Is masturbation a sin in the Bible?

Author: BibleAsk Team


Masturbation is the act of sexually stimulating oneself. It is usually the result of lustful thoughts, sexual desire, and/or pornographic images. The Bible doesn’t mention masturbation. The passage that some wrongly link to masturbation is the story of Onan in Genesis 38:9–10. Onan did not want to perform his brotherly duty to provide an heir for his deceased brother. So, he laid with his brother’s widow but he spilled his seed on the ground.

Is masturbation a sin according to the Bible? There are biblical principles for sexual activity for men and woman that can be applied to Masturbation. Ephesians 5:3 declares, “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity.” Therefore, the “lust of the flesh” is sin (1 John 2:16).

Many people struggle with guilty feelings concerning masturbation, when in reality, the things that led to this act need to be forsaken. In Matthew 5:30, Jesus says, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” In this passage, the Lord does not call for mutilating the body, but for controlling the thoughts and actions.

Therefore, when we answer the question: is masturbation a sin? We must see it both as a physical and a mental act. Jesus said in the sermon on the mount “that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mathew 5:28). The act of dultery and defiling the marriage bed, generally seen as a physical thing, starts in the mind, then leads to the act. It was already a sin once it was started in the mind; the physical action that follows is the open sinful act.

God designed humans to be living beings who act as their minds direct them (Genesis 2:7). Thus, concerning masturbation, both the physical acts and thoughts involved are sinful (Leviticus 15:14-16). Christians cannot separate the body from the mind (Proverbs 4:23; 6:25; 12:25; 14:30; 15:13; 15:30; 17:22). Since masturbation is the result of sin, it cannot pass the test of purity.

What Does the Bible Teach?

  • “The fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). Masturbation is a sign of a lack of self-control.
  • “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). The bodies of Christians have been bought by Christ’s death and therefore should honor God.
  • “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). If an action cannot glorify God, then believers should not do it.
  • “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Lust is not of God.
  • “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh” (Romans 8:12). Believers owe everything to the Lord.
  • “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (1 Corinthians 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:22). Every behavior that leads to sexual immorality should be stopped.
  • For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4). All who have a real sense of what is involved in being a Christian know that the children of God are under obligation as His followers to bring all their passions, their physical, and mental powers into perfect subordination to His will. They are to resist sexual temptation.

God Gives Power

So, what does a believer do if he has sinned? The Bible says, he must confess to God and purpose to stay pure (1 John 1:9). Once he has purposed in his heart to do that which is right, God will supply the strength needed to overcome (John 14:13). But the believer should abide in Christ through the daily Bible study and prayer in order to overcome. And the Lord will be faithful to renew and transform him (Romans 12:2).

The Lord promised to give men and women the power to overcome the sin of lust. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Thus, the faithfulness of God is the Christian’s source of security against sin. There is no security in relying on self for victory, but if the Christian wills to be pure and depends on God for strength, God will give him the desired victory.

The Christian should remember that God will not protect him if he places himself into the path of temptation (Matthew 7:13, 14, 24, 25; 1 Corinthians 9:25, 27). And finally, he should find a replacement to his old life of sin. Healthy outlets like exercise, physical work, or non-competitive sports can prove to build and edify the soul.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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