Masturbation: It’s a Form of False Intimacy

The Bible doesn’t specifically prohibit masturbation. So is it wrong? Is it a form of false intimacy and therefore a sin? Without a biblical prohibition, many Christians, including some counselors, teachers, and writers have sanctioned the behavior assuming that the practice is not sinful. They see it as neither right nor wrong, but simply permissible when the person is single, unable to have sex with their spouse for a period of time, or needs help in dealing with sexual dysfunction in marriage. A good definition of masturbation is a behavior whereby the person stimulates themselves to orgasm without involving another person. To be clear, a wife or husband manually stimulating their spouse to orgasm is not masturbation.

In any consideration of endorsing or engaging in the behavior, we need to take into account whether one has decided to leave behind biblical authority and create a new approach to sexuality based on feelings, intentions or satisfaction of lustful desires. Second, consider whether the behavior conflicts with biblical teaching on sexuality and sexual immorality. Third, carefully consider God’s plan and design for sex. Fourth, prayerfully consider the following scriptures:

  • “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).
  • “. . . Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality . . . will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10).
  • “The body is not meant for sexual immorality (Gk. porneia), but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13b).
  • “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God . . .” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
  • “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: Sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5, 6).
  • “. . . to abstain from the passions of the flesh” because they “wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
  • If we belong to Christ, we have “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).

The exhortation of God’s Word is clear: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17).

Daniel R. Heimbach, in his book, True Sexual Morality: Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture in Crisis, encourages us to consider God’s plan for sex by outlining His design. First, it is to be “exclusive” with another person of the opposite sex, a wife or husband without images or thoughts of another person. Second he states, God designed sex to be “profound,” which masturbation is not; it is superficial and a limited experience. Third, sex is to be “fruitful,” but masturbation treats sex like a thing or something impersonal, rather than an ability to create human life in God’s image. Fourth, he says that God designed to be “selfless” or God-centered, God glorifying. Masturbation, like all forms of false intimacy, is the opposite, it is self-centered and self-satisfying. Fifth, God made sex to be “complementary,” joining husband and wife in an expression of one flesh union put together by God. It is a union with one man, with one woman for life.

Dr. Heimbach gives us further instructions: “If masturbation refers directly to the practice by which a person brings himself or herself to orgasm without anyone else involved, then one is arousing their own male or female passions. It is non relational, same-sex arousal. A man thinking about his wife does not make the reality of the experience heterosexual.” Physical adultery, and even heart adultery (Matt. 5:28) is a serious violation of God’s law and His plan. Masturbation is still outside the biblical pattern and something to be avoided in order that we live consistently with the will of God and abstain from sexual immorality (see 1 Thess. 4:3).

To summarize, Dr. Heimbach’s arguments clarify that it is a form of false intimacy and should be considered sin. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17):

  • Sex is a part of a personal relationship with another person; masturbation is non relational.
  • Sex is to be exclusive, one man, one woman relationship; masturbation typically involves sexually impure thoughts about other people.
  • Sex is to be special and intimate, an expression of real intimacy; masturbation is frequent and shallow.
  • Sex is to be fruitful (productive) in that man is designed to enter a woman and to create, both at a relational, spiritual and reproductive level; masturbation treats sex like a thing to be consumed.
  • Sex is to take place within the context of selfless love; masturbation is designed to satisfy oneself.
  • Sex is multidimensional; masturbation separates the physical from everything else.
  • Sex is to be complementary; masturbation is non-unitive.

Overall, as a form of false intimacy, masturbation is a behavior that contradicts biblical teaching on sexuality and sexual purity and I believe is a type of sexual immorality.

Copyrighted 2008 Harry W. Schaumburg. For web posting, please link to this page on our website. Any exceptions must be approved by Harry Schaumburg.


