Is Masturbation A Sin? A Biblical Study

by Jack Wellman on February 10, 2014 · Print Print · Email Email

The Bible is silent on whether or not masturbation is sin.  What verses can we turn to in trying to determine if this is sin or not?

Sexual Immorality Starts in the Mind

James gives us insight into how sin starts. Sin begins with temptation as we read in 1:13-15 “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. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Notice that James says we are tempted by our own desires. When we hold on to this desire it gives birth to sin and sin that is un-repented of leads to eternal death. Temptation itself is not a sin because Jesus was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness but Jesus resisted the Devil by quoting Scripture.  Satan twisted the Scriptures and took them out of context but Jesus rightly divided the Word of God and the sword of the Spirit, the Word.  The Word of God is powerful when fighting demonic weapons. When we give into temptation and don’t resist the Devil by fleeing from him, then it becomes full blown sin.

Put to death…what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Put to death…what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

You are not alone because Paul wrote that “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 10:13).  That is a great promise from God that we are not helpless victims of our own lusts of the flesh. We can resist sexual immorality in our minds as we will later read.

Lusting is Sin

Jesus said “that everyone who looks at a woman [or a man] with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her [or him] in his [or her] heart” (Matt 5:28).  This means that we can commit sexual immorality in our minds and that God sees it as being the same thing as the physical act of adultery.  When we lust after a man or woman in our minds, then we are essentially committing adultery (if we are married) or fornication (if we are single).  Even if no one knows about it, God knows about it and so do we.  Our conscience condemns us if we have the Holy Spirit (Romans 2:1-3).  Just as thinking sexual thoughts about someone other than your spouse is sexual immorality, so too is hating someone likened to committing murder in the heart (Matthew 5:21-23).  There is only one thing that you can do when lustful thoughts come to your mind.  Pray, recall some memory Bible verses, and when this temptation comes “Submit yourselves…to God [so that you can] resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Masturbation is Sexual Immorality of the Mind

Paul gives believers an imperative command by saying that “sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints [and that] there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking” either (Ephesians 5:3-4).  Even if we commit the act of adultery in our mind, it doesn’t make it an innocent act.  Not the way God sees it. In fact Paul asks the Corinthians “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh’” (1 Corinthians 6:15-16).  That shocks most unbelievers. When a person is joined together with another outside of the bounds of marriage, the two become one and the same. You can essentially be joined together as one with a male or female prostitute because it is written “the two will become one flesh” and who wants to be one and the same with a female or male prostitute?  Our bodies, being members of Christ, include our minds and because our minds are very much part of our body, when our minds commit adultery, it is the same as our bodies doing it.

Conclusion

From all the verses we have read we can clearly see that sexual immorality, certainly the physical act, but even the mental act, is the same as adultery. This includes those who are married and those who are single. Therefore, from the context of these Scriptures, we can see that masturbation is committing sexual immorality in the mind and if in the mind, it is the same as with the body (Matthew 5: 28). The Bible clearly warns us that you are to “Put to death…what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5-6).

My advice to you, whether single or married, is to “Flee from sexual immorality [because] every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).  The final destination of the sexually immoral is the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). Don’t let that be your end. If you have a problem with sexual temptation, learn to memorize Scripture, fall on your knees in prayer during temptations, make a covenant with your eyes to not look upon men or women who are not your spouse, and flee temptation when it comes. It will not end well for those who do not resist sexual immorality. Let not this proverb be about you: “So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life” (Proverbs 2:16-19).

More to read: Bible Verses About Purity

Resource: New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide



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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack H February 10, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Hello, Pastor Jack! Yet again, another article that is inspired by God! :D I like that you are not really asking, “Is masturbation a sin?”, but rather, “Are the thoughts and motives leading to masturbation a sin?”. And I personally believe that you were right to arrive at the latter, for motives are easily corruptible, and tend to be part of whatever deed the person is commiting, whether good or bad. Goodbye from across the Atlantic! :D

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Jack Wellman February 10, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Jack….my friend…you nailed it exactly. I love that. I was hoping that most would get what I was trying to say and you did so perfectly. I thank God for your hunger for the Word my good friend across the “big pond.” May God richly bless you for that.

