The Bible is notably silent on the issue of masturbation. Some people have argued that the sin of Onan in Genesis 38 was about masturbation, but that is not the core issue that displeased the Lord. Onan’s duty was to produce offspring on behalf of his brother who had predeceased him and he didn’t want to give his sperm for a child that wouldn’t be his. So he would have sex with Tamar and pull out and ejaculate outside of her. This displeased the Lord so much that Onan was struck dead. It was wicked in the Lord’s sight, not because of the act of pulling out, but rather because Onan dishonored his responsibility to Tamar. God is much more concerned with what is happening in our heart when we sin, than the actual act.
The understanding I have come to regarding the issue of masturbation is that it appears that in and of itself, it is not a sin. The problem is that often there is no separation between masturbation and other sin issues that the Lord has been clear about.
Let’s use this episode of Friends as an example. Chandler is caught masturbating by Monica, but the sin issue isn’t that he was masturbating, but rather that he chose to give into temptation and was lusting after someone in porn. If he had been talking to his wife on the phone and they were mutually celebrating their sexuality together, focused on growing in intimacy with one another, I would not have a problem with this situation (save that it isn’t something others should be watching occur on TV), but this is the problem: masturbation and lust are often viewed as the same act because the masturbation and the lust can be happening simultaneously. God has been clear about lust. In His Kingdom, lust and adultery are no different from one another so to get aroused from pornography and then masturbate with lust in one’s heart would be sin. This would displease the Lord not because touching yourself sexually is sin, but because 1) the person being lusted after is one of His kids and it disrespects them, 2) the person being lusted after belongs to their spouse (either now or in the future) and it disrespects their relationship with one another and 3) what a person focuses on when they orgasm becomes a tie in their soul to that thing which damages the sexual relationships they might have that God established and blessed as right.
The Lord is very concerned with anything that interferes with our relationship with Him. If someone is masturbating to the extent that it becomes a greater focus in their lives than the Lord, then it can become a sin issue, but a person could masturbate every day and still not have it be something that comes between them and the Lord in the same way that a couple could have sex every day and still be well balanced contributors in the Kingdom of God. If it becomes an addiction to them which then usurps the position of Jesus as Lord of their life, this is where the line is crossed to having masturbation become a sin. Again it is a heart issue, not the act.
Another consideration is that in marriage solo masturbation should not replace sexual union between a husband and wife. Under normal circumstances, the priority is for the couple to join together for sex. If the husband and wife mutually discuss and accept that there are circumstances when they bless the other to masturbate, then they just need to be sure that it is not replacing their union. “The two will become one flesh” is one of the most amazing promises and blessings from the Lord and that should be the priority.
So in summary, let us acknowledge that it is the condition of a person’s heart that determines if their masturbation a sin, not the act itself. Let us focus every part of our lives on the Lord and submit all issues pertaining to masturbation to Him. Let us always walk in self control and not let anything have mastery over us. I don’t want my kids growing up believing that their sexuality is bad or to be ignored while they are single. I want them to learn how to have self control and manage their sexuality in a godly way.
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