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Question

Is masturbating a sin?

Answer

Thank you so much for your honest enquiry about masturbation being a sin.

It is important for us to discuss first the basic biblical teaching about sex; and then some issues concerning masturbation.

God created us with a capacity not only to be sexual but to enjoy it. His command to Adam and Eve, to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28) indicates that within marriage God approves of sexual relations, and therefore of sexual pleasure as well, provided a practice does not involve a third party, is not physically or mentally abusive, and both partners are comfortable with it.

If this is true, so is this: All sexual activity outside marriage is abnormal to the extent that it breaks the essential connection between marriage, sexual relations and sexual enjoyment. Clearly sexual intercourse other than with a spouse betrays the marriage, and even before a marriage it is wrong because the partners are treating too lightly the sacred nature of marriage. This would also be true of two such people giving sexual stimulation to each other. However, self-stimulation does not obviously constitute such a betrayal.

It is significant that, although the Bible speaks openly about sexual sins, no mention is made of self-masturbation. Some people have thought that a passage in Genesis 38 (the sin of Onan) applies to it, but in fact that is about Onan’s failure to obey an ancient tradition that the brother of a dead man should marry his widow to enable her to have children.

I suggest, in the light of all this, some guidelines about masturbation. First, within marriage, mutual sexual stimulation is only a variation of quite proper sexual intimacy. Second, outside marriage it would be entering prematurely into the intimacy of marital sex. Thirdly, self-masturbation does not necessarily comprise either adultery or fornication because no sexual partner is involved.

The physical release of sexual tension is not in itself a sin and may indeed be a way of avoiding sin. However, the combination of lust with masturbation is a sin. Jesus says in Matthew 5:27-28 that looking at someone with lustful desire is a form of forbidden sexual intimacy. He goes on to say that it is better to pluck out your eye than for the eye to cause sin. Then he adds that it is also better to cut off the hand than for the hand to cause sin (vv.28,29). Of course, Jesus was using figurative speech here and does not expect us to cause bodily mutilation to ourselves, but was giving an extreme example to help us avoid sin. This does suggest that Jesus is condemning using self-masturbation to satisfy lustful thoughts.

If you want some practical ideas on how to stop masturbating, one of our previous answers may help you: What is the most effective way to stop masturbating?

In summary, God has created sex and sexual experience to be within the covenant of marriage, and all sexual activity outside of this commitment undermines the sacred nature of marriage. Masturbation, although not necessarily a sin in its own right, does lead us to lust, which is a sin. It is therefore important to remove lust and other sinful activities from our minds, that we may pursue holiness.

Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:

  • Psalm 119:9-18
  • Philippians 4:8-9
  • 2 Timothy 2:21-22

I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video

I encourage you to attend a local Bible believing church and speak to the leader about your question. If you want to find a local church, our Church Finder may help you: Find a Church

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*Taken From The New King James Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise

*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline


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