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David February 11, 2014 at 1:32 am

Yes, I agree with both Jacks, 1 Cor 7 vs 9 says it all “.. but if they can`t exercise self-control, they should get married, because it is better to get married than to keep burning with sexual desire.“ [Complete Jewish Bible].
Quite right, the thought, if not dealt with through prayer and quoting God`s Word, will lead to sin.
Blessings, David Central Europe

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Jack Wellman February 11, 2014 at 8:12 am

Thank you David. I appreciate hearing from you my friend. Thanks for the encouragement.

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Dr Ley February 13, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Actually, the Bible does address this issue directly. In at least one instance in the Old Testament we are told of a person letting his “seed” go on the ground – and this was very displeasing to God. In fact it was said to be a sin…
check it out…

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Dr Ley February 13, 2014 at 7:09 pm

forgot the reference…
see Genesis Chapter 38 verses 4-14

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Jack Wellman February 13, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Thank you Dr. Ley. That is spot on sir. I missed that. Thanks for adding to this article my friend. Well done. Very insightful sir and thank you for visiting us here sir.

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Mr A Cotton February 16, 2014 at 12:49 pm

I suffer with this cross, but I don`t have any thoughts or motives to lead to this sin.
Has a recent catholic we were told at the age of 7 years(Confession) that it was a sin. If you go to a doctor he will tell you it`s part of puberty growing up.
I have never liked sexual intercourse, don`t get me wrong I am not a homosexual.
It`s just like having a cup of tea,because I just drink the tea,and I don`t think about having a cup of tea beforehand.
It`s just on impulse.
I don`t like masturbating either it just comes on like a robot
The Holy Spirit is there to convict me so to me it his a sin.
The part I don`t understand is you are attracted to girls,and via versa. I look at girls but I don`t get any thoughts of sexual desire towards them. They are all like different flower`s
some flower`s are nice,and some of them are not it`s up to the individual.
Their was a saint called Pardre Pio who had the stigmata,and he trained his eyes not to look at women.
He would not let any woman into his church unless their skirt was on their knee`s. It`s the same outside the Vatican a priest stands there with cover cloths for the women who had mini skirts on,or where showing to much up top.
It`s a long time since I wrote a post because Jack when you said that sin was done at the cross then you said you are judged if you have any responsibilities in Heaven.
I was thinking a lot about this I havn`t any what I could think of, so it looks like I am going to hell (Depressed)

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Jack Wellman February 16, 2014 at 12:58 pm

No, no, no, my friend. Any person that is concerned or as sensitive as you are to sin is one that shows that Holy Spirit is in them and cannot lose that Spirit (read Romans 8) and so you must learn to forgive yourself as you must read this to know what I am saying my good friend at: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/how-to-forgive-yourself-a-christian-commentary/ Please don’t despair for God has given us all that we need, and there is never any sin so big that the cross cannot cover so know that we will never be perfect in this life but perfectly forgiven. Before I head off to work, after my sermon and Sunday school let me say that you should confess any thoughts or sins and then let it go for the when the Devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future. I thank God for men of faith such as you sir that care about their sin. That is a sure and certain sign of conversion and being born again and God has no aborted children! (read John chapters 3, 6, and 10 and of course Romans chatper 8.

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David February 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

hi Anthony, I agree with Jack`s comment. I know about depression. Read the scriptures he suggests. Remember Jesu`s words about His peace?
Also, it would be good for you to get Christian counseling and Christian fellowship. Ask God to provide an opportunity to do this. Don`t say “well, I have tried, no-one came“, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you“.
Yes, we all have our troubles, we are all fallen sinners, however Jesus died that we might live and He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort us during the hard times. To not only comfort, also to convict us of our sins.
Often you may feel like you are going to hell, but that is a lie from the devil, the father of lies. When someone gives his life to Christ, he is a new creature, all the old life died with Him on the cross. End of story.
During the Inquisition people would confess to anything to stop the pain, we don`t have to go through that, simply and humbly confess your sins, your fears, your hurts to God, ask His forgiveness and move on, forgetting the past life, ask God for your past to be forgotten, He will cast it into the deepest sea of forgetfulness, you do the same.
Blessings, David Central Europe

