The M Word, Is It Sinful?

by Freedom Fight | April 3, 2024

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a young man that caught me by surprise. We were talking about freedom from sexual sin, and I was encouraged by his story. Then he hit me with an honest confession.

“I’ve been walking in freedom for over a year,” he said, “but I still masturbate.”

He went on to tell me how it was just for the release. He said he usually did it when he couldn’t sleep. He said that most of the time, he wasn’t lusting.

His abrupt admission startled me, but his rationalization did not. Rationalization and masturbation tend to follow each other around.

When Christians rationalize masturbation, they usually say it isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible.

“Therefore,” they say, “it’s a gray area. Everyone has to decide for themselves.”

That way of thinking can lead down a slippery slope. There are many behaviors not named in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean God has nothing to say about them. Drugs aren’t mentioned in the Bible, but getting high does violate biblical teachings about intoxication (Ephesians 5:18).

Even though the Bible doesn’t say masturbation is a sin, it does teach us how to recognize behaviors that are sinful. Masturbation violates several important biblical principles. It works against us, not for us. If we’re serious about finding freedom from pornography and other sexual sin, we should avoid masturbation. If we don’t, it will keep us from experiencing the extraordinary life God has planned for us.

Here are six biblical reasons why I believe masturbation is a sin.

1. Masturbation Sets Aside God’s Design for Sexual Release

Many Christians who aren’t opposed to masturbation say it gives a needed sexual release and can even lessen one’s sexual temptations. But masturbation is never hinted at in the Bible as an answer to sexual temptation. When Paul addressed sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians, he pointed to marriage as God’s solution for sexual release.

But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. — 1 Corinthians 7:9 (ESV)

If masturbation were a viable option for a single person to ‘release pent-up sexual energy,’ this would have been the time for Paul to make that concession, but he didn’t. Instead, he encouraged young singles to marry because wilful sexual behavior should always reinforce intimacy.

God designed our bodies to have wet dreams if we need sexual release before we’re married or if our spouses are unavailable for long periods of time, but marriage is the only outlet named in the Bible for sexual passion. No other release is mentioned, because sexual desire outside of marriage goes against what Scripture teaches elsewhere.

2. Masturbation Is About Gratifying Fleshly Desires

Colossians 3:5 says, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (NASB)

This passage teaches that sexual arousal — passion — is intended for marriage, and that it has no place in our bodies outside of that context. We are to treat the members of our bodies as if they are dead, not just to any form of sexual sin or impurity, but to sexual arousal outside of marriage.

What members of our body does Paul have in mind when he says they must be dead to passion? Sexual organs inflamed by arousal seem to be the obvious choice. When a person is masturbating, are the members of their body dead to passion?

Not a chance. And if we listen to our bodies instead of listening to God, where will that lead?

Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. — Romans 13:13-14 (ESV)

Masturbation is all about gratifying our fleshly lust. In fact, this is what people argue for when they claim they need a release. According to this passage, providing an opportunity to gratify the flesh is out of bounds.

3. Masturbation Is Idolatry

There’s another part to Colossians 3:5 that we should pay attention to. Paul concludes this verse by saying this kind of behavior amounts to idolatry.

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. — Colossians 3:5 (NASB)

Bible Commentator John McArthur says of this passage, “When people engage in … the sexual sins Paul has cataloged, they follow their desires rather than God’s, in essence worshiping themselves — which is idolatry.”

Self-worship is an apt description of masturbation, which takes sexual passion and energy intended to be given away in marriage and turns it in on itself. Paul is saying that when we give into sexual sin, we are worshiping something other than God, which violates God’s law.

4. Masturbation Feeds on Lust and Rationalization

The men I have worked with through the years who rationalize the need for masturbation typically have entertained lust throughout the day by way of media or fantasy. The sexual release they need is the natural culmination of feeding their lust. But some men, like the young man I mentioned earlier, claim that it’s okay to masturbate as long as they aren’t doing something worse, like looking at porn.

When it comes to feeding our flesh, the human heart can get creative with its rationalizations. Paul warns against this in Galatians 6:7-8.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption… — Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV)

We are masters at deceiving ourselves. Why else would this verse begin by warning us not to be deceived? The sinful behavior we’re avoiding doesn’t justify the sinful behavior we’re engaging in. If we try to rationalize one sin by claiming it’s helping us avoid another sin, we’re only fooling ourselves.

5. Masturbation Leads to Corrupt Appetites

Take another look at Galatians 6:7-8. When we gratify our flesh, what results? Corruption.

When people sow to their flesh through masturbation, corruption takes place. When our bodies climax, they release Oxytocin, which helps us create mental, emotional, and physical bonds. God designed us this way so that we would be chemically bonded to our spouses through sex.

Masturbation turns this bonding experience in on itself, resulting in the corruption of a healthy sexual appetite and negatively impacting sexual health.  Just look at Grammy Award-winning artist John Mayer, who admitted in an interview that he prefers fantasy and masturbation to sex with a woman. When a man masturbates, he experiences reduced sexual energy and less desire for his wife. This is a far cry from the intimacy and fulfillment God designed us to experience.

6. Masturbation Can’t Compare to the Life God Has for Us

God wants more for us than to be stuck in thought patterns and behaviors that diminish our relationships. He offers us life, and life more abundantly. The cheap alternatives offered by fantasy and masturbation keep us from experiencing abundant life in Christ, which is why they are such critical strongholds to overcome.

Freedom from masturbation is possible

Freedom from masturbation is possible, promoting better sexual health, and it starts by recognizing it as a sinful behavior that must be avoided. As followers of Christ, we’re invited to pursue something greater. We can lean on God’s strength and grace to guide us through temptations. We can embrace the fullness of life and relationships He has planned for us. We can uphold a standard that cherishes the sanctity of the gift of sex and of holiness.

I want to give one of the great Christian thinkers and authors C.S. Lewis the last word on this topic:

For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back: sending the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides.

And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifice or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival.

Among these shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover: no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification is ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself.

C.S. Lewis

If you need help quitting porn, masturbation, or other sexual sins, check out the 30 Day Challenge as a place to start. It’s free!

Ted Shimer
Founder of The Freedom Fight


Published: April 3, 2024  |   Quitting Spiritual Health
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