Is masturbation a sin? Does the Bible even talk about it?

Masturbation is the act of sexually stimulating yourself. Usually this involves the use of pornography or anything we can conjure up in our imaginations. Both guys and girls may fall into this habit. Usually for guys it's a visual imagery thing; girls might struggle with visuals or pornographic fiction. First off, let me encourage you that you are not the only one who has done it or even has made a habit of doing it. Masturbation is much more common than you think, but nobody ever wants to talk about it because it's one of those "things" we keep hidden about ourselves. No one wants to admit it.

The Bible doesn't really mention masturbation by name; therefore, it doesn't actually say that it is or isn't a sin. Hold on though—keep reading on, my friend. You're not off the hook yet...

Does the Bible talk about it?

There is one story in the Old Testament which is sometimes thought to be about masturbation. It's the story of Onan in Genesis 38:9-10. Some refer to the phrase about how God put him to death because he would "waste the semen on the ground." But if you look at the context of the story, that's not exactly what it says. God did not take Onan's life for "wasting the semen." Onan had a duty to help his widowed sister-in-law conceive an heir, but he selfishly refused because he knew that the child wouldn't be his. So the sin that was punished was not masturbation but the refusal to fulfill a family duty.

A second passage from the Bible that is sometimes used to "prove" that masturbation is a sin is Matthew 5:27-30. Jesus is talking about avoiding lustful thoughts and then says, "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away." All right. There might appear to be a connection between hands and masturbation, but it's quite unlikely that masturbation was what Jesus was talking about. He was using hyperbole (it's grammar; look it up!) to explain how we sometimes have to take drastic measures to stop ourselves from sinning. (Please don't cut off any limbs though. Just...no.)

So is masturbation a sin or not?

Ephesians 5:3 says, "Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity." Thinking about how we have to conjure up or seek out sexual stimulation in order to masturbate, it's pretty easy to see that we might fail that purity test.

Does masturbation or the things we do in order to be sexually stimulated glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31)? If you aren't fully certain that what you're doing is something God would smile upon, then it is likely a sin (Romans 14:23).

Also, don't forget that your body belongs to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). He gave it to you, and you really should take care of it as though you are taking care of it for Him by keeping it holy and pure (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).

Even though the Bible doesn't specifically say that masturbation is a sin, there is absolutely no doubt that the actions which lead to masturbation are soaked in sin. Masturbation is almost always an action preceded by lustful thoughts, stimulating the body sexually, or viewing or reading pornographic material—or all of the above.

Many people feel guilty or dirty or ashamed after masturbating or when they think about it later. They feel alone, like they're nasty and untouchable. But the truth is, masturbation is not the issue. The issue is what has driven the desire to masturbate. THAT is the problem that needs to be addressed. The sin begins even before we get to the masturbation part. Honestly, once those deeper problems are addressed, masturbation will no longer be an issue or a temptation.

How can I stop it?

The first step is that you must to want to stop. If we donít have a conviction to change our behaviors, then nothing anyone says to us will make any difference. If you're having a half-hearted notion that you might want to stop, then ask God to convict you through the Holy Spirit.

Confess to God: Think about why you do it. What need are you trying to fulfill? Maybe you were bored or lonely or curious or just wanted to experiment and see what happened. Maybe the good feeling you got afterward is what makes you go back and do it again and again—just to feel something exciting for once. Maybe it's grown into an addiction, and now you find that you need to masturbate in order to feel good at all, feel special, or even just to fall asleep in pseudo-happiness.

Whatever the reason, find it. Acknowledge it. Confess to God that you need a replacement to fulfill that need—something other than masturbation and/or pornography. Ask God to cleanse, renew, and transform your mind (Romans 12:2).

Find a Healthy Distraction: This is the practical part. If you know what the underlying problem is—be it boredom, loneliness, or whatever—then you can start to consider what else you can do to fulfill that want or desire. Every solution will be unique to each person's situation, and only God knows what an appropriate, healthy alternative is for you. Ask Him! He's not embarrassed to hear from you, and He won't shame you. He loves you dearly and wants to help (Isaiah 41:10).

Know When Sex is Right & Good: Sex is not evil. Sex was invented by God; that's why our bodies desire it so. But God's command is that it is only to be enjoyed in the context of marriage. Sex outside of marriage causes all kinds of emotional and spiritual turmoil that does not help us in our relationship with Him. Once you're married, you and your spouse will be able to fulfill each other's sexual needs (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).

Now for one of the hardest parts: Find a Christian friend in whom you can confide about this problem and who will pray for you and help keep you accountable. Make sure this is a person you trust to call you out, check on you, and tell you like it is. That's very important! A friend who will let you get away with things doesn't make for a very good accountability partner. ;-)

Pleasure for pleasure's sake is empty, worthless, and only lasts as long as it takes until the next time. There are much better things to fill you up than this. But don't despair, my friend. You really aren't alone. God will give you strength to overcome (John 14:13).


ALSO SEE THIS: How do I escape pornography addiction?

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Catiana Nak Kheiyn is the webmaster and editor of 412teens.org and regularly teaches local young writers at her workshops. She also contributes at GotQuestions.org, Blogos.org, and GQkidz.org. When Catiana is not writing or hanging out with teens, she loves spending time with her two kids, four socially awkward cats, and one curly-tailed dog.