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Masturbation

No doubt, much evil is done in the name of masturbation. A search on this subject on the internet (not recommended) will substantiate that. But is masturbation evil, in and of itself? Some seem to think so.

For example, the Catholic Catechism states,

By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. "Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, copyright 1994, p. 564, #2352)

One Catholic web site plainly posts,

Masturbation is against the biblical teachings which always talks about sex with respect in the marriage context and to have children. To pursue sexual pleasure or orgasm in manner not associated with marital intercourse that is love-giving and open to the creation of new life violates the will of God and is immoral. (www.biblia.com/sex/masturbation.htm)

It is declared to violate the will of God and be immoral, yet no such teaching can be found in the word of God (Proverbs 30:5-6).

I. Arguments Against

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, masturbation is strictly forbidden.

Jewish law clearly prohibits male masturbation. This law is derived from the story of Onan (Gen. 38:8-10), who practiced coitus interruptus as a means of birth control to avoid fathering a child for his deceased brother. G-d killed Onan for this sin. Although Onan's act was not truly masturbation, Jewish law takes a very broad view of the acts prohibited by this passage, and forbids any act of ha-sh'cha'tat zerah (destruction of the seed), that is, ejaculation outside of the vagina. In fact, the prohibition is so strict that one passage in the Talmud states, "in the case of a man, the hand that reaches below the navel should be chopped off." (Niddah 13a) (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/sex.html)

Clearly here we have another example of Jesus' words,

This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Mark 7:6-7)

Certainly, Scripture never teaches, "the hand that reaches below the navel should be chopped off," or anything like it! Nor, as is admitted above, does Genesis 38 even address the issue of masturbation. Onan "emitted" (NKJV, more literally, "ruined") on the ground. Indeed, Onan ruined or destroyed his seed on the ground, but there is a reason given as to why he did this:

lest he should give an heir [literally, "seed"] to his brother. (Genesis 38:9)

His motive for doing this was evil. He rebelled against the direct command of his father (Genesis 38:8), and displayed contempt towards both his dead brother and his wife. Indeed, this was evil in the eyes of the Lord, "therefore He killed him" (Genesis 38:10); but it was no act of masturbation. It was an ungodly act during intercourse (Genesis 38:9). The Jewish Virtual Library use of this passage is perverted.

Jews are not the only ones who teach "as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:8-9). Broad way "Christians" do so as well, even on this particular subject. For example, Bud and Betty Miller of Christ Unlimited Ministries teach that masturbation is self-abuse and sexually immoral citing 1 Corinthians 6:18 (http://bible.com/answers/amasturb.html).

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)

The problem with their use of this passage is that masturbation is never described in the Bible as sexually immoral. The context of 1 Corinthians 6:18 is sex with a harlot (1 Corinthians 6:13-17), which is certainly sexually immoral. But, masturbation is never identified in this way.

Their self-abuse argument comes from "modern dictionaries," because masturbation is given as a synonym for self-abuse in modern dictionaries. But this begs the question at hand. Is it truly abusive, in and of itself? Is masturbation an intended use of the sex organ, or is it abuse? Obviously, people (at least those compiling the dictionaries) think so, and so they identify the term synonymously with self-abuse.

Bible Media Online, an ecumenical ministry in South Africa, argues,

The Bible gives us no direct answer to the question. It does not even mention masturbation. But we can deduct from Scripture principles that masturbation is an unnatural sexual practice. It is not according to the purpose of God who gave sex as a gift to be used between a man and his lawful wife, within the marriage bond only. Any other deliberate sexual act, where true love is not the main driving force, is unnatural. (www.bmedia.co.za/faq/masturbation.htm, bold added)

The Bible does mention masturbation, at least, the result of it (see below), but Scripture does not teach that it is "not according to the purpose of God." Moreover, the Word of God never identifies it as "unnatural." Homosexuality is unnatural (Romans 1:26-27). Masturbation is never spoken of in this way.

Another argument that could be made, is that Colossians 3:5 says to put to death "passion."

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, (etc. Colossians 3:5).

