There's definitely two sides to this coin, some people say that masturbation is not a sin that leads to death, others say that it's a sin because Jesus commands us to deny the desires of our flesh.

So my question to you, is multi-faceted: What biblical basis for claiming that masturbation is a sin?


3 Answers 3


This is a very difficult issue. And for someone trapped in the chains of sexual sin, there is no easy answer - but there is the stunning grace of God for freedom.

From my other answer, for context:

I would answer this question by starting with another question: Do you want to live your life seeing how close you can get to sin without actually crossing the line? Are you motivated to be the most Godly person you can be (growing daily in Christ-likeness), or are you motivated to "get away with" as much as possible without actually going to hell?

Masturbation is a tricky question, since the Bible says little, if anything, about it specifically, and there's no other person involved. But we can turn my aforementioned question on ourselves and arrive at "is masturbating bringing me closer to God, respecting myself as a person and expressing pure Godly love?" (We can also direct the original question toward the naked object of our lust; I never did meet anyone who masturbated more than very occasionally without external "assistance" of a pornographic nature either in their head or their other hand). If we answer that honestly, the conclusion seems apparent.

In my experience, people engage in masturbation far more for emotional reasons and self-esteem issues than for physical needs. The need for affection can be met healthily in many other ways than this. The myriad of sayings and research about the benefits of physical contact (like hugs) did not originate in a vacuum.

FWIW, the teaching by which God brought me freedom after many years of chains was The Theology of the Body from John Paul II* for which Christopher West has an introductory book and a CD series which may be downloaded in MP3 format at no cost.

[*] Full disclosure: I am not a Catholic, rather a Pentecostal protestant. But I have a tremendous respect for the Catholic church and her people and consider them to be fellow believers. Experiencing a tremendous victory in my life via JP II's teaching contributes greatly to this.

Pacerier asked: "When it comes to God's view of sin, white is white and black is black. There's no gray areas. What I'm trying to say is that there's no such thing as being close to crossing the line. You either cross or you don't."

It's not that simple. Based on what the bible says, engaging in sexual intercourse when unmarried seems to me to be clearly a sin, while kissing one's girlfriend seems equally clearly not, although refraining from kissing until marriage may be even better. Somewhere in between there is the "line". Is masturbation a sin? Some would argue "yes", some "no", and some "it depends on the heart attitude and motivation".

My point is that regardless of the answer, it is far better to desire to be like Christ, and have an attitude that avoids "all appearance of evil". The question becomes, not "what action is permissible", but rather "what action is best".

As St. Paul said, "not all things are beneficial":

12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say — but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” — but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Cor 6:12-18 (NIV) (emphasis mine)

For myself, personally, being free and remaining far away for the line of sexual immorality seems better than seeking to get as close to that line as I can. Thus for me, having received real victory over masturbation such that it's simply a non-issue in my life, I have no desire to return to that bondage, even if it could be somehow done without sinning. Other people may come to a different place, and I don't have a problem with that.

  • Could you elaborate on the part on "crossing the line" ? When it comes to God's view of sin, white is white and black is black. There's no gray areas. What I'm trying to say is that there's no such thing as being close to crossing the line. You either cross or you don't.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 20:33
  • 2
    I certainly agree that a Christian's goal should not be to see how close he can get to sin without actually sinning. I don't tell customers half-truths to get their money and then re-assure myself that I didn't QUITE lie or steal. I don't hang out at strip clubs and then re-assure myself that I am not REALLY lusting. Etc. But on the other hand, I don't deny myself the enjoyment of gifts that God has given me because those gifts could be abused. Gluttony is a sin, but I don't starve myself to death in an effort to stay as far away from gluttony as possible.
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 14:42

ἁμαρτία, ας, ἡ sin; (1) of an act, a departure from doing what is right, equivalent to ἁμάρτημα sin, wrongdoing (1J 5.17); (2) as the moral consequence of having done something wrong sin, guilt (AC 3.19; 1J 1.7); (3) as the nature of wrongdoing viewed as the rejection of God by self-assertive human beings sin, evil (RO 5.12, 13; cf. 1.21); (4) especially in Johannine usage as a moral condition of human beings in revolt against God sin, being evil, sinfulness (JN 9.34; 15.24); (5) especially in Pauline usage as an abstract moral principle or force personified as evil in character sin, evil (RO 6.12); (6) especially in Hebrews as a deceiving power personified as leading human beings to guilt and destruction (HE 3.13; 12.1)

Friberg, Timothy ; Friberg, Barbara ; Miller, Neva F.: Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, 2000 (Baker's Greek New Testament Library 4), S. 45

"What is right" is defined within the Bible by God; God made sex for married couples.

