Masturbation is the experience of sexual orgasm produced by self-stimulation. Virtually every man and almost as many women have tried it. It is a regular practice of most single men.

One of the major forces preventing young people from obeying the call of God into vocational Christian service is defeat in the area of lust. A teenager hears a challenging call to throw himself into the cause of world evangelization. He feels the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He tastes the thrill of following the King of kings into battle. But he does not obey because he is masturbating regularly. He feels guilty. He can hardly imagine witnessing to a pretty girl about the eternal plight of her soul, because he has so habitually looked at girls naked in his imagination. So he feels unworthy and unable to obey the call of God. Masturbation becomes the enemy of missions.

Is masturbation wrong? Let me address the issue mainly for men. I cannot imagine sexual orgasm in the loins without sexual image in the mind. I know there are nocturnal emissions, which I regard as innocent and helpful, but I doubt that they are ever orgasmic apart from a sexual dream that supplies the necessary image in the mind. Evidently God has constituted the connection between sexual orgasm and sexual thought in such a way that the force and pleasure of orgasm is dependent on the thought or images in our minds.

Therefore in order to masturbate, it is necessary to get vivid and exciting thoughts or images into the mind. This can be done by pure imagination or by pictures or movies or stories or real persons. These images always involve women as sexual objects. I use the word “object” because in order for a women to be a true sexual “subject” in our imagination she must in reality be one with whom we are experiencing what we are imagining. This is not the case with masturbation.

So I vote no on masturbation. There may be other reasons why it is wrong. For now I rest my vote on the inevitable sexual images which accompany masturbation and which turn women into sexual objects. The sexual thoughts that enable masturbation do not help any man to treat women with greater respect. Therefore masturbation produces real and legitimate guilt and stands in the way of obedience.

Three encouragements to single men:

  1. You are not alone in the battle.
  2. Periodic failure in this area no more disqualifies you from ministry than periodic failures of impatience (which is also a sin).
  3. Pursue the expulsive power of a new affection. I walked by a whole section of “photography” books at the Walker Art Center last Thursday empowered by the better pleasure of feeling Christ conquer the temptation to look.

For the sake of your power,

Pastor John

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.