Masturbation is defined by the Offline English Dictionary as the manual stimulation of one’s genital organs for sexual pleasure. The stimulation could be with one’s hands or with the use of sex toys such as vibrators, dildos, etc. Masturbation is a widespread practice among young people of both sexes, and is aimed at relieving sexual tension on one’s own, without the need of a sex partner. Masturbation or sex with self is generally frowned upon by most societies and carries a lot of stigma with it. How does the Bible view masturbation? In this study, we shall attempt to examine the act of masturbation in the light of Scripture.
God designed marriage between a man and a woman for the purpose of companionship, sexual gratification and procreation. Scripturally, it is only in the context of heterosexual marriage that sexual pleasure and fulfilment are considered lawful and blessed of God. Every other sexual relation attracts God’s judgement.
Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
It was therefore for the purpose of legitimate intimate companionship and sexual gratification that God had to look for a befitting partner for Adam. No animal was considered fit for Adam in that regard. No inanimate object was found fit to satisfy Adam’s need for companionship and sexual satisfaction. Another man like Adam wasn’t considered good enough for Adam in fulfilling the duties of a wife. God had to create a woman for him, the only person fit for him as a spouse and as a sexual partner.
Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.
Genesis 2:21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
Genesis 2:22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
Genesis 2:23 Then the man said, This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Genesis 2:25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
The two (man and woman) becoming one flesh in marriage speaks of sexual union and the bringing forth of children through that union. This is as revealed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!
1 Corinthians 6:16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, The two will become one flesh.
Some people argue that it is better for an unmarried person to indulge in masturbation, when sexually aroused, than to commit fornication with someone else. However, Scripture does not provide this outlet of sexual gratification for unmarried people. The Bible teaches unmarried people to abstain from sexual intercourse and to keep their sexual urges under control until they are married. Self-control and ultimately marriage, not masturbation, is the scriptural answer for sexual desire arising among unmarried people. Having sexual desires they find difficult to control is an indication that unmarried need to marry and settle down urgently, in order to have a legitimate outlet for release of sexual tension.
1 Corinthians 7:8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.
1 Corinthians 7:9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.
The Scriptural choice in the issue of marriage is to either remain single and celibate if one can control one’s sexual desires and chooses celibacy, or to marry as soon as possible, if one can no longer control one’s sexual desires. Self-stimulation and self-sex is not an option to control sexual desires for an unmarried Christian. One should rather pray for self-control and the grace to keep one’s sexual urges in check.
A point to consider in the origin of sexual sins (and indeed all sins) is that sex sins originate from the mind and heart. One can commit a sex sin just by thinking about it and imagining it, and allowing one’s lust to grow and blossom into sin.
James 1:14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
James 1:15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
Matthew 15:20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.
Jesus said that by looking at a woman and fantasising sexually about her in one’s heart, one has already committed sexual immorality in his heart. Thus, sexual immorality can be committed just by thinking and imagining an unlawful sexual act in one’s mind. Most acts of masturbation involve sexual fantasies with people one is not married to. This amounts to committing sexual immorality with those persons in one’s heart.
Matthew 5:27 You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.
Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
And Jesus went on to say that we should cut off from us whatever would lead us to commit such sinful acts that are capable of leading us into hell. This means that, if touching your genitals will lead you to get sexually aroused and to fantasise sexually and thus commit sexual immorality, then get your hands off your genitals! And cut yourself off from those things you read and watch and discuss that get you all sexually worked up! Get away from them before they get you into hell!
Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
Matthew 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
To indulge in masturbation often involves fantasising about sex with someone else. The mere fact that an unmarried person begins to fantasise about sex with someone is already a sin, according to Jesus’ teaching above. Even for a married person, to fantasise about sex with someone else who is not your spouse is a sin. Thus, technically speaking, only a married person who fantasises sexually about his or her spouse has not sinned. However, touching oneself to achieve sexual gratification, even for a married person, while fantasising about their spouse, does not legitimise masturbation, as sexual gratification is to be given only by one’s spouse and not by one’s self! To attempt to satisfy one’s self sexually in the absence of one’s spouse shows lack of self-control.