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Nicholas Head February 21, 2014 at 3:36 am

I was engaged to be married at one time , actually later we did-not get married , but we met her pastor and they had a tape to listen to that practically said to do this rather than to have sex with your partner , as if that were not as bad of a sin as the actual , you get what I mean , it went on to go into a study of how to train yourself as a man after marriage to last longer and an exercise for the girl for the P.C. muscle I believe it was called so sex would be more enjoyable for both . I wondered too if a man could perform this in thinking of his wife when she was having her period and etc.,. I am only stating what this tape had to say . I can’t remember the verse right this second but will look it up after writing — something to the effect it being better for sperm to enter the belly of a whore than to spill on the ground , and recall when a man secretly let his sperm go onto the ground rather than go by a command to help his brother’s wife to bare children — I am sure I have this wrong , and need to look this up too , I was just wondering what your thoughts are on these and I certainly did-not mean to get graphic in any of this .

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Scott March 9, 2014 at 5:10 pm

In at least one instance in the Old Testament we are told of a person letting his “seed” go on the ground – and this was very displeasing to God. In fact it was said to be a sin… With that said, what about someone with a vasectomy? I assume that he was displeased b/c you are wasting his seed by not giving it to a woman that is your wife. But with the vasectomy the seed no longer exists. Would you say that God does not agree with vasectomy?

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Jack Wellman March 9, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Thank you Scott for your question. I believe the spirit of this law is that sexual immorality can be of the mind. A person who has had a vasectomy can still commit adultery in their heart by lusting after another person of the opposite, and in some cases, the same sex. I don’t think that spilling his seed on the ground was the sin and this may not apply to this article but I believe that if a person does masturbate and lusts in their mind, that is sin, except it be for their spouse who they cannot have sex with. Even so, it is best to have sex within marriage. I am not sure it was sin only because they were wasting seed though. Thank you Scott. I am not sure my answer was satisfactory for you or not sir.

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Gene April 20, 2014 at 11:58 am

What about a healthy man and a healthy woman, both in their sixties, he a widower, she a widow, in love with each other? If they share sex is that a sin?

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Jack Wellman April 20, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Thank you Gene for your question. I appreciate that sir. Let this answer not be my own human opinion, which could be wrong but let the answer come from God Himself in His Word, in 1 Cor 7:9 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” If the two both love each other and they are a widow and widower, then why not marry? Any sex outside of marriage is sin and the sexually immoral will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Cor 6:9; Eph 5:5; Rev 21:8).

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Stephanie May 1, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Hi pastor
I’ve written you before about different questions I’ve had and you were of tremendous help. I wanted to ask this here as it is very embarrassing to ask my own pastor. What about masterbating while thinking about ones own husband? My husband is gone for work slot and I often struggle with this. However I always end up guilty and asking forgiveness and telling myself I won’t do it anymore. What is your opinion. And also since I keep being a “repeat offender” am I willfully sinning/cherishing a sin, as john describes in 1 john? It saddens me and scares me that since I struggle with this I may not truly have His spirit. I’d love honest instruction. Thank you.

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Jack Wellman May 1, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Stephanie, I don’t know how to answer that to be honest. I don’t think lusting after your own husband is sin of course. Since it saddens you and scares you and that it bothered you enough to come here, then I see that if a person’s conscience, particularly that of a Christian, then I would try to avoid it. As for having His Spirit or the Holy Spirit precisely, if a person can name a time and place where they repented of their sins, confessed them to God, seen their need for the Savior and then put their trust in Him, then you are saved and you can’t lose this. Read Ephesians chapter 1 & 2 I think it is…since you are asking forgiveness and end up feeling guilty this could be conviction from the Holy Spirit so this is a sure sign of conversion because a lost person doesn’t even care if they are sinning or in grey areas they could care less but you do and this shows a sensitivity to sin that comes from God. Maybe you could ask a trusted Christian women who is an older woman in your church. Since you are a woman and the pastor is a man, I think you shouldn’t counsel with him anyway, only exception would be his wife being with him. I don’t know if I helped or not my friend.

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