By Homer Purdy, Crosswalk.com
When God created man and woman, He knew what He was doing. He couldn’t have been more detailed and intentional about creating us. This includes the parts of our bodies that bring us pleasure and make us feel good and yes, even really sexually good.
Most Christians know and accept what the Bible teaches about sex before marriage, adultery, and even homosexuality, but when it comes finding God’s position on sexual topics like masturbation, it isn’t as clear cut.
Is masturbation a sin? Will masturbating keep me from going to Heaven? What about masturbation within the confines of marriage?
Here are five very important things to consider about masturbation, and what the Bible says about it, if you’re a Christian:
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1. ‘Not A Sin’ Does Not Automatically Mean ‘Right’
Along with so many other issues and struggles that Christians may have, the Bible doesn’t directly or specifically address masturbation. Of course, the Bible doesn’t address Oreo cookies, either, so the argument that masturbation is or isn’t an issue, because Paul didn’t write about it (or Jesus didn’t say it) is a very dangerous perspective of Scripture in all unaddressed areas.
What the Bible does do is give you, the Christian, some very practical and powerful direction on how you should make decisions with your body, soul, and spirit.
Maybe the most well-known section of Scripture, regarding how we should treat our bodies, can be found in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. While it’s not too terribly specific, this passage does happen to mention two areas where a lot of people struggle: Food and sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:13).
The bottom line? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Just because it’s not labeled a sin, doesn’t make it righteous. Besides, your body doesn’t belong to you, anyway, it belongs to the Lord. (1 Cor. 6:19) This is a mindset, not a behavior—and it’s an important one.
At the end of the day, you are accountable to the Owner of your body—that is Jesus Christ—for what you put into it, do to it, and use it for. As long as you are striving to “glorify God in your body and in your spirit,” (1 Cor. 16:20) and ask Him for guidance, you’re on the right path.
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2. It’s Not Personal
Certain religious organizations and denominations have spread fear into the hearts of boys and girls for hundreds of years about the horrific physical harm of masturbation. Warnings about blindness, hairy palms, impotence, deformed children, or dead kittens have scared plenty of people into avoiding masturbation or feeling condemned to hell for doing it.
Of course, it’d be hard to find enough medical reports that could justify a correlation between masturbation and the far-fetched side-effects religious zealots have used as scare tactics in the past. In fact, a simple search of the Internet could produce an abundance of medical studies and conclusions that masturbating is actually good for you. So, if you’re looking for support for your decision to masturbate, you’ll find it in “science.” You just won’t find it in the Scriptures.
The problem with all the benefits you’ll find in the articles and websites that support masturbation is that the benefits are all about your body, but they don’t address your heart.
You might find a study that concludes that your risk for prostate cancer is greatly reduced if you masturbate regularly, but there are emotional side effects that can’t be measured.
Depression, disinterest in sex with your wife, decreased sensitivity during sex, and struggles to connect emotionally because of fantasizing, are all issues that plague men who masturbate often.
Godly women often feel a sense of unworthiness and even devastation when their husbands are in the habit of masturbating. Why? Because they feel pressure to be more, do more, and be available more to please their husbands.
They feel they can’t be the one you turn to fulfill all of your sexual desires.
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3. We Is Greater than Me
So, while, masturbation is incredibly convenient for bringing yourself to an orgasm—for whatever reason you need it when you need it—it can also be very destructive to intimacy with your wife. And, if you’re not married, your future wife.
1 Corinthians 7:3-4 says that due affection should be given to your spouse. This is contrary to the world’s way of thinking, because the world’s advice on masturbation is all about giving yourself pleasure. However, the Bible’s perspective on “due affection” is all about providing sexual pleasure to your spouse.
Paul takes it one step further, when he tells us that we should yield control of our bodies, sexually, to our loving marriage partner. And if you’re not married yet? Your body still belongs to the Lord until it belongs also to your spouse one day.
I would like to point out an important point: Sexual “ownership” of your spouse is not ever against their own desire and should never be an excuse for sexual control or abuse.
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4. Designed for Pleasure
While masturbation isn’t a sin, it can lead to sinful behaviors. And as men let’s be real: That’s what’s going to happen.
The real harmful effects of masturbation are documented, too, and they’re a lot more damaging than some hair on your palms or going blind. A recent study, in which a neuroscientist masturbated to the point of orgasm while the brain was being scanned by an fMRI machine, showed that masturbation to the point of orgasm activates and effects over 30 areas of the brain, including those involved in touch, memory, reward, and even pain.
Considered individually, the results looked random, but considered as a whole, the study revealed something that Christians should already know: there’s a design to all of it. God intentionally, wonderfully, designed the brain to light up like a Christmas tree when you orgasm.
Why? Are you sitting down? He designed your brain to want more of that feeling.
In the book of Genesis, God gave mankind a commandment to have children (Genesis 1:22; Genesis 1:28; Genesis 9:1) and, as an added benefit, He made it really, really enjoyable. God made your brain to reward your body for a job well-done.
The danger in this is that man has discovered other ways to trigger that brain-reward system. Certain types of drugs, a favorite song, a delicious dessert, winning at poker or, yes, masturbation turn on those enjoyable “reward” lights, too.
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5. Designed to Want More
Humans, by design, simply can’t help but want more and more and more of a great thing. You will become hard-wired to want more of the thing that you reward yourself with and you will become helpless to resist.
And each time your brain rewards you, it dulls your senses just a little bit, so that next time you’ll need a little bit more of what gave you that pleasure.
Then there is more science: During orgasm, oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates affection and emotional attachments, is released. Oxytocin makes us feel close to another person on a very deep level. So, whatever you’re looking at or thinking of—whatever was involved in bringing you to orgasm—is what you bond with at a very deep level and associate with that feeling.
So, then what are you bonding to, what are you feeling affection for when you masturbate? Porn? A fantasy? Yourself?
God’s intention when He designed your brain was that you would bond in this way exclusively with your wife.
His ingenious, perfect purpose—was to make you bond to and desire your spouse in every way, more and more, every day. That’s a healthy sexual “addiction” that He wants you to have.
Sexual desire and the physical urge to satisfy that desire will probably always be strong within you. Sexual subject matter can feel embarrassing or uncomfortable, but if you want help or need healing it’s important to seek out and ask for it.
Satan would love nothing more than to keep you trapped, suffering in secret.
Finally, it’s very important that you know something deep down inside about the perspective of Christ, which can be found in Romans 8:1. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This means those who strive to walk with the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit and not based on the flesh.
There is hope, healing and help to overcome any addiction or issue that you grapple with. God paid for you to walk in freedom. It’s time to truly own the gift He bought you.
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Homer Purdy is the Director of Operations of the ALIVE Radio Network, reaching the largest Christian market in upstate New York. Homer serves locally as a counselor, Bible teacher, and minister, and is a frequent missionary throughout the nation of India. Homer and his wife have five children and he is not allowed to watch the World Series unless the Dodgers are playing. His passion is to bring the Good News of the Gospel to the lost as well as to Christians who are struggling in their faith and to build the Kingdom of God one person at a time.