Ok, this may be the most “scandalous” blog that I have written to date. Wait, a minute… probably not. The “Gay-Bath House” series was a bit scandalous too, huh? (Gay-Bath House article).
Oh well, apparently my lot in life is to get involved in the dirty, messy and controversial subjects. So, let’s jump right into the final question for this week, which almost gave me a coronary attack as I read it knowing I’d have to answer it! Thanks everybody… Let’s just get back to asking questions that are “safe,” huh? LOL.
What are your views on masturbation? Is it okay?
Wow, so we’re gonna go THERE now? Ok. I guess I should have known that we would eventually get here. This question doesn’t necessarily have to do with relationships, however it is an issue that could impact relationships on many different levels. So let’s go ahead and discuss it.
This is a very difficult question to answer. On the one hand, many people believe it is wrong. But, on the flip side, many Christians believe it is not. Either way I answer I do two things: 1) I make half of everybody angry. 2) I assume that I actually know the answer. (LOL)
So, let me give you my best effort at an answer. It may not be perfect, but for better or worse, it is what I believe by faith right now.
First, the Bible has nothing to say directly about this issue. The word “masturbation” is not in the Bible at all. It is a subject, like dating, that isn’t discussed. And without making too much of an “argument from silence” it does at least gives us a little bit of flexibility here.
However, there is one Bible text that has been used to condemn the behavior and it is worth mentioning here because its often use in this manner is not only unwarranted but flat-out coercive and wrong.
Genesis 38:8-10: “Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother. But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so he put him to death also.”
Wow! How’s that for a little provocative Bible reading? Just tell your parents: “Hey, you wanted me to read the Bible.”
Now, when I was a teenager (like 100 years ago), this verse was quoted to me as God’s ultimate word against masturbation. The line went like this, “See, Onan wasted his seed (sperm) and God’s punishment for him was DEATH!!”
Nothing like a little fear that God will strike you dead to keep you from masturbating!
However, this story has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH MASTURBATION. It is a story about a strange, but merciful Jewish law that took care of widows and passed on family inheritance.
In the Jewish culture, if the husband of a woman died, his brother was required to marry her and save her from widowhood. And if she did not have a son to pass the deceased husband’s land and assets to, then the brother was required to father a son with her. This son would not be considered the brother’s son, but the deceased husband’s son and thus he would inherit the land. It was God’s way of providing for families in crisis and ensuring rightful land inheritance.
In this text, then, God is not addressing masturbation at all. He is punishing Onan for purposefully being disobedient and not taking care of his brother’s family.
So, if the bible doesn’t directly address this question, than what are we to make of it? Is it okay? Is it a sin?
Well . . . to say that it is a sin goes beyond what we have God directly saying to us in the Bible. Because of this, theoretically, I believe that the act itself is not sin.
However, while this makes sense theoretically, there is a very practical reality to consider. Maybe most compelling are the inevitable thoughts that go along with this act. And while no Bible text deals with masturbation, per se, Jesus does have some pretty radical things to say about our thought-life.
“You have heard it said that you should not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” — Matthew 5:27-28
What Jesus is saying here is that our “thoughts” are as important as our “actions.” The intention behind what we do or don’t do is as crucial as our actual actions.
Now, even if theoretically, masturbation isn’t a sin, think of all the thoughts that usually invade your mind during those moments. I would say that it is extremely rare that one engages in that action without some sort of impure thoughts about another person, whether you know them or don’t know them (in the case of most pornography). And these thoughts are IMPORTANT, because they affect our relationships with other people and how we see other people. Particularly for guys, this type of visualization reinforces “objectification” of women–seeing women as “objects” to possess rather than people to be honored and loved.
Couple that with the fact that masturbation is about selfish gratification (as opposed to sexual intercourse which when performed “in love” as intended is done as much for the other person as for you) and you at the very least have a less than beneficial activity.
So when it comes right down to it, I’m not sure I can make that judgment call for you. I don’t know what goes on in your head. Only you do. And I don’t know what God’s Spirit convicts you about.
But it might help as you think through this issue for yourself to be reminded that sin is not primarily a legal infraction. Sin is not like a speeding ticket. God isn’t necessarily keeping track of all your tickets and waiting for you to “pay-up.”
Instead, I believe sin is more like an infection. It is something that messes up your relationships with God and other people, like an infection messes up the way your body is supposed to work.
With this in mind, I don’t think God is going to kill you for it and you won’t be sent to hell for masturbating too much. However, it may warrant a bit of caution. Just because something may not be sin, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good for you or for your relationships with other people. And if this issue causes problems between you and God or you and other people, you would be wise to listen to that prompting of the Spirit and choose differently.
Ok. Hope that helps.
By the way, for those counting at home, I said the word, “masturbation” nine times. Oops, make that ten.