Is Masturbation A Sin? A Biblical Study

by Jack Wellman · 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.


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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{ 38 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! 😀 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! 😀


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.


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


Jack Wellman February 11, 2014 at 8:12 am

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


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…


Dr Ley February 13, 2014 at 7:09 pm

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


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.


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)


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: 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.


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


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 .


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?


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.


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?


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).


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.


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.


javier November 13, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Please help me I cant stop I dont want to lose my wife and family every time I have sex with my wife I think about other woman why why can’t I stop I pray and cry out


Jack Wellman November 13, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Javier, thank you sir for your comment and I see you have a problem but you are not alone in this. Have you spoken with your pastor about this? As a pastor myself, nothing embarrasses us so you must talk to him right away. Also read this at: which is called How to Overcome Sin and this one at : called how to overcome pornography, even if its of the mind. I would try to fast even and stay in the Word because there is real power in the Word of God and again, talk to your pastor about this right away. You cannot do this on your own, God can help, prayer can help, fasting, staying in the Word and talk to your pastor immediately. Don’t put this off. Don’t let it get you down though because I see the Holy Spirit is convicting you of this sin and you have admitted it is a problem…and that’s a great sign to me that you are convicted of this sin and want to stop. Don’t lose heart or hope.


J N May 12, 2015 at 5:54 am

what happens to a married person whose spouse refuses continually to have sex with him/her. The spouse just hates it, no matter the counselling received, or the sacrifice the other makes. if the deprived spouse is burning with desire but does not want to commit adultery can the deprived spouse masturbate imagining his or her own spouse? with that be sinful?


Jack Wellman May 12, 2015 at 10:01 am

I am so sorry J N for your being deprived. This is actually sin for your wife to do as the Bible commands the husband and the wife to not deprive one another (1 Cor 7:5). Is your wife a Christian? That is, is she saved? I would talk to your pastor about this or have you already? I would seek to take your wife with you for counseling. Would she go or refuse? My first concern is for your wife’s salvation? Is she even saved? Also, I think that adultery of the heart that Jesus spoke about was lusting after someone else outside of your marriage so I see no problem with lusting of the heart if you are thinking exclusively of your wife and don’t think it’s sinful at all my friend. I am so sorry you have to go through this. I will pray for her and you. I hope I have answered your question. I would still talk to your pastor about this. Thank you for your question my brother in Christ.


DJB May 7, 2016 at 3:39 am

Is masturbation still a sin if you are not married and create a fantasy girl to relieve sexual tension?


Jack Wellman May 7, 2016 at 1:26 pm

Yes, read Matthew 5 DJB. Lusting in the heart is the same as adultery of the heart.


M J June 18, 2016 at 6:32 pm

So is it okay to masturbate when I get married or if I happen to get aroused by my hormones without lusting after another?


Jack Wellman June 18, 2016 at 7:06 pm

Thank you MJ. We all sin, none are perfect but try not to let your hormones arouse you by having relations with your wife, therefore you shouldn’t need to, right?


DJB May 7, 2016 at 10:58 pm

How is it lusting in the heart when that fantasy girl isn’t even a real person?

She is a totally made up person.

You can only lust after a real person not a fake one.


Al October 11, 2016 at 3:11 am

Onan’s sin, spoken of in Genesis Chapter 38 verses 4-14,
is not masturbation but disobedience to God’s instruction to impregnate his late brother’s wife

Chapter 38 verses 8
“Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother.”


Josh MacKinlay October 12, 2016 at 6:41 am

Re the Onan situation…..would God really have asked somebody to break God’s own commandment concerning lusting after a woman who wasn’t his wife? Wasn’t Onan’s lust the thing displeasing to God? Wasn’t Onan’s’ spewing his seed on the ground a reaiization that he was about to break God’s laws? As foot that poor boy fantasizing…what of people who have no hope or chance of marrying yet have the God programmed desires through the hormones He created? Yes, masturbation is displeasing to God and sinful…but there is much more to the matter than a glib…;oh of you can’t control yourself then marry. Chance would be a fine thing for many sick, disabled, elderly, unattractive etc. who have no hope of marrying. JM


Janice October 20, 2016 at 3:52 pm

I do t think those verse are the same thing..


Angela Allard October 29, 2016 at 1:12 pm

No, that is incorrect. He (Onan-Genesis 38:9) was killed on the spot for having NOTHING to do with “dropping his seed” on the ground.
He was Killed because his heart clearly revealed Rebellion! Here’s the verse.
“And Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so it came about that when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground, -in order not to give offspring to his brother-.”
So The reason God did this is NOT because Onan wasted his seed on the ground but because he did not want to impregnate his brothers wife, refused to perform his familial duties of producing offspring for his brother. This was a great offense at the time.
Deuteronomy 25:5-6

Well more than that, it revealed his Hearts condition which is the most important to God.
So this verse has nothing to do with masturbation or any relation to it whatsoever.

