If you had told me years ago, when I entered the ministry, that I’d be addressing the subject of masturbation, my face would have turned very red. The subject has been taboo, awkward, and embarrassing to discuss in general, much less in the church.
But masturbation is a problem for a majority of Christian men. With pornography comes masturbation, and sometimes it’s the other way around—with masturbation, pornography can enter a man’s life as he looks for something further to stimulate him. When that happens, it is sinful. There is much confusion and misinformation about masturbation.
Here are 10 masturbation truths to consider
- Avoid the extreme of saying, “masturbation is always sin.” Can a Christian man masturbate, and it not be sinful? Many legalistic Christians address masturbation as “always a sin,” but this is not true. It is possible for a person to masturbate and not sin. How? It all focuses on the anatomy of your fantasy. If that is directed toward your wife, that is safe, but if your fantasies are directed at another woman you saw in person or in an online encounter with an image, that is sin.
- Avoid the extreme of saying, “masturbation is never a sin.’’ No serious follower of Jesus would embrace that philosophy. When a man masturbates to a pornographic image, that is a sinful activity. When masturbation takes the place of the physical act of married love, it becomes self-centeredness. When masturbation replaces the physical act of married love, that is sinful.
- It is impossible to masturbate to pornography and not sin. When a man masturbates to a pornographic image, he is bonding to that image. Changes in the brain actually take place, releasing the feel-good hormone dopamine, which creates cravings in the body for more and more. Like a drug, it takes more acts of masturbation to experience the same high. That leads a person deeper into sin and to places he thought he would never go.
- Masturbation can hinder your walk with God. Does masturbation cause you to be closer to God, or to feel more distant? Does it help you grow spiritually, or does it drag you down spiritually? Anything that lessens your love for Jesus, cools your fire for him, causes you to feel distant from him, and takes your eyes off him, should not be practiced.Galatians 5:17 says, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (NLT).Masturbation can easily become a gateway that takes you out of God’s will.
- Masturbation has the potential to be enslaving. For many Christian men, masturbation has become an addictive activity that has them enslaved. Addictions control one’s energy, time, thoughts, and plans. We look for opportunities to feed our habit.According to 1 Corinthians 6:12, ”You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything” (ESV).Remember, in Christ you are free not to do those things that will bring chains.Ephesians 4:19 warns us, ”They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” Masturbation—when combined with viewing pornography— can easily become habitual.
- Masturbation easily crosses the line into mental adultery. Jesus was clear that lusting after someone who is not your wife is committing mental adultery. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).If you are married, you need to ask yourself, Can I masturbate and not have mental images of anyone but my wife? Obviously, if pornography is involved, you’ve already crossed the line into sin. Your thought life is the battleground; Satan will look there for any opportunity to defeat you.If your mind wanders toward that woman you saw at work, at the gym, online, a billboard, at the game, or that airbrushed picture in an advertisement, sin is at the door. If you are a single adult, I believe it is next to impossible to masturbate without lust. If you can, you are a rare exception, since masturbation almost always involves fantasizing about someone.
If your mind wanders toward that woman you saw at work or that airbrushed picture in an advertisement, sin is at the door.
- Masturbation can affect your emotional and sexual relationship with your wife. Masturbation can affect intimacy with your wife both emotionally and sexually. Self-sex can create a distance between you and your spouse rather than drawing you closer to her. The temptation with masturbation is that you are putting your needs above your wife’s needs, in direct opposition to 1Corinthians 7:2-5.My professor at Fuller Seminary, Dr. Arch Hart, said: “There are three conditions under which masturbation is clearly wrong or destructive: when it is used to avoid sexual intimacy or punish a partner by satisfying oneself; when it is used to fulfill an addictive urge; and when it is used to foster lust or a desire for others.”There are Christian men who find more satisfaction in masturbating than in taking the time to have intimate relations with their wives. That underscores the selfish nature of masturbation.
- Masturbation is self-centered. Masturbation focuses entirely on your needs. Yet God’s Word teaches that if you are married, your focus needs to be on fulfilling your wife’s needs. Self-centeredness never helps you to become more like Jesus. Another question to ask about masturbation is, Will this activity help you in your pursuit of holiness? Anything that focuses exclusively on self has great potential for taking you out of the will of God.
- Masturbation can affect the way you look at women, objectifying them. Pornography adversely affects the way men look at women. Viewing pornography is like putting on a “lust lens,” seeing women as sexual objects rather than beings beautifully made in God’s image. So if you masturbate to a pornographic image, you will begin to objectify women as sexual objects. Pastor/author John Piper said: “The sexual thoughts that enable masturbation do not help any man to treat women with greater respect.”Remember the godly man Job’s words: “I made a solemn pact with myself never to undress a girl with my eyes” (Job 31:1, The Message).
- Is the Holy Spirit convicting you that masturbation is wrong? Is masturbation bringing you shame, condemnation, and guilt? Is the Holy Spirit convicting you that it is wrong? He is faithful to show you when you have crossed the lines of God’s will. If God is convicting you, then confess masturbation as sin, seek God’s forgiveness, and turn from it. You must depend upon the Holy Spirit’s power to help you to overcome this habit.
▸ Do you have a sex addiction? Take the SAST Sexual Addiction Screening Test
Here are specific ways you can overcome masturbation
- Confess your sin, repent, and seek God’s forgiveness.
- Eliminate all pornography.
- Replace lust with daily, specific Scripture by taking the 31-Day Challenge at Join1Millionmen.org.
- Confide in someone.
- Be filled and controlled with the Holy Spirit.
- Accept God’s grace.
- Think ahead of the temptation to lust and have a plan to interrupt sexual, sinful lust.
- Place your struggle at the Cross and keep battling daily.
Copyright © 2016 Dr. Jay Dennis, Used with permission.