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Is Masturbation a Sin?

Let’s be clear, masturbation is an act of instant, self-gratification. It is quite the opposite of the self-control that is taught in the Bible. Self-control is freedom from our passions, a gift from God, and a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

GodUpdates Contributor
Published May 20, 2024
Is Masturbation a Sin?

Question: "I've heard conflicting opinions about whether masturbation is a sin or not. Can you provide a clear answer and some context to help me understand this better? I often feel guilty and ashamed after masturbating, which impacts my overall well-being. Is this guilt justified, or am I unnecessarily burdening myself with unfounded concerns? I don't lust while doing it, which I know is a sin. If I'm doing it for relaxation and feeling good, is it still a sin?"

Answer: Ah, the dreaded M-word, masturbation. It has become a hot topic in the Christian community, and, at the same time, it is still very taboo. Our culture refuses to talk about it and those who do assume we already know the definitive answer. We cannot have a healthy attitude about sexuality if we refuse to talk about it. Most Christians who adhere to a biblical perspective on sexuality generally consider masturbation to be a sinful act. While Christians base this belief on interpretations of scripture and teachings that emphasize sexual purity and self-control, many are still left wondering why masturbation is labeled a sin and harmful.

Before we dive in any further, let’s define what masturbation is. Masturbation is the experience of sexual orgasm produced by self-stimulation for sexual arousal and pleasure. There is an old joke, "98% of people masturbate, and the other two percent are lying." But here’s the deal friends; 98% is an exaggerated figure, in recent anonymous surveys, over 70% of men and over 40% of women admitted to having masturbated at some point in their lives. Let’s be clear, masturbation is an act of instant, self-gratification. It is quite the opposite of self-control that we are constantly reminded of in the Bible. Self-control is an act of obedience to our Holy God and a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) an act that requires restraint, sober-mindedness, and devotion to God.

Does the Bible Say Masturbation is a Sin?

Before we dive into answering if masturbation is really a sin or not, let's see where the Bible addresses it. Does Scripture even use the word "masturbate"?

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.” 

Proverbs 25:28 says, “A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls. But where in the Bible does it point to masturbation as a sin? Well, it doesn’t. The closest we can come, in that context, is sexual immorality and lust.

Let’s break these two concepts down before we move on. Sexual immorality is a sin. (Ephesians 5:3, Colossians. 3:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:3) Lust is a sin. (Proverbs 6:25, Matthew 5:28, 1 Peter 4:3). In the books where sexual immorality is outlined more clearly, it clearly defines who to sleep with or who not to sleep with (Leviticus 20: 10-21). God instructs his people not to have intercourse with animals (Leviticus 20:16). God tells men not to have intercourse with women during their menstruation period (Leviticus 20:18). What is the common denominator in all of these sexual acts? The sin of lust that happens to be intertwined with masturbation. 

While the Bible may not directly address masturbation, the action that most leads to it and perpetuates it - lustful thoughts - are sinful.

Jesus talks of lust (Matthew 5:27-30) and in centuries past, lust was defined as a strong desire or craving, whether it be good or bad. Lust is desire without restraint and essentially that is what is happening with individuals who choose masturbation. Masturbation most often occurs when a person is thinking sexual thoughts about someone who is not his/her spouse. The "lust of the flesh" (1 John 2:16) is sin. Masturbation is simply the result of sin. 

Importance For Men

Men, we value how God created you. We value how you are the leaders of our homes. We cherish the fact you are our protectors and our warriors. We also acknowledge you were created differently. Especially in the realm of sex and your desires. You were wired as visual creatures. You are turned on by the beauty and curves of a woman. What God intended for good in our fallen world is twisted for evil, sick purposes in the form of pornography and sex trafficking. 

God created you to orgasm by what is in front of your eyes. He also created the connection between sexual thoughts and orgasms. Therefore, in order to masturbate, it is necessary to get vivid and exciting thoughts or images into the mind. This can be done by pure imagination, by pictures, movies, stories, or real women. And dangerous enough, these images always involve women as sexual objects. This means masturbation can and will lead you down a dark road where you will treat women as objects instead of protecting and cherishing them as God intended. 

