So What about Masturbation?

May 25, 2011

So What About Masturbation

Note: This is part one of a two-part blog mini-series by Pastor Brad Bigney on masturbation. Be sure to read tomorrow’s post: Masturbation: So What’s the Way Out? This brief series is part of the BCC’s desire to address real-life issues with grace and truth from God’s Word.

When thinking about a biblical view of masturbation, we first need to acknowledge that there is no Bible verse that says masturbation is a sin. However, there are several biblical principles that can guide us in assessing a biblical view of masturbation.

Sex and our sexuality were not created by God primarily for our own pleasure.

God created sex and sexuality as a wonderful gift that is to be given to our life partner… this gift bonds us together in a special and intimate way. It is something God meant for us to experience in relationship to another human being. When we use it individually, we have twisted something wonderful and there are some dangers that then enter in.

In 1 Corinthians 7:3, Paul says, “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his body, but the wife does.” Our bodies and our sexuality are not our own to use for our own pleasure, so, for the married person, masturbation deprives your spouse of something they are supposed to receive from you.

Similarly, Proverbs 5:18-20 tells us, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth… may her breasts satisfy you at all times, may you be captivated by her love…”  Masturbation leads the married person to find satisfaction somewhere other than your spouse… and can often lead your affections away so that you’re captivated by something or someone other than her.

Masturbation plays into the sin of selfishness.

We are all prone to selfishness by nature and masturbation seems to fan that flame. It also tends to isolate us. We withdraw and focus on ourselves. “What would be good for me? What really excites me?” All of this thinking breeds an attitude that is contrary to biblical love. Biblical love involves giving for the needs of another expecting nothing in return. Love is giving not getting.

The activity of autoeroticism by nature is a ‘getting’ activity rather than a giving activity. We begin to think we don’t need another human relationship in that area. Yet this gift was intended to be some of the ‘glue’ that would knit us to another person rather than ourselves. Masturbation runs counter to that and feeds selfish isolationism. We read in 1 Corinthians13:5, “Love does not seek its own.” Masturbation seeks it’s own. Romans 15:2-3 says, “Each of us should please his neighbor [your spouse is your closest neighbor] for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please Himself.”

Philippians 2:3-4 drives this home. “Let nothing be done from selfish ambition… let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Masturbation can be used as an escape or a refuge other than God.

Any of the good things that God has given us (food, drink, sex, work) can become sinful if used as a place of refuge instead of turning to God. Masturbation often gets used in that way, especially with young people. It’s quick, easy, and gives fast gratification. That in itself should send off some danger signals. Habits may be forming so they will want to run there when things don’t go their way or they’re feeling down or bored and just want immediate gratification.

Psalm 73:25 says, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 16:11 teaches, “In Your presence is fullness of joy.” While Psalm 91:2 notes, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.'”  Masturbation can easily and insidiously become a substitute for a relationship with God and others.

Masturbation flies in the face of the self-control that we are commanded to develop as Christians.

Fighting in this area is an excellent opportunity to trust God and ask for His grace rather than feed the desires of the flesh. I know it is hard. It can still be a struggle for a married person. In all honesty, sometimes you don’t want the “hassle” of having to “perform” or make it good for someone else and you just want quick relief. If you allow masturbation to be a regular practice, you may find sexual relations with your spouse less satisfying and more frustrating.

There are plenty of Scriptures that show our need for self-control. Consider: Proverbs 25:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6; and 2 Timothy 1:7.

Masturbation often lights a flame that can never get enough.

If you open the door and allow free reign in this area it seems that you need more and more to get the same level of satisfaction you did before. You will feel the need to move on to other things (pornography, fantasy) in order to get the same level of pleasure. Rather than satisfying it stirs a thirst for more, and leaves you feeling very empty.

Jeremiah 2:13 says, “But my people have committed two great sins; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living water and have dug for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Masturbation is a broken cistern that cannot hold water. To stay satisfied it demands more; more of the same and then variety, something new. You end up in a state of perpetual agitation with very little satisfaction.