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  1. Lisa D

    What great truth. It is a hard topic that most christians do not even dare to discuss. I do know that I have read some material by christian authors that say that masturbation is a natural way to release sexual tensions for unmarried people. This is such an unhealthy view. As you said it is unrelational and a separation of the physical from everything else. It creates a bad pattern for married life.
    God did not create sex for a selfish satisfaction but an intimate union between husband and wife.
    Accepting masturbation as a form of sexual immorality is a big challenge for christians. A challenge I pray we all take seriously. A challenge that is Biblical truth.
    May we all keep asking ourselves “What does it mean to be living out God’s will?”

  2. Frustrated Wife

    I’ve been wondering about this. As a single, I sometimes felt this was sinful, but how about this, now, a situation I never thought I’d find myself in? My husband has so distanced himself from me emotionally that he refuses to have sex with me. It seems that my masturbating is a better option than having an affair, which seems more desirable all the time. When we were still sexually active, he acted like touching me and being touched by me were distasteful, and like he could hardly wait to get the act over with. I’ve never felt like we’ve “made love” in 11 years, only “had sex.” How could masturbating in this situation “take away” anything from our [non-existent] sexual relationship? He’s clearly sinning to deny me my conjugal rights, so what am I supposed to do, just pray? Is it a “healthy, normal human” need/desire to feel sexual pleasure through masturbation even if our spouses are sinning by not seeking to bring us this pleasure in relationship through sex? She says it’s not a Christian/nonChristian area, but human, and that masturbation should be enjoyed without guilt by any adult human, but especially by women who are not being adequately pleasured by their husbands or who are single.

  3. I can relate to you frustrated wife. My “Christian” husband was caught up in lust, pornography, and masturbation. Of course that caused him not to be interested in marital relations. After many years of frustration and wondering if I had a right to “pleasure myself” I came to the realization that that was sin. I had made sex an idol. Certainly sex is a desired by most healthy individuals, but I have learned that, just like resisting a piece of chocolate cake, I will not die if I do not have sex or masturbate. When my desire became to please God more than myself, I realized that two wrongs do not make a right. My husband’s sin did not give me a right to sin. Furthermore, God will give us the grace to keep ourselves in whatever situation we may find be in.

  4. Once Frustrated 2

    I agree with Once frustrated Wife. I found real truths when I signed up for ” The Lord’s Table” courses on “”. To my amazement. I overate because of being rejected by my husband for 3 years (my 2nd marriage) This never came about until I said “I Do”, then I found myself living like “Frustrated Wife”(above).
    When on the Lord’s Table the Holy Spirit led me to check out the “60 days to Purity” course on sexual issues and sexual sin.I started the study that day, I can tell you today, even if it’s my 9th Day God changed me first and my husband’s attitude towards me in just before a week.
    God is REALLY able if You throw in the towel and humble yourself. He is my full satisfaction and I know He loves me and wants the best for me as long as I PLEASE HIM and Not me than my life flows smoothly with peace of mind and joy to live again with my husband in a Freshness like never before. God is My Daily Bread and Living Waters.
    I’ll be praying for many more marriages out there, especially My Christian brothers and Sisters. Have a blessed week and I’ll be praying for you to just check out the study courses.

  5. In Love with God

    I stumbled across this so I thought I would give some input. I have been praying, getting my spitirual life straight, as well as my heart, mind, and everything else having to do with my life for over a year now. It was an eye opener when I started praying and walking with God like I knew I should have been all along.. The first thing that was layed on my heart was my sexual immorality (and porn addiction). I still struggle with it, and I find myself with one of two choices.. I can check my e-mail and resist the temptation that comes along with being on the internet, or I can forget I even have a computer and finish the day off strong. I am geting ready to go to bible college this fall (Friday is when I leave for california) and I am desperatly hoping to strengthen my love for God there that it will not be an issue when I come back home in the summer. I have also noted the difference between the days when I do slip and do what I know I shouldent, and the days when I hold strong.. My relationships are strong on the days I hold strong, and when I slip I cannot hold a conversation with a pure heart and mind to save my life untill God grants me repentance. Something that stuck out to me in one of these articles was when the writer was talking about self pitty and feeling like sexual immorality is owed to you. He is right, it is best to buck up and tell yourself to stop feeling sorry and acnowladge that there is actually people in the world that live without, and you are no different, and know it will make you that much better with God, that much more pure in his sight when you do not do what you know you shouldent do. Since I have been praying I have gone from hours a night staring at porn and masterbating to once a week if even that, please pray for me because neither God or I will be satisfied untill I learn to control myself to the point of not commiting this. Great meeting of the minds and spirits here, I love it and will be comming back


