Dr David Christian Marriage Advice

Is Masturbating a Sin? What Does the Bible Say?

Is Masturbating a Sin? What Does the Bible Say?

Many of you have asked, "Is masturbation a sin according to the Bible?" First, let's look at what defines masturbation and what Scripture has to say about the heart of the issue. 

Masturbation is the experience of sexual orgasm produced by self-stimulation for sexual arousal and pleasure.

Is Masturbation a Sin?

From a traditional Christian perspective, the question of whether masturbation is a sin is often answered by referring to broader biblical principles about purity, lust, and self-control, as the Bible does not directly mention masturbation.

One essential Bible verse often cited is 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, which states, "It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God." This passage underscores the importance of controlling one's body and refraining from lustful passions, which are often involved in the act of masturbation.

Historically, prominent Christian leaders have also spoken on this topic. For instance, C.S. Lewis, in his book "Mere Christianity," discusses the virtues of chastity, suggesting that any sexual experience divorced from love and marital commitment falls short of Christian standards. Additionally, Saint Augustine, in his writings, viewed the uncontrolled desire, which could include the act of masturbation, as a manifestation of human sinfulness and a departure from the divine commandments.

These references and teachings underpin the traditional view in many Christian denominations that masturbation, by its association with lust and the lack of self-control, can be considered sinful. This stance encourages believers to seek fulfillment and sexual expression within the boundaries of marriage and to cultivate purity in thoughts and actions.

What does the Bible say about Masturbation?

The Bible does not explicitly mention masturbation, and therefore, perspectives on it can vary significantly among Christians based on how they interpret Scripture and its teachings on sexual morality.

One of the key themes in the Bible related to sexual behavior is the idea of sexual acts being reserved for marriage between a husband and wife. Passages like Hebrews 13:4, which states, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral," are often cited to support the sanctity of sexual relations within marriage.

Moreover, the Bible addresses the issue of lust and impure thoughts. For instance, Jesus says in Matthew 5:28, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." This passage is frequently referenced in discussions about masturbation because the act is typically associated with lustful thoughts, which are considered sinful.

Another relevant scripture comes from 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, where Paul exhorts, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." This passage underlines the concept of the body as a sacred vessel deserving of purity and respect.

Ultimately, while the Bible does not directly address masturbation, many Christian teachings derive their stance from broader biblical principles regarding sexual purity, lust, and self-control.

Why is Masturbation a Sin?

To all of you young men with raging hormones ... my heart goes out to you. I know where you're at ... I've been there too. Remaining pure is very difficult; our society, from every direction, inundates our senses with sexually oriented images. Nevertheless, God has not forsaken us ... in fact, since He designed and made us, He is intimately familiar with what we are going through. There is even a verse to remind us of this: "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted" (Hebrews 2:17-18 NKJV).

You may find this hard to believe, and maybe even difficult to accept, but according to this passage, Jesus (by becoming fully human) experienced for Himself the very temptations that you are currently experiencing ... including the surge of your hormones within! The reason why He did this was for our sake. Through this selfless act, He became relatable... He knows exactly what you're going through. Later in Hebrews, we find that "we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15-16 NKJV). Jesus faced down every temptation ... He never sinned!

Now, let me ask you a question ... although there's no way of proving this, in your heart of hearts, do you think that Jesus masturbated? Deep down, we all know that there's no way! Why is that? From Jesus' own lips, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner" (John 5:19 NKJV). According to this passage, Jesus did what He saw His Father do. Therefore, in order for Jesus to have masturbated, He must have first witnessed His Father masturbate! So, did Jesus see God the Father masturbate? Do you see how this whole subject is blasphemous? God the Father does not masturbate, and Jesus never did either!

Jesus also said, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38 NKJV). If we could give Jesus a purpose statement, it might read like this ... "The purpose of My life is to glorify My Father in the heavens." As followers of Jesus, should our purpose statement be any different? Paul confirms that by saying, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV) This leaves us to answer the question ... in what way does masturbation bring God glory? If we can be honest with ourselves, it doesn't. Masturbation is meant to please self; it is not meant to draw attention to God's magnificent glory.