Masturbation often brings guilt and distraction that hinders your walk with God.

Peter teaches, “I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Very often when this area of physical lust is stirred up it wars against the spiritual side. We feel dirty and think we can’t draw near to God.

Romans 13:14 explains, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Often masturbation causes us to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about it… leading up to it… what we’ll do next time, etc.


Based on scriptural principles of biblical love and self-control, as well as the foundation of God’s original design for sexual pleasure to be shared between husband and wife, it seems prudent to personally resist the temptation to masturbate (see tomorrow’s post), and it seems important for us to teach our children the dangers of giving over to this temptation.

Join the Conversation

How would you develop a biblical perspective on masturbation?

33 thoughts on “So What about Masturbation?

  1. Having been a slave to masturbation, I would only change the “often” to “will” and the “can be” to “will be.”  Excellent article!  Our only hope is to flee temptation before it becomes sin as Scripture teaches. Jesus Christ has provided all that we need!

  2. Really? One could make the point that eating is selfish, vacations, tv, ballgames, etc… are an escape, and that guilt is a learned behavior.

  3. with statements like:

    “Sex and our sexuality were not created by God primarily for our own pleasure.”
    “Masturbation often lights a flame that can never get enough.”
    “Masturbation often brings guilt and distraction that hinders your walk with God.”

    By using the words “primarily” and “often”, this can leave room for the reader to say, “Sex is not primarily for our own pleasure, but it can be sometimes/secondary.”
    Or, “Masturbation often brings guilt, but not all the time. Thus, why should I feel guilty for something the Bible does not condemn? Doesn’t this fall in the category of ‘Christian Liberty’?”

    I’m glad this post starts by acknowledging that there is no Bible verse that says masturbation is a sin. But then using “biblical principles” to make the case that it is a sin is not as clear as other sexual sins like adultery or fornication.

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  5. If you substituted “scratching your back” with masturbation it would still fit.

    My back is part of my body, it’s selfish, etc.

    I don’t mean to be flippant but any number of self-pleasuring things (eating ice cream, using hand lotion, cracking your joints) could be argued against with the same arguments.

    I don’t mean to encourage people in the wrong direction but I don’t think you have made a convincing argument here.

  6. Some good points, but I think mentioning lust might have been helpful. It’s lust, like all of our sin, that crushed Christ on the cross. That fact has been beneficial for me to consider. In addition, sex is a covenant act that is being cheapened and undermined with autoerotica. All in all this article was beneficial for me to read. I look forward to the next post.

  7. I’m glad the question was raised about how this compares to other bodily pleasures – it does seem to get singled out – “red lettered” so-to-speak. As the mom of two grown boys, I’ve wondered if we placed an undue burden on our sons in this area – perhaps created a bigger issue than was warranted and created a bigger focus than there might otherwise have been.  Other parents out there with an opinion on this?

  8. Thanks, Brad, for a great article. Excellent points.

    I appreciate some of the questions and views expressed in the comments. I have about two-cents worth of thought…

    Masturbation is not done without mental images playing in the mind. One can scratch his back or eat ice cream or apply hand lotion without playing out selfish, sexual scenarios in one’s head. Since we are to be working hard on purifying the mind (Rom. 12:3; Eph. 4:17-24), this is practice is certainly not helpful.

    Put masturbation to “Phil. 1” test. Is it excellent, pure, blameless? Is it a fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ? Isn’t that our goal…to be growing more and more in love with Him that we learn to discern actions and approve excellent fruit? I don’t think anyone can make the argument that masturbation is “excellent.”

  9. Very helpful article! When men are tempted, and in this day and age that has been saturated with sex, we are more easily so; we have to step up our fight and focus our minds on what Paul speaks about in Phil. 4:8-9. He also teaches us to discipline our bodies, and bring it into subjection; 1 Cor. 10:27. Which means when the temptation comes, quote Scripture, pray, and even exercise to the point of wearing yourself out. When you resist temptation, it will eventually pass.  Giving in so easily, will only make it consistantly more difficult to break. Getting involved with productive Christian service will also help keep one occupied and prevent idleness; plus God is glorified, and you earn an eternal reward. 

