Contrary to popular belief, the Bible does not clearly state that masturbation is a sin or evil in the eyes of God. So, what does the Bible say about masturbation?
In this article, we’ll discuss the Bible’s teachings of self-stimulation, arousal, pleasure, and adultery and how the Bible tells us to handle and address these physical acts and feelings.
Is It a Sin to Masturbate?
A person who practices masturbation without imagining sex with someone is rare indeed, if he or she exists at all. On that basis, the practice is tantamount to engaging in adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior, or any number of other sexual practices that the mind can imagine – even idolatry.
– Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 3:5, and Ezekiel 23:49
Although the Bible does not directly come out and denounce masturbation, there are many verses that tell us how God feels about it and whether or not we should engage in it as Christians. What the Bible does tell us is that sexual impurity and fantasizing about another person is considered impure, and we should shy away from it at all costs.
According to the Bible, sex is an act meant to show love and compassion toward a partner, as well as to procreate. The Bible clearly states that other sexual acts such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, and a variety of other sexual practices are against God.
We can then assume that masturbation falls into this category because the act of masturbation is considered a sexual act towards oneself when sex was intended between a man and a woman.
It’s also important to take a look at things that tend to go along with masturbation. While one person is masturbating, they might be looking at pornography and other adulterous fantasies.
These are sins and can ultimately lead to the breakdown of a relationship. If the man or woman is currently married, they are committing adultery against their partner by looking at another individual in a sexual way.
It is even said if the man or woman is simply imagining another person in their head while masturbating, it is also a sin against their marriage.
This then creates a bit of a gray area because, with this thinking, we would assume it would be okay to masturbate as long as the person was looking at or thinking about their partner.
If that’s the case, then the Bible has nothing bad to say about it. The main reason masturbation is frowned upon in the Christian community is because there are often a lot of negative activities and thoughts that come along with it.
Is There Anything in the Bible About Masturbation?
What does the Bible specifically say about masturbation? We understand at this point it doesn’t directly address the act of masturbation but instead covers topics pertaining to impure thoughts, adultery, and fornication. Here are some Bible verses that can provide context:
Let’s begin with an important biblical principle taught by our Lord – that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
As we all know, adultery is a mortal sin before the eyes of God, and this verse tells us that looking at another woman, lustfully, is adultery of the heart.
This verse provides a lot of context as to why masturbation is frowned upon. It goes hand in hand with adultery because it’s a slippery slope that can lead to other things.
If you’re a married man and you’re looking at pornography while masturbating, you are committing adultery against your wife and should repent for those sins. Pornography can lead to other things such as adultery in person, sexting, meetups, webcam sex, and more.
While porn may be an obvious form of adultery, there are simpler ways to commit adultery as well, such as looking at other women in public in a lustful manner.
Of course, it is a persistent challenge in our sexualized society to maintain a pure mind, but we must display self-control and understand that our marriage signifies a holy union between ourselves and our partner.
1 Thessalonians 5:19 and Ephesians 4:30
We also know sin by the witness of the Holy Spirit within, provided we haven’t quenched that witness through ongoing rebellion. And who doesn’t live with guilt over the practice of masturbation – even those who have convinced themselves that it isn’t sinful?
Here we see a bit more of a direct conversation regarding masturbation. Do we feel guilty about it, or do we let it slide because we don’t consider it sinful? While God never directly comes out and tells us that we’re sinning, it’s clear that the act contains impure thoughts that can lead to an impure lifestyle.
Some of us walk through life with an unquenchable desire for sex, and as mentioned, it’s a challenge in our society. Everything is sexualized from billboards, to music videos, to clothing. Everywhere you go, sex is front and center, and it becomes difficult to manage.
For this reason, it’s important to understand God’s intent for us. He wants us to find a partner, get married, and enjoy sex as freely as we like. But, we must maintain a pure mind that stays true to our partner, and masturbation can lead us away from that.
1 Peter 2:11 also tells us that it’s sinful to wage war against our pure soul, so by engaging in masturbation and any other impure thought, we’re waging war against ourselves. By doing this, we’re waging war against God because we’re merely living in God’s temple waiting for him to call us back.
The final and possibly more important thing to remember about ourselves is that anything that masters us is harmful to us. Corinthians, Peter, and Romans all talk about this. We have but one Lord and Savior, and anything else that controls our minds and forces us to become a slave is sinful and harmful.
We see this happen a lot with drugs, alcohol, gambling, and other forms of addiction. Sex is one of the strongest addictions out there, and if we let masturbation take control to the point where it impacts our behaviors and makes it difficult for us to maintain friendships and relationships, that’s when we know we must do something to refrain from it.
Is It Wrong for Girls/Women to Masturbate?
What the Bible teaches us about masturbation does not change based on gender. Whether you are a man or a woman, we should apply the same principles. It is not okay for a man to look at another woman with a lustful mind, and it is not okay for a woman to look at another man with a lustful mind either.
Ephesians 5:22-32 says:
It is the living out of the divine purpose and beauty of human sexuality, which is to prefigure and embody the marriage between Christ and the Church. The action of self-gratification can harm the beauty of sexual satisfaction within a marriage.
This verse tells us it is our purpose as a man and woman to live out the beauty of our creation by procreating and maintaining a heterosexual relationship that glorifies God and represents the Church. Self-gratification is merely a way to “bandage” what we might be lacking in our personal lives.
For a woman, masturbation might work as a temporary mechanism for satisfying sexual desire. She might turn to masturbation instead of seeking male partners, one-night stands, and other random sexual encounters. While this might seem like a better solution, the Bible tells us that masturbation is no different from other sexual temptations, and we should abstain from all of them.
What Does the Bible Teach Us About Masturbation?
Without guidance, it’s easy to get lost in a world that often defends masturbation as simply part of the human condition. Let’s take a look at some scripture regarding masturbation to see if we can find some direction.
1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
1 Peter 2:11 ESV
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
James 1:14-15 ESV
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.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 ESV
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you knows how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.
Matthew 5:28 ESV
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
James 1:13-14 ESV
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
1 Corinthians 7:3-5 ESV
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Colossians 3:5 ESV
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Leviticus 15:16-17 ESV
If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean until the evening. And every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall be washed with water and be unclean until the evening.
Romans 13:14 ESV
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
John 8:34 ESV
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.
1 John 2:16 ESV
For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world.
Galatians 5:16 ESV
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
2 Timothy 2:22 ESV
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
Matthew 5:30 ESV
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
All scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
“What does the Bible say about masturbation” is a difficult question because it’s left open for interpretation. There are many different verses discussing it, but nothing comes out and directly tells us what is right and wrong. As a result, we must read the scripture and make our own determination based on what we see and hear.
The best choice we can make is to spend more time in God’s word so we can better understand what He wants us to do and have peace of mind in knowing we are following His guidance.