I want to set out the scriptural teaching on masturbation, first emphasizing that God can and does bring deliverance from lust, and lustful behavior. Sexual conduct is an area I have struggled in, but the Lord has had the victory in my life over this sin, and I am not walking in lust anymore. So I don’t share this meditation lightly, nor set out His word under the illusion that this is an easy matter, but even a murderer can testify that murder is wrong.
Sometimes we are called to strenuous effort and an earnest pursuit. As Peter said, with the end of the world in mind, “what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” (2 Peter 3:11)
What are the sexual options according to Jesus?
Homosexual behavior is unlawful. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Adultery is also outlawed there. Scripture forbidding pre-marital sex is found in Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3, and below.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, [passion of lust] even as the Gentiles which know not God:
The only sexual options left are masturbation and heterosexual marriage. In marriage, intimate relations are embraced as a good for mankind, even a mandate for the married. Marriage is encouraged for those with a strong attraction, that is, most of us. (1 Corinthians 7:1-9)
Considering masturbation, God is well understood by His character of selflessness and lack of greed. Masturbation is only for the self and cultivates greed. One cannot masturbate without greed coming into play. We are instructed to die to the world, sin, flesh, and the self. (Galatians 5:24, Romans 6:11, Galatians 6:14, 1 Corinthians 10:33) This takes place by our own death on the cross through faith.
We are crucified, and dead to sin, but live to God. As Galatians 5:24 says, we “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” And we ought to live by putting to death the deeds and manner of the flesh. (Romans 8:13) Moreover, Jesus told us when He walked among us, “if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) All of this means a kind of mortification of the body, to spiritually overcome the impulses of the body as though putting it to death by the sanctifying Spirit, often with the help of discipline.
The body doesn’t know the spirit. It was “free” from the narrow way. But if we uproot the weeds of the body’s wild interest, we can find much greater peace and meaning in our lives, not to mention righteousness and salvation. Helpful discipline may include prayer, fasting, avoiding moral mistakes like being loose with the truth, and searching repentance.
We are to mortify our flesh so that it does not have power over us, and this means we cannot empower the terrible root of selfish lust to take hold of the Temple which we are.
Colossians 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, [lust] and covetousness, which is idolatry:
Sometimes pain helps a person find God, even if it is merely beating the breast. Paul says, “I chastise my body, and bring it into servitude, lest by any means, having preached to others — I myself may become disapproved.” (1 Corinthians 9:27) Apparently the word for chastise means beat black and blue.
We have flesh and our flesh is fallen. If we walk in the Spirit we will not walk in the flesh. (Galatians 5:16) Masturbation makes the total mortification of the impure urges of the body impossible. It is not dying to oneself, the flesh, sin and the world.
If it is not something right for a Temple of God, then how can we do it when we are His Temple? We will be judged for every idle word, and we are to keep the giving of thanks on our lips. (Matthew 12:36, Hebrews 13:15) And Paul teaches the propriety of such single mindedness, saying, “but God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
Jesus is the ultimate example of this mortification of the body. He lived so that He may die for us that we may know God and live. His whole life was a sacrifice. He never lost a moment at the television or in merely private reverie.
Jesus admits that while the eunuch is blessed to receive the word of warning about marriage, (“he that is able to receive it, let him receive it,”) it was implicit that many would marry. (For context on marriage, see Matthew 19:3-12.) The options here notice are marriage and being a eunuch. It is not, marry or have an active life of serial monogamy; nor is it an option to find an outlet by oneself.
Eunuchs have no sex drive, and that means a deadness toward our flesh. If we sin we have an advocate in Jesus. He is with us, and expects us to keep His holy law. He commands us to believe. He commands us to be saved, so don’t despair.
Now right after this conversation on marriage and the eunuch, in Matthew, children come up to Jesus and He lays hands on them and blesses them. In saying marry or be a eunuch, the sinless Lord implies He has kept His vessel clean and can bless the children without any guilt, because He is clean.
The golden rule is the sum of the law. In its application a man proves his character and manifests his walk, that is, by how he strives to interpret and apply love in his life. To an extent the golden rule sounds easy; merely be a good neighbor, harmless perhaps, and beyond that do what you want. However it is more accurate that our private indulgence, or lawless selfishness, our excessive attention given to the flesh, will impact our ability to be selfless with our neighbor and produce the right fruits.
One could say in a similar way it is no sin to swear when we are alone because our neighbor never knows, but our virtue is affected. We cannot have salt water and fresh from the same source. (James 3:12) We must be as virtuous as we can all the time to begin to show proper gratitude to our Savior. This life is not our own.
So while the Golden Rule is the whole law, to love one another selflessly we must die utterly to ourselves, to greed and selfishness. Therefore there is no room for perfection mixed with hoarding wealth, greed, drug use, or swearing. The command to love means a total transformation, replacing everything unspiritual with what is truly spiritual. There is no time off of being a Christian, angels are perfect and they do not leave off of the love of the Lord and the righteous things He has taught so that they can take a vacation into error. We have enough of an enemy in the Devil without joining him and making the job of the Lord harder.
While at times we may find we pass by temptation only with “white-knuckles”, the Lord also has the power to take away our lust, and He can do this fully and in a moment. This kind of deliverance is His power, and will never be achieved merely by effort, but faithful prayer and obedience moves God to do mighty things in us. Is there more explicit instruction in the New Testament regarding masturbation? If you want to look into more verses, there are some in the PDF below.