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  12. I read a few arguing that masturbation is no more selfish than eating ice cream or other enjoyable pleasures. The problem is that this is a category error. Our sexuality is not in the same category as our digestive system or other forms of entertainment. 

    Sexuality is made to be a mutually exchanged enjoyment between spouses. Just read 1 Cor. 7:1-4. The focus is on giving one’s spouse the satisfaction they need in light of sexual temptation. It is not about simply satisfying one’s own itch. Another person (i.e., one’s spouse) is the means of receiving the satisfaction and enjoyment.  This cannot be the case with what I put in my mouth. I don’t think anyone wants me to share what my taste buds have already been over. Masturbation is selfishly taking what is suppose to be shared. The focus of my sexuality is to be the satisfaction of a spouse. It is not on getting what I want when I want it, which is the mentality of masturbation.

  13. Bravo, Charlie!  You hit it right on the head.  Our sexuality is in a distinctively different category than eating or scatching our backs.

  14. Excellent additional suggestion, Jamie.  I like the “Phil. 1” test.

  15. Good question. 

    I am the father of 5 (ages 11-22) so I’ve certainly walked through this with my children.  As I’ve talked with the boys about it I’ve made it clear this is not the biggest sin in the world, but it can enslave you and whet your appetite for more.  I’ve encouraged each of them to fight the temptation.  As a man, pastor, and biblical counselor I’ve seen how many men carry their self-indulging sexual habits with them into their marriage and it creates problems because their sexual focus for so many years has already been on pleasing themselves.  Making the shift to pleasing their spouse sexually is not easy when it’s been ‘all about you’ for so many years.  I’m not aware of any marriage that’s been hurt by a man who formed the habit of scratching his back or eating ice cream.  These are pleasures, but not in the same category as our sexuality that God gave us to enjoy in the context of a loving, committed relationship with a spouse.

  16. I think the argument is convincing if you understand that our sexuality is in an altogether different category than the other ‘pleasures’ you’ve listed.  God designed our sexuality to be shared and enjoyed between a husband and wife in the context of a covenant commitment.  To wrench that out of its context and seflish indulge in it is destructive and dishonoring to God.

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  21. THE one thing I learned about masturbation is my experience with pornography, I’ve been addicted to it since 9 years old and one thing I’ve learned is that every woman is an object an a potential for sex. I didn’t look at them like a person, like their body is their own possession, it made me think id love to have that and that. And when I got rejected it only affected my self esteem. My problem, I didn’t try to get to know them I just wanted sex. Alot of guys wouldn’t take this seriously, but the more my eyes allowed me to look at the ‘goodies’ the more bad relationships I got into since I didn’t get to know them or we got deep into a meaningless relationship because sex was the main course. Never got to be with someone just for who they are. what I’m trying to say was, pornography prevents me from finding a good spouse and masturbation (while single) supports it. It encourages what my fantasy wants instead of what God puts in front of me cause God’s choice for me might not have the ‘perfect body’ of a porn star but her soul and everything else would be what he’d know id love and respect and enjoy what I have. As I have her right now praise God! 🙂

  22. Any suggestions on how a newly married couple living in two different countries for 18 months can live their sexual life. Is masturbation. while talking to another or viewing each other through Skype an acceptable christian way.

    I would appreciate an answer form Brad Bigney

  23. Yes, and all of the things that you listed have a possibility of becoming idols in your life and idols are our favorite way to escape or distance our self’s from God. The reason masturbation is particularly important to address is it involves our sexual desires, a part of being in the flesh that is full stumbling blocks in our walk with God.

