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.