View Cart

Christians and Masturbation

Truth in Love 102

Sex is a unitive act given by God to bless creation in the context of marriage.

May 22, 2017

We are talking this week on the podcast about a problem that so many Christians deal with but far too few Christians are willing to discuss. The topic of masturbation is one that can create a lot of anxiety on the part of Christians, even to talk about it. But the reality is, the Bible weighs in on this topic, people are struggling with this topic, and so we’re going to talk about it on the podcast this week. I want to talk about this issue in three different categories and in the first category, I’m just going to cut right to the chase and say that Christians should not masturbate. I realized that this is controversial in some circles; there are some people who believe that masturbation is an acceptable practice, and there are some people who believe that it’s actually a blessing for teenagers, for example, who aren’t yet allowed to have sexual options when you’re unmarried. There are other people who think that we should try to make allowances for this practice in some way but I’m just going to say that Christians should not masturbate, and I want to tell you 5 reasons why. 

First of all, there is the biblical command to purity in Matthew 5:27-28. Jesus Christ, says, you have heard that it was said, you shall not commit adultery, but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Jesus is saying, sexual purity is not just about the physical acts, but it’s about what happens in your heart. You are not allowed to have sexual desire for a woman who is not your wife. That is to say, that purity isn’t merely behavioral, purity is also attitudinal; It begins in your soul.

The reality is, that it is impossible to engage in the activity of masturbation without having lust in your heart. I’ve been doing ministry for a long time and talked with a lot of people who have dealt with this issue and in those years, I have only ever talked to one person who seriously argued that you can masturbate without lust; everybody knows one of the realities that Is necessary for masturbation to be effective is lust. Because Jesus commands against lust in favor of sexual purity, masturbation is not allowed. 

A second reason Christians should not masturbate is because of the biblical command to flee sexual immorality. In 1 Corinthians 6:18, the Apostle Paul uses that exact language, you should flee sexual immorality. Every other sin is outside your body, but when you’re sexually immoral, you sin against your own body. Now, Paul’s command is, that when you look at sexual sin, you should run in the opposite direction. Masturbation does not have Christians running in the opposite direction of sexual immorality, it actually has them getting closer and closer and closer to more acts of sexual immorality. So, because the Bible tells us we need to run away, we may not run towards it with things like masturbation. 

A third reason Christians should not masturbate is because of the biblical idea that sex is a unitive act. Now, let me explain what that means. In the Bible, sex is portrayed as existing between one man, and one woman in marriage, in order to unite them more fully in their union. In 1 Corinthians 7:5, the Apostle Paul says, stop depriving one another, he’s talking about their sexual relationship, except by agreement for a time so that you made devote yourselves to prayer and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Now, this is interesting. The Bible will use a number of euphemisms about sex. That is, the Bible will take a number of phrases and use them for stand-ins for the word sex. Sometimes the Bible will say, for example, Adam knew his wife Eve. These euphemisms never represent a prudishness on the part of the biblical authors but instead, they’re giving us theological truths behind the act of sex. The euphemism that the Apostle Paul uses in 1 Corinthian 7:5 is coming together again; he’s talking about couples that have taken a break by mutual agreement from sexual relations for the purpose of prayer. At the end of that season, he says, now you can come together again. He’s talking about sex as a unitive act, it’s something that brings men and women together in closeness. This is why even married couples should not masturbate, even if the image in their mind as they do it is their spouse because sex is a unitive act. That means that anything we would do sexually that underlines or creates or embraces any kind of distance is something that is disallowed; sex is something that brings people together while masturbation allows every individual to be independent in the sex act and that’s at odds with the biblical worldview. 

Fourth is the biblical command to self-control. One of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:23 is self-control. You’ll hear some Christian leaders, I’m sorry to say, give counsel to businessmen or to soldiers, “hey, if you’re away from your wife for a little while, you can engage in the practice of masturbation”. I’ve even heard Christian ministers give shocking tips to men about how they could engage in masturbation in the way while they’re away from their wife. The problem with that kind of counsel is many things, not the least of which is self-control. The Bible calls us to an attitude that is possible by the grace of Jesus Christ he has given us that is full of self-control. We don’t have to gratify every single desire that we have instead, we should control ourselves. We should say no to some things and so the biblical command to self-control will mean that Christians should not masturbate.

Finally, the last reason is the biblical reality of consequences. The Bible teaches that when we allow sexual immorality into our life, there are consequences. That follow and speaking of this and Proverbs Chapter 6:25-28. The Bible says don’t desire her beauty in your heart, nor let her capture you with her eyelids. He’s talking about the forbidden woman for on account of a harlot. One is reduced to a loaf of bread and an adulteress hunts for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned or can a man walk on hot coals in his feet not be scorched? The answer to those rhetorical questions is no; the author here is making clear that when you start down the road of sexual sin, you get consequences. You can’t play with fire and not get burned. You can’t play with sexual sin and not get consequences. Jesus speaks, even more starkly in Matthew  5, which we quoted a moment ago, but in verse 29, he says, “if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you, for it’s better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than that, your whole body be thrown into hell”. Jesus is saying very clearly that your lust will lead you to hell; that is the ultimate consequence. 