1 Corinthians 7:2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
1 Corinthians 7:3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.
1 Corinthians 7:4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Scripture forbids same-sex intimate relationships. Masturbation is having sex with oneself, which is a form of same-sex intercourse! Masturbation is the same as a woman having sex with herself (a woman) or a man having sex with himself (a man)!
Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
Romans 1:25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Romans 1:26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;
Romans 1:27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,
1 Corinthians 6:10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
The Scripture also forbids having sex with non-human beings, and therefore condemns sex with animals, among other things.
Exodus 22:19 Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death.
If having sex with non-human beings is forbidden, because sex is only lawful if it’s between a man and a woman in a marriage, having sex with inanimate objects like dildos, vibrators, sex dolls, etc, as used in masturbation and self-stimulation, can only be sinful! They are aberrations and deviations from the norm. They are unnatural and a perversion! The purpose of sex is to achieve union and intimacy between spouses. Having sex with inanimate sex toys as used by some in masturbation is to become one with those objects!
Intense sexual urges usually arise when people subject themselves to hearing, seeing or discussing lewd things that spark erotic passions. The Scripture admonishes us to flee from sexual immorality. Thus, we are to flee from everything that stirs up unwholesome sexual desires in us, as these desires, if not controlled, can lead to sexual fantasies and sexual sins. This is usually the starting point for masturbation.
1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
The feeling of guilt and shame that accompanies masturbation shows that something is not right with the act. Conscience is part of the moral compass God gave man to discern between good and evil. Although conscience is not the best moral compass as it can be dead in some people, those whose conscience have been quickened, enlightened and sensitised by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (through the new birth experience) can be expected to have a conscience that’s a reasonable moral guide.
Romans 2:14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
Romans 2:15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
Romans 2:16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
Whatever will bring guilt, shame and regret to a child of God that’s filled with the Holy Spirit is worth keeping away from, for the Holy Spirit in believers is grieved by sin. The shame and guilt believers feel after a sinful act is as a result of the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We should not grieve the Spirit just as we should not resist him.
John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
John 16:8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
The Acts 7:51 You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
The guilt, sorrow and grief that come with convinction of sin by the Holy Spirit is to induce repentance in a believer and bring about conversion from sinful habits. It’s God’s way of whipping us back to the path of righteousness.
2 Corinthians 7:8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while.
2 Corinthians 7:9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
Furthermore, whatsoever is not of faith is sin. If you’re still in doubt about the rightness of a practice, don’t indulge in it. You should only do what you’re fully convinced and persuaded by the Spirit, the Word of God and your conscience to be right. Anything done with doubt in the heart of a believer is sinful.
Romans 14:23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
1 Corinthians 8:7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
Finally, to avoid the temptation of masturbation, avoid dwelling on lewd things that spark sexual desires that will need to be relieved. One should fill one’s minds and heart with positive, honourable and edifying thoughts. If you stir up and feed your lust, your lust will grow and blossom into sin. If you feed faith and righteousness, through meditation on the word of God, your faith will grow in purity.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Philippians 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
In conclusion, masturbation or sex with self, is sexual gratification that bypasses God’s legitimate means of sexual satisfaction, which is heterosexual marriage. God’s answer to uncontrollable sexual passions is marriage, not masturbation. To desire to remain unmarried is okay if one so chooses. But, the choice to remain unmarried precludes sexual gratification through self-stimulation. Sex is intended to be between a man and a woman in the context of marriage. Any attempt at sexual gratification outside of this God-ordained means is ungodly and sinful, and includes pre-marital and extra-marital sex, sex with blood relatives (incest), sex with animals (bestiality), sex with people of the same sex (homosexuality), sex with inanimate objects and sex with self (masturbation). Infact, masturbation can be classified as a variant of homosexuality because it involves a man having sex with himself or a woman having sex with herself!
To abstain from the sin of masturbation, people need God’s grace and the self-control which only the Holy Spirit can bestow.
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
We therefore need to ask God for the grace to control our sexual urges, to flee from lewd circumstances that stir up sexual passions in us, and to continually fill out minds and thoughts with holy and pure things. Let’s learn from the psalmist as he discovered the secret of not sinning:
Psalms 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
God bless you!