I Do agree with this article though.
Pastor Jack Wellman, finally the point to masturbation being a sin at all was perfectly pointed out… the MIND! Amen!
However… I do have a question Pastor Jack…
What about those married couples that spend time apart for 6 months to a year or for any length of time due to military and such??
I believe that the couples that practice self-discipline of the mind in the LORD and Faithfulness daily to their spouses, CAN also do that during self-service in this area while they are apart.
Such as the MIND, “their thoughts” will only be on their long missed Loves while they services themselves during these apart times.
They are not committing a sin that.


Jack Wellman October 29, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Great points my friend. Thank you. By the way, I never said in this article that I used “(Genesis 38:9) as saying the man “was killed on the spot for having NOTHING to do with “dropping his seed” on the ground.” Please read the article. I don’t even mention Genesis 38:9 in the article, so how can you say that Onan died because of this and my takin Gen 38:9 out of context when I didn’t even use it in this article? I never stated it in the article anywhere, so please re-read it and see where I am in error and quote it for me. 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 do not believe Onan sinned because they he was wasting seed though.


Angela Allard October 29, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Pastor Jack, I am aware of this.
I know you didn’t mention (Genesis 38:9) in your article.
I have hit reply on Dr Ley’s First comment to your article, but some how when I sent out my comment here, under Dr Ley’s it was no where near or under his comment at all once it processed.

Sorry for the confusion. That first part was not aimed at you.
However, I did include you at the end of my comment concerning your article only because you replied to Dr. Ley so I was certain you would see my message and see where I was speaking to you, instead of writing two comments, since you’re the one who checks all these anyway.

So there was no misunderstanding on my end, but I apologize for the confusion.
I hope now that this comment I’m leaving you now will be directly under your reply to me, because I hit reply to you just as I did my first one under Dr Ley’s yet it showed up as just a comment to your article.


Jack Wellman October 29, 2016 at 5:28 pm

No problem my friend. I was at fault apparently in understanding your comment. You are fine and I am sorry so it’s all good my friend. Thank you.


Daniel December 26, 2016 at 1:07 am

Pastor, I have been in a frenzy for months now, thinking I’m going to hell for what I’ve done.
I have been sexually immoral in my ways for a long time, but several months back I am afraid I may have committed the unforgivable sin. I fought masturbation a long time, but one day I read the verse saying to cut off the hand, for it is better to lose one part of the body that for the whole body to be put into hell.
I didn’t try and stop my ways as I should have, and I think I’m going to hades for it now.
A few weeks after I read the verse, a feeling welled up in me in a moment of weakness. I think I lost my salvation right then. I think that I blasphemed the holy spirit by not obeying his commands, and now I’m lost forever.

I really need help with this. It’s a feeling I can’t shake off no matter how hard I try.


Pastor Henry March 4, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Hi Brother Daniel, am sure this is very late response but what the Bible says is that ‘ the word of God is alive (living) and Powerful (active)….Heb 4:12, is never too late to hear. Before i continue to add my bit to your submission above, I want to commend Ps. Jack Wellman for his great works of rightly dividing the word of truth.. 2 Timothy 2:15, actually i was reading on Ps. Jacks subject and i decided to read also the reviews.

Bro Daniel actually you have not lost your salvation…
You know the love God has for mankind through Christ Jesus is so great the Apostle Paul prays that the church will comprehend the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of his love ….Ephesians 3:18-19. He ends by saying it is so great we may not fully understand it.
My Brother i haste to say God’s love is unlimited in Christ

But as humans Christ said “Spirit is always willing to yield to God but the flesh is weak”…Mark 14:38
Apostle Paul also reiterated this feeling of constant fight with the Spirit in Galatians 5:17-25

What you are feeling is what the Bible describes “death” for the wages of sin is death…James 1:13-15, and this state one needs to jump out of. This you can do if you know the truth about God’s word and it will set you free. The truth is He loves you no matter what, so confess your sins 1 John 1:8-9 and you are free. Anything you do and don’t feel right about is sin… Romans 14: 22b.

Jesus saids the only way to be out of such act is to watch and pray. To understand this further please visit below address. Thank you and God bless u.

It is our prayer to be strengthened with might by His spirit in the inner man. Ephesians 3:16

With Ps. Jack’s permission would like to direct you to further read
[God’s vision legon “INSPIRING DAILY DEVOTIONAL ® … You can overcome every challenge of sin”]


Jack Wellman March 4, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Thank you Pastor Henry. I have seen your blog website and that article does provide help but also comfort. Thank you pastor for your labor of love for His glory.


Kenneth Smith March 29, 2017 at 12:34 pm

I got a question, even though I’ve already read those verses. Do I have to take out and forbid Masturbation in my life in order to be a complete full Christian? I’ve stopped my pornography habit and lusting habit, just wondering if Masturbation is ok


Jack Wellman March 29, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Hello Mr. Smith….masturbation comes from lustful thoughts, doesn’t it? Therefore, if you read Matt 5, lusting in the heart after another man or woman is the same as adultery so I don’t think it is okay sir. Thank you for asking.


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