Is Masturbation in the Bible As a Sin?

Last month  I posted an article entitled “Are You a Christian Who Masturbates?” There were a lot of interesting comments and some deep questions. I was not specific as to any particular scripture when addressing the topic. I wanted to give people a chance to share their thoughts on it. But now it’s time for “Dr. Intimacy’s Final Word From Scripture” on the matter. This is a tough one to break down and it took some time to unravel the revelation in scripture. So you might want to grab a cup of coffee and get your Bible and a notebook, as I take you deep into the text to reveal a Biblical answer on the question of masturbation!

A lot of people debate over whether or not masturbation is actually a sin. Many people want to confine the Word of God to our limited English language and vocabulary. Because in their hearts they desire to indulge in sin, they feign ignorance due to the fact that every evil act is not noted in black and white in the Bible. However, the Bible tells us in Romans 1:18-19, 18But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves. 19For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts.”

Admittedly, there is no scripture in the Bible that says, “Thou shall not masturbate”. So hey, if you want to chance standing before God on judgment day with your hand in your pants, you can try this omission of specific language out as your defense! However, for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, you are getting ready to get your fill: the Bible Truth concerning masturbation. Since there is no scripture that uses the word “masturbation” (simply because there is no word-for-word translation between the languages used) let’s examine some scriptures where it can clearly be read between the lines.

“Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.” This scripture in 1 Corinthians 6:18,  has often been debated as to its relevance toward masturbation. This is because verses 15 and 16 of this same chapter, as you will read further down, makes specific reference to female prostitution. However, in order to fully understand a scripture, you have to examine it within the context of the entire passage that it is connected to.

That is why I want to take a look back to first Corinthians chapter 6 beginning at verse 9. By doing so, we can find some pretty strong references to masturbation. Since this is a long passage of text, let’s look at the scriptures a few at a time beginning with 6:9-10 “9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.”

The author of this text makes specific mention of several different acts of sexual perversion: sexual sin, adultery, male prostitution and homosexuality.  Homosexuality we understand clearly to be sexual relations or attraction between two people of the same gender. Male prostitutes are clearly men who exchange sex for money or favors, most often with other men and often as a part of idol worship. Adultery is understood to be sex between a married person and someone other than their spouse.

Then we are left with the term “sexual sin”. What is the author referring to with this term? This text was written during a time when it was culturally acceptable for men to have as many wives as they wanted to. This means that a man could not “technically fornicate” in the way we think of fornication, which is “sex outside of marriage”. If a woman was single and agreed to have sex with a man, they were married – unless she was a prostitute or committing adultery. With female prostitution already being addressed directly in verse 18 and adultery already being addressed in verse 9, what else are we to believe the term “sexual sin” means here, as it is certainly not fornication?

Now let’s look at verses 11 – 14. “11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  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. 13 You say, ‘Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.’ (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. 14 And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead.”

In this passage in verses 11-14, the author expounds upon his reference to being “greedy”, made earlier in verse 9. By doing so, he is trying to help us understand that just because we have been made “clean”, does not mean that we are exempt from the bondage of sin. You can eat, and eating in and of itself is not bad. However, you can also be greedy by overeating and overeating can be deadly. Let’s face it; overeating is suicide on a payment plan. Carelessly subjecting your body to unwholesome, damaging activities is sinful. In other words, just because the body functions enable you to perform an activity, doesn’t mean that you should engage in that activity. The author gives this simple, practical example about eating because it is easy to relate to.

Then the author wants to build upon this understanding and apply this same concept to sexual immorality in the next passage, making the point clear once again: just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should do something! 15 Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! 16And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, “The two are united into one. 17 But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.”

So now, looking at verses 15 and 16 in consideration of the entire message being portrayed, the specific reference to prostitution is no more the “focus” of this passage than any of these other specific references. What is more important than the reference to prostitution are these clauses from 13, 14 and 17: “But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality [like you can say the stomach was made for food; and since you can’t say that it makes engaging in sexual immorality even that much worse]. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. 14 And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead… 17 But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.”  These clauses are important because the truth of the matter is that ALL sexual perversion causes you to become one with somebody. Whether done rightly through marriage or wrongly through homosexuality, prostitution or adultery – sex makes you one with the person you join to.

This truth is just as applicable in the case of masturbation as with any other sexual act. Your body belongs to the Lord and is designed to die to self and sin, after you have been cleansed and set apart. This is apparent because in the middle of a passage that has nothing to do with natural death or resurrection, the author makes a clear indication of your body being raised from the dead. This is the death of flesh, death to self, death to your own will and your way that the author is talking about. When you let your body die to sinful ways, God will raise your dead body up as a standard of righteousness for all to see! Yet, instead of dying to self and becoming “one spirit” with The Lord, you are exalting your own sinful life and becoming one with the will of your flesh. And so finally, we can read verses 6:18-20 with full understanding.

“ 18Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” The Apostle Paul clearly and deliberately covered each type of “sexual immorality” (the general term that is used for all sexual activity not done with your spouse) in this passage: adultery, male prostitution, female prostitution, homosexuality and masturbation (sexual sin). The specific illustration of prostitution in verses 15 and 16 is only used to help paint a clear picture of sexual perversion that everyone can undeniably agree is sinful. He follows this illustration by pointing out that we are to be “one spirit” with the Lord.

I don’t believe that if Paul could have translated this passage into English himself that he would have included a break between the two clauses in 17 and 18, “one spirit with him” and “Run from sexual sin!”  This is one continuous thought, leading us into understanding that masturbation, which is what I believe he is referring to when he uses the term ‘sexual sin’, is just as perverse as prostitution and all of the other acts of sexual immorality mentioned in this chapter. It is not at all by coincidence that this clause is followed in verse 19 with these words: “You do not belong to yourself…”

The text could have said, “You do not belong to a prostitute….” or “You do not belong to an adulterer…” or “You do not belong to a  homosexual…” But instead it clearly states, “YOU DO NOT BELONG TO YOURSELF!”: A vivid picture of the act of ‘self-sex’ and taking liberties with your own body that are not harmonious with your estate as The Temple of the Holy Spirit.

You see, Paul wanted to ensure that no matter what kind of sexual addiction you are dealing with, you would know that this text applies to you… Yes, even you who freely indulge yourselves sexually. Now all you have to consider is this: Does masturbation honor God with your body? Can you see yourself at the throne with the 24 elders, who will be casting their crowns before Him in worship, bowing and saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy…” while you are indulging in your own flesh, enjoying sexual lust by your own hand? That is what you have to ask yourself.

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In the Power of Love,

Dr. Intimacy

Prolific Author and Speaker Specializing in Sex, Intimacy and Relationships from a Holistic Perspective – Spirit, Soul & Body

Copyright © 2011 by Laneen A. Haniah “Dr. Intimacy”. All rights reserved. Please see full copyright notice on front page for more info.