Does the Bible talk about masturbation? Is there clear scripture that tells us if masturbation is right or wrong? While Christians debate the topic of masturbation, there is no scripture that directly mentions the act. Yet some Christians do refer to specific scripture that describes healthy and unhealthy sexual behavior in order to determine whether or not masturbation is a sin.
Masturbation and Lust
One of the major sexual issues discussed throughout scripture is lust. Jesus condemned lust in the heart as adultery in Matthew. While most advertising, television shows, movies, magazines, and more promote lust, the New Testament describes it as a sin. Many Christians see masturbation as a form of lust, if your lust is causing you to masturbate.
Matthew 5:28 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who has looked a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NIV)
Masturbation and Sex
Sex is not bad. God created sex to be something beautiful, right, and pure. It is supposed to be pleasurable. Yet most Christians believe that sex is to be enjoyed in marriage between a man and a woman. Many Christians believe that sex between a married couple is the only acceptable sexual act, and masturbation takes away from it.
Genesis 2:24 – “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (NIV)
Proverbs 5:18-19 – “Rejoice in the wife of your youth! A loving doe, a graceful deer – may her breasts satisfy you at all times, may you ever be captivated by her love.” (NIV)
1 Corinthians 7:3-5 - "The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." (NIV)
Masturbation and Self-Centeredness
Another argument against masturbation is that it is a self-centered activity rather than a God-centered activity. For some Christians, there is a belief that an orgasm actually brings a person closer to God. However, a majority of Christians believe that “pleasuring oneself” is about the self rather than God. Most Christians see their faith as having a God-focus, and that every act should be a way of edifying God. Thus, if masturbation is not helping to develop a relationship with God, it is a sin.
Psalm 119:35-37 – “Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statues and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” (NIV)
Onan’s name is often used synonymously with masturbation. In the scripture, Onan was supposed to dutifully sleep with his late brother’s wife to produce an offspring for his brother. However, Onan decided that he did not want to produce an offspring that would not be his, so he ejaculated on the ground.
There is great debate surrounding this scripture as an argument against masturbation, because Onan did not actually masturbate. He did actually have sex with his brother’s wife. The act he committed is actually called “coitus interruptus.” Yet, Christians who use this scripture refer to the self-pollution of Onan as an argument against the act of masturbation.
Genesis 38:8-10 – “Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Lie with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother’s wife he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so he put him to death also.” (NIV)
Be Your Own Master
Remember, you need to master your behavior, or else sin will master it for you. Even a good thing can become sinful without the right heart. Even if you don’t believe that masturbation is a sin, if it is controlling you then it is a sin.
1 Corinthians 6:12 – “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything.” (NIV)
Even though these scriptures are used as an argument against masturbation, they do not necessarily make masturbation as a sin very clear. Yet, it is important that a person look at the reasons for masturbation to see if the desire behind the act is actually a sin. Some Christians believe that, because masturbation does not hurt others, it is not a sin. However, other Christians ask a person to look deeper within to see if masturbation is building a relationship with God or taking away from it.