Regarding masturbation let me throw myself out there and publicly state that I'm not holier than thou. I'm a 28 year-old "virgin till marriage" and sexually abstaining has been painfully hard. Our highly-sexed society, and the fact that this same society generally has us marrying one to two decades past puberty has made an intense battle of the struggle for sexual purity. Add to the equation significant others and the potential for immediate sexual intimacy, and one's natural urges turn into a mine-field of daily temptation. It's no wonder then that abstinent-by-choice teens and adults sometimes feel like clawing at their bedroom walls in frustration, and when faced with the choice to indulge in their desires, choose instead to "take matters into their own hands".
What are we to say of Christians and masturbation? It's the lesser of two evils? A good way to retain your virginity while relieving your sex drive? A chance to practice and get to know your own body? After all, the Bible doesn't mention masturbation. Nor does it mention oral sex, dry humping, mutual masturbation or groping outside marriage.
So what can we conclude by the Bible's silence on masturbation? That everything but Tab A into Slot B sexual intercourse is acceptable before marriage? So long as we can hold on to that elusive medical definition of virgin and our relationship can boast an intact hymen we can call ourselves chaste? Maybe not. After all no one would argue that because the Bible doesn't mention "drive-by-shootings" that doing so is acceptable. We would draw the likely conclusions by pointing to Biblical passages about life and murder that do teach us God's position about such things.
So what can we know about God's view of our sexuality that might help us answer the question of whether or not masturbation is Biblically acceptable, and by the same token groping and other sexual touches outside of marriage?
- First off, we can go back to the Bible’s first mention of sex, when Adam and Eve showed up and we were told that man and woman were to cleave together and become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
- We then see how highly God values marriage and how sacred he views the sexual union through the many Levitical rules and all throughout the old testament.
- Song of Solomon paints a picture of God's delight in the sexual union, and in the enjoyment that a husband and wife were to take in each other's bodies.
- Enter the new testament and we learn that Christ's relationship with us is one of purity. He desires a bride who is pure and chaste, reserved for Him and not in bed with the world. (2 Corinthians 11:2)
- Marriage is said to be a reflection of the union between Christ and His church, his bride. (Ephesians 5:21…)
- For this reason the sexual union is to be valued and the marriage bed kept pure. (Hebrews 13:4)
- Marriage is held in highest esteem and divorce/ the breaking of the union through adultery is hated by God (Malachi 2:16)
- Sex is to be reserved for marriage, the one-flesh Christ-Bride/ man-woman union, and any deviation from that is called “fornication”, “adultery”, “sexual idolatry”, and “sexual immorality”. The Bible calls us to avoid these, and fall under judgment for unrepented disobedience (1 Thessalonians 4:3, Galations 5:19, Hebrews 13:4, Revelation 21:8, 1 Corinthians 6:9 etc)
This much the Bible affirms and most Christians agree.
So where does masturbation fit into all this?
In The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus says the following:
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (emphasis added).
Whoah! Heavy stuff. If Jesus values the sacredness of the marital union so much that even fantasizing and thinking lustful thoughts about someone who is not our spouse, is on par with adultery and a violation of the marital union, how many of us are guilty of infidelity toward our future spouse? Few people can or do masturbate without fantasy and visual or mental stimulation.
But, you say, God made us to be able to enjoy sexual pleasure. Even 1 Timothy 5:11 and 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 acknowledge that unmarried people have natural desires, no?
Yes. We do have sexual bodies complete with natural sexual urges. And yet 1 Corinthians 6:13,18-20 reminds us as Christians that our bodies belong not to us for our own pleasure but to God first and foremost. God wants us to use our bodies to honour Him, not to please ourselves.
“13 ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food’—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.…18Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
…Surely we are not honouring the owner of our bodies when we lie in bed fantasizing our way through a non-marital sex act with the non-spouse in our head.
Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians Chapter 7, the apostle Paul describes marriage as a relationship of mutual giving - the wife gives her body to her husband for his pleasure, and he give his wife his body for hers. By default, in an ideal situation both should receive pleasure, but only because both partners have their spouse’s interests and pleasure in mind. In contrast, masturbation teaches us to be selfish. We learn to focus on our own body and learn to attain sexual pleasure entirely without our spouse. How can we then expect to simply transition into a union where it’s all about the other person’s sexual pleasure and not our own? How will we learn to not see our loved-one’s body as an elaborate sex toy that perhaps doesn’t even “work” as efficiently as our own hands or toys?
"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people." (emphasis added)
I don’t think God needs to explicitly say: “No extra-marital groping, no oral stimulation, no selfish or self-given orgasms” for us to get the message. “Not even a HINT of sexual immorality” doesn’t leave much room for much fooling around.
If you’re a Christian, your body belongs to God, and if you’re with someone who is not your spouse then they don’t belong to you either and “hands off” seems to be the appropriate protocol according to the Bible.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
"It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; "that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God;