter because each one of us is responsible for ourselves. We must all answer to God individually (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Lust and Masturbation

Matthew 5:28 "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

I realize it is possible to practice masturbation without lusting. It is undoubtedly difficult, but yet, possible. Some say they do it as a “biological release,” but without thinking about anyone or lusting over anyone in particular.

However, many find it difficult to do so without lusting, especially those who are addicted to the practice. This is because they feel there is a "need" to do it on a regular basis to fulfill lustful desires. Christians (usually) understand sex outside of marriage to be sinful. The Bible teaches that it is (Hebrews 13:4; II Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19-21). So, we may “substitute” the adultery and fornication with masturbation in such a way that it simply replaces the act itself. Jesus says that in doing so, you have committed it in your heart (Matthew 5:28). You lusted and desired that person in such a way that you thought about and even acted out what you might do with that person if it were not a sin. One sin does not justify another.

Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.

Addiction and Masturbation

I Corinthians 6:12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

Paul uses this verse immediately after condemning sins such as adultery and fornication. The larger context is of satisfying the desires of the flesh which is generally the root cause of masturbation. Verse 12 certainly applies to our study because, as Paul said, something may not be a sin in and of itself, but we should not let it control us. This is what often happens with masturbation. Perhaps some do it on occasion for “physical release” and without lusting when doing it. But for many others, this is not the case. What often starts as an occasional thing for a “justifiable” purpose, easily becomes a habit, then an addiction. Yes, you can be addicted to masturbation. You can be addicted to sex, even with your spouse. Do not let the desires of the flesh control you. Here’s a few more scriptures you might want to consider:
Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

Galatians 5:24 And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

I Peter 2:11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul

Self-Control and Masturbation

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is....self-control. Against such there is no law.

One thing that is clear about what THE BIBLE SAYS is that we are to practice self-control. Some who habitually practice masturbation may say they do have self-control. They may say, “I can quit anytime I want to – I just don’t want to.” That sounds exactly like what many people say who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. They believe they can quit when they want to. They don’t realize that this thing has become an addiction to them and that, although they can quit if they want to, the reason they don’t want to is that they lack the self-control to do so. Perhaps I should note that when a person is addicted to drugs that there is generally both a physical as well as a psychological addiction. To say, “just quit” is not enough. However, whatever a person is addicted to, be it drugs, sex, food, work or anything else, the first step is to admit you have a problem, and the second is to want to quit. A person who habitually practices masturbation should seriously and prayerfully examine what he is doing in light of what the Bible says about self-control. Perhaps one way to do this is to try it. Quit for a long period of time. See if you can do it without regression or without replacing it with things such as lust and pornography, or illicit flirting.

Another passage that may be helpful for us to consider in the discussion of self-control is I Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Here, Paul is speaking to married couples who separate for a time. He does note that self-control may become a problem, so they should not stay apart for very long. Some might suggest that masturbation satisfies this problem when a person cannot be reunited sexually with his wife, such as in cases of death, divorce, or extended illness. Maybe it can. You must decide that for yourself. Again, there is no specific Bible passage that forbids it, but, we must be careful in using masturbation to avoid a lack of self-control. In attempting to use masturbation to control ourselves, the masturbation itself can be an area in which we lack self-control. If we so choose to use it for this purpose, we must be careful to consider who and what we think about when doing it, and we must be certain that we are able to control it, not letting it control us.
The Bible specifically teaches us to practice self-control in others passages such as II Timothy 3:2-5 and II Peter 1:5-7.


Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Some would see sex as a “right” they have been given. While God did create us as sexual being, and he created man and woman to have sexual relations with each other inside of marriage, he never gave that to man as an inherent right. Sex should be seen as a privilege, and with it comes responsibility. Sex inside of marriage is a good thing. But, to say we have to have it in some form is to say, in essence, “I am addicted to it.”

I was teaching a teenage class once, and the subject of this and other sexual relations outside of actual intercourse came up. Some in the class had bought into this worldly way of thinking that they “HAD” to do “SOMETHING.” They wanted to know what “somethings” they could do and not sin. Fondling, oral sex, and other such things were all given as acceptable possibilities by these young people. This is a worldly way of thinking. We do not have to have sex. We get to have sex, if and only if we do so inside the marriage covenant. That is God’s will, His intention, and His requirement. Again, that’s not to say that masturbation in every form, under every circumstance, and with every mindset is sinful. It’s to say we must be careful what we let Satan fill our minds with and consider what we do in light of God’s will and not in light of the way the world (and Satan) teaches us to think.

Masturbation and an Evil Heart

Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.

You may not think of masturbation as originating from an evil heart. Satan has ways of deceiving us into justifying what we do. As I often say, “God makes a way of escape; Satan makes a way of excuse.” Masturbation may not, in and of itself, be sinful. But when it comes from sinful lust, when it is done in a lustful manner (Matthew 5:28), or it becomes an addiction to us that hinders our walk with God, then it is. It is so easy to get caught up in various sexual lusts and acts. I know of many who have gotten caught up in it and it ruined their marriages, and often their lives for some time. One recurring problem I see in those who use pornography is lustful and addictive masturbation. One can easily lead to the other. Many users of pornography also have a perverted view of sex, whether inside or outside of marriage. One young lady I counseled with told me her husband felt he had to look at Playboy girls in order to be with her sexually. She felt degraded, and understandably so. Others have mistreated their wives sexually due to the perverted ideas they have gotten from pornography. Masturbation may not always be sinful, but when it stems from an evil heart, or when it causes an evil heart or other sins..................STAY AWAY!!!

Colossians 3:2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

**If you find yourself struggling with masturbation or other sexual issues, ask for help when needed. Don’t be ashamed to ask. Ministers, counselors, and other Christians – don’t be ashamed to help. It is a struggle like anything else we struggle with. But there is hope and there is help through God and His people.

2000; 2003 ©Copyright : James C. Guy – All rights reserved.
*Permission granted to reprint for church or ministry use in free material (i.e. church bulletins, classes, sermons, etc.)

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