  24. I am a person who is predisposed to having addictive tendencies. For over 11 years and only by way of God’s divine grace and tender mercy have I been able to practice abstinence from the use of illicit mind-altering, mood-changing chemical substances, including alcohol. Crack cocaine was my drug-of-choice since before 1989. Tobacco products, of which I have been nearly as fond, have been met with cessation for years at a time. Yet and still auto-erotcism, conversely, has had its way with me since my first lover introduced it to me in 1981. I am tormented, enslaved, and beguiled by it. Masturbation is anything but spiritually sound, wholesome, or Christ-like. Thank you, Mr. Bigney, for helping me to finally find a way out…and bless you.

  25. Faithbond – thanks for your honesty. I’d love to learn how I could approach this better or more biblically. What exactly don’t you agree with? I would be the first to admit the Bible doesn’t have a verse addressing masturbation, but I tried to bring biblical principles to bear on the subject, as we decide what we should think about self pleasure. Thanks.

  26. Thanks for replying.

    I read somewhere – Anything you give the government a cut off is deemed as legal, not otherwise. This article is akin to that – biblical rules that make no practical and logical sense.

    I don’t agree about the entire Bible angle on what sex is about and for who it rightfully is for. If god gave me a body with such cravings and does not give me a partner, then he is not my good shepherd, for I am in want.

    Telling a single person, who for some reason can’t get married, that sex is only for those who’ve had the means to get married, is to add salt to their torment. And if bible says that my god is such a god, does he deserve my attention (let alone my worship)?

    If you are interested, I have written an article on sexual abstinence that can be found on It will illustrate my thinking in greater detail and how I have arrived at this line of reasoning.

    You can also connect with me on

  27. Faithbound. Thanks again for taking the time to give me some of your thinking behind your moral perspectives. From reading your thoughtful articles it’s clear that the biggest difference is the fact that I have joyfully submitted my life and my bodily urges to the wisdom of my Creator. Is it a struggle at times? Sure. But there’s plenty of angst also in following whatever I want. Every good gift, include sexual desire (which is good), can be twisted and result in long-term hurt and harm, despite short-term pleasure. Singles have to trust God that He knows best when He directs us to save sexual pleasures for the marriage bed. Likewise, married people have to trust God when they direct their sexual desires to stay within the marriage covenant with one partner, rather than moving from person to person willy-nilly. Contrary to what you might think, living without restraint, allowing myself to fulfill every urge I have, does not lead to ultimate joy and long-term pleasure. Your greatest joy and freedom comes when you submit your life – including your sexuality – to your Creator God who is indeed good. He made us. He created sex. He’s not against it. He, more than anyone wants us to have the richest, fullest sex life. And that, God says, takes place in the context of a covenant relationship called marriage.

    If you are interested I’ve done a series of messages about sexual purity, titled ‘Six on Sex’ that you can access at

  28. Thanks. I will go through your videos and listen to what you have to say, but I still don’t have your patience and faith.

    I wish you well and success in your ministry.

  29. Thank YOU for the gracious and civil way you expressed your disagreement, and for the clear way you communicated your feelings. You are a good writer / communicator.

  30. another argument against masturbation:
    research says masturbation can be bad for you with negative side effects:

    Masturbation associated with increased prostate cancer, schizophrenia, depression, and breast cancer.
    Journal of sex research 2002;39:321–5
    Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 1989;42:1227–3
    The British journal of psychiatry 2003;182:50–6.
    Advances in Cancer Research 1988;51:1–106
    source: “Is Masturbation healthy? The sciences says no”

  31. In 1 Corinthians, The Bible also says that it’s better to stay single than married. If you find that you are being lustful or tempted to have sex… Then marriage is appropriate Bc marriage is not a sin. However it can take away the focus on the lord. That being said. I no longer think that masterbation is the sin. I think it can save us from sin if done correctly. Especially for the women who’s husband goes away. My husband encourages it. Anything can be made sin. That extra piece of cake, gossip through prayer, etc. this doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. If you feel convicted, stop doing it!

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