  6. furstrated single

    i have read the comments and i certainly agree with the theoretical foundations that it is sinful. However am just wondering what single people are supposed to do with their sex drive. it really is furstrating when all that sexual tension is built up in ur body and cant be released. i am a woman and it gets really hard esp during ovulation. in my case masturbation has prevented fornication. However going by the accompanying guilt, i know it is sinful. i just wonder what am i supposed to do with the sexual desires in the meantime, as i do not want to fall into sin. i have tried offering them up to God, but the drive is too high. i have tried to ascertain the cause of this….i have come to the realisation that a need for companionship and i guess a feeling of justification drive me to this. am like God will understand coz he is the one who is given me the drive and yet he isnt providing me with a spouse to meet this need. After all, i am holier than thou coz there are single people out there who resort to casual sex to let steam off. i am better coz i use it as a last resort. Right? Wrong! i realise how wrong i have been! the sexual drive is part of nature’s course and is healthy. what is unhealthy is yielding to temptation. i read somewhere in Titus that God is not the one who tempts us as he does not deceive. He knows we are human and its really wrong to think that he would put us thru such trying moments…HE LOVES US! He is not some harsh examiner providing challenging tasks and ready to punish us if we fail! Nevertheless he lets us get tempted BUT only for what we can handle. Therefore the fact that am still single despite my seemingly high sexual drive, means God believes that i can remain pure. That is why he has called us and says that we shall place our burdens on him and he shall give us rest. am really trying to place this burden on him….as his grace is sufficient for me. and i do believe he shall give me perserverance until i am married. i believe that in his mercy he shall keep me free from this sin and that he shall provide reprieve for me soon by providing the spouse who shall meet my sexual needs. to all the single people in this dilemma i know its hard and i keep falling however i find this useful…..every time u get horny esp as a gal, offer up that cross to God and ask him to use it for his purposes. Personally i pray for a happy marriage and a sexually fulfilling one every time i get tempted. i also pray for sanctity of my body parts that they may be used for God’s righteousness…and that my body may be pleasing to the husband. i guess just like Christ’s cross was used for the slvation of mankind, so can this furstration be used for a greater and a glorifying good.

  7. Harold


    While I would, in no respect, argue my own life or conduct to be perfect, I might make a few comments;

    (i) in regards to the ‘fruitful’ designs of sex; theoretically, yes, upon this premise the act of masturbation would be wrong. But so would a couple who choose to use contraception. So would, potentially, a wet dream. The absurdity here is self evident

    (ii) Second, it is more likely that the root cause of its classifcation as a sin may be due to the concept of ‘Onanism,’ where the early church considered Onan to be guilty of sin because he ‘spilt’ his seed; rather, the cause of God’s anger was instead his failure to impregnate his decased brother’s wife and s fulfil his duty etc. In this regard, there has been much confusion (James Dobson has commented similarly)

    The article’s thesis is quite right; there is no ‘intimacy’ to be gained from the act of masturbation. However, if the act is separate from lustful thoughts, etc and designed to merely act as a release, then it is not necessarily anymore prima facie wrong than a wet dream.

    I would, personally, be loathe to classify it as an act wrong in itself; otherwise, I fear it may become a source of shame and hypocrisy. Instead, this is an issue that I would simply ask to be relegated to the realm of individual conscience.

    Kind Regards,

  8. Einreb

    I hope somebody can answer on Harold’s comments.

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