Many will point out that Matthew 5:28 talks about adultery - that is, a sexual relationship outside of marriage. However, for the unmarried the principle behind this verse is the same - it shows that someone that looks at a woman lustfully commits fornication. Using your imagination to produce sexual images is a step toward that which God prohibits.

  • As I understand it, lust is desiring something God doesn't want you to have. Is it possible to lust for your spouse? Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 3:48
  • @ThePreacher Probably should be a new question, but to reply: I read a book once where the writer quoted Matthew 5:28, "whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart", and then wrote, See, Jesus didn't say, any woman except his wife. Except, umm, if you take it that way, then if you look at your own wife with lust, that is the equivalent of committing adultery ... with your own wife. How do you commit adultery with your wife? That's like forging your own signature or trespassing on your own property. So I'd say, No, it's either meaningless ...
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 20:50
  • ... to talk about "lusting for your own spouse", or if those words do mean anything, then there's nothing wrong with it. (With all the usual caveats about "in its proper place and manner".)
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 20:51

There are several Biblical passages that are worth considering with this question.

First, everything we do should be done for God's glory.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31, KJV)

How does pleasuring oneself, usually done in secret, bring glory to God?

Next, the Bible speaks of "youthful lusts." And we are told to "flee" them.

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22, KJV)

The word "lusts" is clear enough, and everyone knows, and often talks about, the "hormones" that youth experience.

We also know that there was an issue of "uncleanness."

16 And if any man's seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even. 17 And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even. 18 The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even. 19 And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. (Leviticus 15:16-19, KJV)

Other texts confirm the importance of this issue of "cleanness," and appear to link "uncleanness" with "transgression" and "sin."

Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile my tabernacle that is among them. (Leviticus 15:31, KJV)

And of her that is sick of her flowers, and of him that hath an issue, of the man, and of the woman, and of him that lieth with her that is unclean. (Leviticus 15:33, KJV)

And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. (Leviticus 16:16, KJV)

That emission of "seed of copulation" caused uncleanness, even when part of the marriage act. While it was not a sin to have one's own spouse when married, during the woman's monthly period it was a sin for the man to "approach" his wife.

It is likely that God has more than one good reason for this monthly "week off." First, it helps the man (and woman) to learn self-restraint. It assists in breaking the orgasmic cycle for a period of time, reducing its addictive nature, and helping to preserve noble thoughts and lives. Secondly, a woman who is not following this "ceremonial" law of health may be at increased risk of endometriosis--where blood cells begin to be produced outside of the uterus in the woman's abdominal cavity. (Few doctors would be willing to jeopardize their status to acknowledge such an unpolitically correct possibility, but it makes perfect sense when one understands the mechanisms behind it, beginning with the flow of nucleated blood, and combined with orgasmic peristalsis. They do reference "retrograde menstruation" as a possible cause.)


The Bible says we are to do everything to God's glory. We are commanded to flee from youthful lusts. We are told that the emission of "seed of copulation" is a cause of uncleanness, and we know that any unnecessary uncleanness was to be strictly avoided (sex in marriage is permitted outside of the week of the woman's blood flow).

We know that the Biblical principle of love is to govern our lives, and that selfishness is love's opposite. Without question, masturbation is a selfish act, usually performed in secret, and with shame. God does not desire us to feel guilty nor ashamed. It is not God's will, therefore, for us to do something that would cause us to feel guilty--this would not be to God's glory.

The principles add up to one conclusion: masturbation is not part of God's plan.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 John 2:16, KJV)

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