We get this question pretty often but haven’t written much about it. The short answer is: nothing. The Bible doesn’t mention masturbation.
Developing a longer, more satisfying answer requires some discernment, wisdom, and judgement. The factors to consider are almost the same for married people as for single people, so we hope this post will be useful for both groups of readers who ask us about the topic.
It’s important to point out immediately that it’s not our place to give anyone permission for anything, or to condemn anyone for anything. We will attempt to lay out a Biblical perspective on masturbation, but we recognize that wise and well-meaning Christians disagree on this matter. We also recognize that the indwelling Holy Spirit is the ultimate resource for every believer, and we pray that you will rely on His guidance when making decisions for your life and marriage. Prayerfully consider 1 Corinthians 8 and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s begin with this question from an unmarried man, “SE”.
I am a single 21 man and wanted to ask about masturbation. I know this site is for married couples, but I can’t find ANYTHING from a Christian perspective that is helpful to me personally. I strive to follow Christ and want to be pure and live as God intended. And apart from getting a flat “NO, is it damnable SIN”, or “….uh, I don’t know. Ask your mother”, I feel screwed!
I have had a history with porn before, but now putting that chain off of me by the fear of God and submission to Him, I am currently in the process of resetting my frame of mind. And with that, I am resetting myself physically as well. I used to masturbate with porn when I could sneak it into the bathroom, but now it’s just me. I do well with staying away from pornographic or other disgraceful forms of sexual thoughts. Pretty much, it’s just me and the mirror.
My obvious question to you, as a married Christian man who knows how guys think: is this permissible in the sight of God? And is the guilt that I am feeling coming from my history or is it from the actuality of present sin? Is it a sexual addiction regardless of how scarce it may be done? (I was able to hold it up to 13 days, but ended up inflating my testicles and hurting myself. And felt all the more ashamed.) Is this desire, now breaking the old bad habit, still yet a reflection of it, or is this now natural from God’s word?
To be honest, of course I enjoy doing it. But because God’s word is so seemingly silent on masturbation, I am unsure of where to go from here.
From one man to another, was hoping you could shed some light on this. Whether it’s calming my fears, or if it’s a hard slap in the face! Can I truly glorify my Master in Heaven in this manner? And if not, can you please help me out of it or refer me to a good Godly counselor?
(And, no, I am not asking my pastor about this if that is what you will answer).
Out of all the emails we’ve received on this topic, we decided to quote this email from SE because we think he very eloquently describes the physical, emotional, and spiritual conflict that many godly men and women confront with masturbation. (And yes, women masturbate almost as much as men.)
In this post we will identify three questions for your consideration. If you’re married, then these questions affect your spouse and your marriage, so you need to discuss them together.
First, as already noted, SE is correct in saying that the Bible gives no specific commands about masturbation (including the story of Onan in Genesis 38, which is too long to discuss in detail now). Is the Bible silent on masturbation because people didn’t masturbate in the past? No. People from the past were as horny as we are now. Is the Bible silent on masturbation because the topic is too disturbing or unmentionable? No. The bible is full of murder, adultery, blasphemy, and every other kind of sin imaginable. In fact, the Bible discusses God’s expectations for sex very clearly in many places: sex is only acceptable for married couplies within the bounds of marriage.
So the first question to consider is, given this lack of specific direction and based on what God reveals about himself in the Bible, how can I best glorify God through my decision about masturbation?
Second, it’s wrong to covet another person. In Matthew 5:28 Jesus says:
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
The word translated “lustful intent” is epithymeō, which is a covetous longing, a desire to take something for yourself that isn’t yours. The word is frequently used in the New Testament in a non-sexual context, and it’s important to note here that the emphasis isn’t on seeing or being attracted to beauty or sexuality, it’s on the covetous intent. Jesus is saying that if a man looks on a woman with the intent to possess her, that’s a serious matter of sin even if the two people do not have sex together.
So the second question to consider is, can I masturbate without covetous intent?
Third, we have the freedom and responsibility to honor the institution of marriage and our sex life with our spouse. In Hebrews 13:4 we read:
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
In “Can we *BLANK*?” we wrote that the answer to that question within marriage is almost always yes — you can blank all you want. We also wrote about mutual masturbation in some detail already, so for this post let’s focus on the question of solo masturbation. Whatever you decide for solo masturbation, it must be bring honor to the institution of marriage and must not defile your sex life with your spouse. These expectations are applicable to married and unmarried people alike: the Bible isn’t only concerned for your own marriage, but also for the honor of the institution of marriage.
So the third question to consider is, can I masturbate without dishonoring the institution of marriage or defiling my marriage bed?
We believe that only you can answer these questions for yourself, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, sensitivity to your conscience, and honest dialogue with your spouse.
- How can I best glorify God through my decision about masturbation?
- Can I masturbate without covetous intent?
- Can I masturbate without dishonoring the institution of marriage or defiling my marriage bed?
What do you think? Have you talked with your spouse about masturbation? What have you decided for your marriage?