Is Masturbation a Sin if You're Married?

Once again, we are treading into murky waters. What may be permissible for one person may not be for another. Masturbation is still masturbation if you aren’t with your spouse. However, for some couples, it is healthy when a woman touches herself while in the act of having sex. For women to climax and orgasm, the clitoris needs a lot of attention. It also happens to be placed above the vagina. Therefore, stimulation in the form of foreplay is required. The argument here could be showing your husband how to stimulate you that way. For some couples, wives stimulate themselves with their hands or showing their husbands how. However, for some, the use of a vibrator to stimulate the clitoris and provide more pleasure for the woman is viewed as healthy and good. 

What about Phone Sex with My Spouse?

Where there tends to be shame associated with masturbation, the marriage bed was designed as a place where shame does not exist. God designed sex as a gift and what an amazing gift it is! With that said, the marriage bed should be honored, cherished, and enjoyed as the gift it is (Hebrews 13:4). The marriage bed is a place to be visited and enjoyed often (1 Corinthians 7:5) and it is the place where our souls intertwine, the place where unity happens — a place where two become one (Genesis 2:24). In other words, the marriage bed is a place for exploration, pleasure, unity, and delight. 

And in this day and in age, our spouses travel, often for long periods of time. That’s not to say couples in the Bible didn’t deal with long-distance periods either, however, they didn’t have cellphones and Facetime either. We begin to tread into murky waters. What may be healthy for one couple may not be healthy for another because phone sex (aka masturbating together) could open pandora’s box to masturbation alone, lustful fantasies of other people, and pornography. However, for some couples, it is a part of their healthy sex life. 

What Does This Mean for Us Today?

Masturbation is a tough topic to tackle. It's the cause of guilt and shame and is still oh-so-very taboo. If you're struggling with this issue, talk to someone. Talk to a counselor, a pastor, or a trusted friend who is rooted in God’s word. If you’re married, definitely have a conversation with your spouse. God’s word says nothing specifically about masturbation. This gives us freedom within the boundaries of, possibly, marriage for it to have a place in our lives. And even then, we must tread carefully. Here are some Biblical principles we can apply when considering the questionable activity of masturbation. 

Here are 15 Bible Verses Every Christian Should Know By Heart for you to download or share with loved ones!

Bible Verses about Self-Control

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (Proverbs 25:28)

Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. (Titus 1:7-8)

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. (1 Peter 4:7)

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:14).

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. (1 Peter 2:16)

Related Resource: The Truth about Erectile Dysfunction & Masturbation

Erectile dysfunction is one of those secret symptoms men don't like to talk about when it comes to their sexual health. However, statistics show that 1 in 3 men under the age of 40 experience erectile dysfunction (ED), and the vast majority of these men are or have been addicted to pornography. But porn isn't the only cause of ED. We've been taught that erectile dysfunction is a medical problem, and though it can be, there are other factors. Psychological issues and past trauma can also be contributing factors of erectile dysfunction, according to my guest, Shawn Bonneteau. As a certified professional mentor who's helped countless men overcome pornography addiction and ED and armed with his own personal journey with both, Shawn sheds light on what the little blue pill won't help with. Throughout our conversation, we also talk about masturbation and how it affects women and men. This is one conversation you're going to want to listen to multiple times. Grab something to take notes with and listen to this powerful conversation! 

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Heather Riggleman is a believer, wife, mom, author, social media consultant, and full-time writer. She lives in Minden, Nebraska with her kids, high school sweetheart, and three cats who are her entourage around the homestead. She is a former award-winning journalist with over 2,000 articles published. She is full of grace and grit, raw honesty, and truly believes tacos can solve just about any situation. You can find her on GodUpdates, iBelieve, Crosswalk, Hello Darling, Focus On The Family, and in Brio Magazine. Connect with her at www.HeatherRiggleman.com or on Facebook.  


Christianity / Theology / Sin / Is Masturbation a Sin?