Therefore, because we can be sure that God (Father and Son) do not masturbate and masturbation does not glorify God (although not specifically named as such), to answer your question, masturbation is a sin.

 But knowing that we should not masturbate doesn't really help us when we feel the urge. Perhaps a good question to ask at this point is: "What should I do when I am overwhelmed by feelings and urgings to please myself?"

Bible Solutions to Masturbation

James gives us a lot of insight into how to handle temptation ... after raising several sins that his audience was committing (James 3:13-4:4), he then proceeds to the solution to their sin. 

"5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? 6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." (James 4:5-10, NKJV)

Let me sum this passage up with some action steps:

1. Be humble. 

The key to overcoming this (or any) sin is ... our humility. Notice how James begins by pointing out that the Holy Spirit, who indwells all believers, is yearning within us jealously. He is yearning for us to stop our sinning ways. Our only hope of overcoming this sin is to depend upon God. This being the case, we are told that God resists the proud, that is, He doesn't help those who do not recognize their need for Him. Rather, it says, He gives grace to the humble. (Grace is God's undeserved goodness in our life.) Our humility is crucial to overcoming sin. The reason for this is that when we are humble, we admit that we have a sin problem. In this case, we're in love with pleasing ourselves! (It feels good!) Although pleasing ourselves is not necessarily a sin, as we have already seen, with masturbation it is. So the first step is humility.

2. Submit to God. 

Your only hope in overcoming your urges and desires is to have God's help. Surrender your thoughts and desires to the Lord and place them under His authority.

3. Resist the devil. 

If we keep doing the same things in the same way under the same conditions, is it any wonder that we get the same results? If you masturbate by looking at or reading pornography ... get rid of every piece of pornographic material that you have. If you go to pornographic sites on the Internet ... do whatever it takes to block your access to those sites. If that doesn't work, get rid of the Internet altogether! There is nothing on the Internet that is near as important as your remaining pure! If it happens at a certain time of day or under certain conditions that repeat themselves, do something to change your life so that you are not available at that time or under those conditions. Regardless, make drastic changes ... do whatever it takes ... don't mess around ... flee!

4. Draw near to God. (He will draw near to you.) 

As you run away from Satan, run to the Lord. This means make pursuing God your No. 1 purpose. If you continually focus on not masturbating, your eyes are in the wrong place. Your vision should not be on what you are not supposed to do, but on what you are to do. The way that we do this is through making God's goals our goals. Draw close to Him ... chase after Him. Make your desires His desires. When you do this, He gives you a promise: He will draw near to you, which is exactly what you need to overcome this temptation. If you try to overcome it yourself, without His power, you will surely fail!

5. Stop goofing off; stop being foolish; take it seriously. 

One of the biggest deceits that you will hear about this subject is that masturbation is actually healthy for you since it makes you feel good and it doesn't hurt anybody. If you buy into that notion, it won't be long until you'll be hooked to this addiction of pleasing yourself. If you don't take this matter seriously, you will be its slave for a long, long time.

I hope that this has been a help to you. For those of you who are struggling with this problem, I want to encourage you to fight the good fight, have faith in God, and trust in Him. And if you fail, remember this: God still loves you! He will pick you up whenever you fall if you call out to Him. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NKJV). Praise Him for that! God's blessings to you.

Download these Prayers for Protection to pray for God's guidance and protection against temptation.

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Please give me feedback on this issue, or ask for more information about Marriage Intensives and my clinical practice at The Marriage Recovery Center. Please send responses to me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. 

Dr. David Hawkins, MBA, MSW, MA, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who has helped bring healing to thousands of marriages and individuals since he began his work in 1976. Dr. Hawkins is passionate about working with couples in crisis and offering them ways of healing their wounds and finding their way back to being passionately in love with each other.

Over the past ten years, Dr. Hawkins has become a leader in the field of treatment for narcissism and emotional abuse within relationships. He has developed several programs for treatment of men dealing with these issues and the women who love them. Dr. Hawkins is also a speaker & trainer for the American Association of Christian Counselors and writes for Crosswalk.com, CBN.org, and iBelieve.com. He is a weekly guest on Moody Radio and Faith Radio and is a best-selling author of over thirty books.