Christians should flee sexual immorality because the consequence, ultimately, of embracing sexual sin is nothing less than eternal judgment and so this is a very serious issue for Christians. I don’t think there’s any middle ground on it. I think Christians need to be devoted to fighting sexual sin and uprooting sexual sin in their heart and avoiding the practice of masturbation. 

Now, this gets to the second category, and that is that Christians do masturbate. First category, Christians should not masturbate, second category, Christians do masturbate. Many of you are listening to this and masturbation is part of your present struggle, others of you are listening to this and you know Christians who have this as part of their struggle. The question is the third category. How do we respond when this is a problem? What do we say to help? Let me say two things here. First of all, Christians should not masturbate. It is a sin. When you do in, this is why we need to be reminded again and again, and again, of the gospel of Jesus Christ that it is the work of Jesus Christ, to earn the obedience that we cannot earn, to pay the penalty we could not pay, and to rise from the grave and ascend to heaven, to give us his very own resurrection life. So, for every Christian who struggles with this sin, there is forgiveness for the sin, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We need always to remember that. The Bible says that where sin increases, grace abounds all the more, so there’s always grace to cover our sin when we turn to Jesus Christ.

A second response that I would make though has to do with those of you who are struggling with this, and when I say struggling, I mean, struggling. I want to underline the strugglers. There’s a time and a place to talk to high-handed sinners who were just going down a sinful path, that’s going to get them in real trouble. What I want to do right now is talk to those of you who are struggling. I want to talk to those of you who are teenagers, young adults, and you feel the ache of sexual desire in your life. I want to talk to those of you who are maybe middle-aged and for whatever reason, you are single and you feel the ache of sexual desire in your life. I want to talk to those of you who are Christian businessmen or Christian Soldiers, and you are, perhaps, overseas and you’ve been away from your spouse for a very long time and you would say, you are aware of an almost constant burning sexually.

For those of you in that struggling category, there is a temptation to believe that masturbation is going to give you some relief from that, to take some rest from that burn. What I want to say to you is that is not true. If that’s what you’re thinking, if you’re struggling and you’re thinking that the relief and the rest comes in masturbation, I just want to ask you right now to turn from that because that is not true. You can never get God’s grace by doing something different than what God says. In fact, the way you get God’s grace, the way you get God’s blessing, is by the power of Jesus Christ, being faithful to obey. This is what the Bible says in James 1:25. It says the one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of Liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer, but ineffectual doer, this man will be blessed in the doing. It’s when you go to obey God trusting in His son resting on the power of the Spirit, when you go to obey God in the grace that he gives you, you are blessed in the doing of obedience, that is to say, God’s grace shows up in your life when you conform your life to the text of Scripture.

Oh my goodness. This is such good news because what it means is something really profound. It means that when you feel the ache of sexual desire and you masturbate to relieve yourself from that ache, that brief rest that you feel and it is brief, that brief rest that you become aware of is not what the experience of Grace is like. The experience of Grace is like, instead, Jesus showing up and giving you power to be faithful even when your body burns, even when you have a desire for something good that God hasn’t given you the availability to experience right now. God’s grace, God’s blessing on your life is when you’re faithful, in the midst of the ache that for whatever reason you can’t fulfill right now. That’s not fun. In fact, it can be very, very unpleasant. But that’s where the grace of God is found not in disobedience, but in obedience. 

If you are struggling to know that blessing right now, then I want to ask you to reach out for help right now. First of all, reach out to Jesus Christ. He’s there. He listens. He has power to help you, he has real mercy, from his very own throne to help you whenever you asked. If you draw near to him in faith, he will help you. Then, reach out to somebody else. Right now, you could pick up your phone and send a text message or make a phone call and just say, “hey, I’m struggling. I’m tempted to respond to temptation with sin. Would you help me? Would you walk with me? Would you get into my life and ask me hard questions and be available when I’m struggling so that I could respond to temptation with righteousness? I know I can’t do it on my own and so I’m asking for your help”. You could reach out to a wise, trusted Christian brother or sister, right now if you’re struggling and I’m actually going to be praying for you that you’ll do that very thing.

I want to point you to the book I wrote called Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the power of God’s grace. It’s a book specifically about dealing with the problem of pornography, which is often connected to the problem of masturbation. But even if you are using masturbation in a way that’s disconnected from pornography, this book will help.