This post may disappoint you. Because I think in a topic like masturbation, we are often looking for one of two things: assurance that it’s okay (that essentially we’re okay and normal) or clear Biblical passages on why it’s not okay.
What you’ll find instead is my perspective, which is one of many other perspectives on the topic of masturbation. Whether foreign or far too familiar, I know this topic can feel uneasy to read about, to talk about, to write about, even. But I think it’s important, and I want to create a space for it here.
Is Masturbation a Sin?
If you’ve wondered this or asked this, you’re not alone. Because the topic of masturbation is not directly addressed in Scripture, it feels ambiguous. It's also highly personal and mostly still a taboo topic, making it difficult to find answers. And when we are met with ambiguity, our natural tendency is to want a clear-cut answer.
But I think the question of “Is Masturbation a Sin?” really misses the point. I know it's easier to focus on tangibles as our marker for sanctification. However, our connection with God is the true marker for the condition of our souls. Instead of, “What’s okay and not okay? How far is too far? Should we kiss or not kiss? Is it okay to masturbate?” our questions can instead become: “What brings about holiness in my life? What draws me deeper into intimacy with God? What leads to walking in increasing freedom?”
Overall, I do think masturbation in itself misses the purpose of sexuality completely, even within marriage. As I’ve shared in previous posts, I believe that at the heart of sexuality is an innate need for connection with God and others, continually drawing us into communion with him. The more that we see our sexual desires as a deep drive for more of Jesus, the more we partake in healthy sexuality even within singleness.
At a young age, masturbation often occurs unintentionally at first, due to curiosity and exploration of various body parts for children. When we get older, at its best, it just deals with a ‘release’ of hormones. Even then, I would argue that there are alternative, more beneficial solutions to sexual tension, including exercise, friendship, mindfulness, and more.
If sexuality is meant to foster intimacy, masturbation in singleness offers the opposite. It often results from a place of isolation and leads to further isolation. I personally believe that at the root of the desire to masturbate – just like the root of all sexual desires – is our drive for connection. Although masturbation may offer a quick fix for pleasure and satisfaction, it actually drives us further into the state we are trying to avoid: loneliness, shame, unmet longing, and seclusion. That longing for connection and intimacy is found in a deep knowing of God and others.
Here are other things to consider as you work through your personal beliefs on masturbation:
1 Corinthians 6:12 (ESV) says, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” I find myself really reflecting on this passage the more I understand the gracious freedom God has given us to make choices. Another translation reads – “Even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything” (NLT). I think we are free humans, and we have the choice to either breed more freedom in our lives or become enslaved. The questions to ponder are - what does it look like for me to live a life of freedom? We’ve already been granted freedom – but how do we most live free? Have you become enslaved to masturbation? Has it become, or on the path to becoming, an addiction – a necessary source of sustenance?
Another aspect of masturbation to consider is our mindset. Romans 8:5 says, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Where does masturbation fall as I consider renewing my mind in the Spirit of God? Where is its place in dwelling on what is good and pure and admirable? Some believe that masturbation is justifiable without coupled with fantasy, lustful thoughts, or pornography. Some question that it’s even possible to masturbate with no coupling of lustful thoughts. I urge you to evaluate your mindset in the process, and really ask the Lord what contributes to the renewal of your mind.
Finally, masturbation often acts as an entry point into a struggle with further sexual addiction. I am reminded of 1 Peter 5:8 in this, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I fail to fully grasp the scope of this concern when I discredit the overarching war we are inevitably fighting as Christians. We are not fighting against flesh and blood. We are fighting against a devil with no concern for our well-being or holiness. I think what we do in private, the little decisions we make in our day-to-day, have the capacity to create in us a self-controlled, steady, alert stance or not. James 1:14-15 says, "But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." Is a regular habit of masturbation leading to further sin in your life? Is it creating in you a shaky nature, not able to withstand temptation? My hope is that our daily decisions reflect a grander purpose in fighting for the kingdom of God to advance in our lives and in the world.
It’s okay to disagree with me on this. There are many factors involved in this topic: mutual masturbation within marriage, medical issues, and sexual release in order to prevent further temptation, to name a few. There are plenty of arguments for and against the purpose of masturbation in healthy sexuality. Ultimately, I would hope that our overarching goal in this topic is an increased intimacy and connection with our God, continually renewing our minds before him as the author and perfecter of our faith.