Also, Galatians 5:24 says,

Those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

What passions are being spoken of here? Sinful passions (Romans 7:5) and vile passions (Romans 1:26) are what have been crucified and are to be put to death. Passion, in and of itself, is not evil. Otherwise, the passion found between a married couple would also have to be put to death. But, on the contrary, Scripture cultivates this passion (see the Song of Solomon and Proverbs 5:19), and never identifies self sexual gratification as an evil passion or lust.

What about "uncleanness" (Colossians 3:5)? Doesn't the law identify masturbation, or at least the result of it, unclean? Yes it does.

If any man has an emission of semen, then he shall wash all his body in water, and be unclean until evening. And any garment and any leather on which there is semen, it shall be washed with water, and be unclean until evening. (Leviticus 15:16-17; see also verse 32)

Heterosexual intercourse is not in view here, because that comes in the following verse (verse 18). Therefore, there are two ways in which this "emission of semen" could happen. The ejaculation could be the result of a wet dream, "some occurrence in the night" (NKJV Deuteronomy 23:10; NAS "nocturnal emission," Hebrew, miqqerêh-lâylâh). Or, it could be the result of masturbation. Either way, the man is "unclean" until evening.

In the law, people are called unclean, but they have done nothing evil (Romans 14:14; Colossians 2:20-22), in and of itself (e.g. Leviticus 11:39; 15:5-8, 10-11, 19-23, 27; 17:15). In fact, in Numbers 19:7-8, 10, & 22, there they are obeying God's command, yet they become “unclean.” Also, the very next verse classifies people who have been involved in heterosexual intercourse as unclean as well (Leviticus 15:18), and clearly copulation of this sort is not evil in and of itself (Hebrews 13:4).

Moreover, Leviticus also says a woman who has a period is unclean (Leviticus 15:19-24). Does that make having a period evil? Leviticus also says when a woman has a discharge of blood other than her period she is unclean (Leviticus 15:25-30). Does that make such activity evil? Also, in the same verses that speak of uncleaness via an emission of semen, it also says you are unclean if you touch a corpse, an insect, or someone who is unclean (Leviticus 22:4-5). Does that mean it is evil to touch a corpse, or an insect, or someone who is unclean? Since Jesus touched a leper (Mark 1:41), and a leper is unclean (Leviticus 13:44), did Jesus sin? The answer to these questions should be obvious.

What about 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8?

This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)

These are some serious words to heed (Psalm 119:60)! But, again, what is being spoken of is sexual immorality, and masturbation is never identified as such. Someone may argue, "masturbation is not 'in sanctification and in honor.'" Says who? The Lord says no such thing (Proverbs 30:5-6).

II. Evil Thoughts Are Evil

Wicked men have debased minds that are filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, and evil-mindedness (Romans 1:28-29). They are "past feeling" and "have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness" (Ephesians 4:19). Therefore, it is no wonder that masturbation would be greatly abused and misused.

Jesus said,

You have heard that it was said to those of old, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

Jesus made it clear that adultery can be committed in the heart, even though no physical intercourse has taken place. "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth," (Genesis 8:21) so it would not be surprising to find evil masturbatic activity rampant in society. Masturbation with evil imaginations, which could include the use of pornographic material, is most certainly wicked (see also Job 31:1-4; Proverbs 6:25).

But, masturbation, in and of itself, does not demand such evil thoughts. To say it does, goes beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6), adds to the word of God (Proverbs 30:5-6), and denies Biblical freedom in Christ (Colossians 2:20-22).

III. To The Pure All Things Are Pure (Titus 1:15)

Paul wrote,

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. (1 Corinthians 10:23)

Masturbation is lawful. There is nothing in the word of God that condemns it. The Lord never even intimates that it is some form of abuse or not according to His purpose. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and it is not as if this is a new thing of which the Lord was unaware! Leviticus 15:16-17 addresses the issue, at least the result of it, and no condemnation is given. Therefore, neither should we condemn what God does not (Matthew 7:1-2).

Furthermore, since it is a practice the Lord does not condemn, and Paul point blank says "All things are lawful," it is something that the pure, with pure thoughts, could practice and still be pure (Titus 1:15). In fact, those who maintain that masturbation is impure, are those who put man made regulations upon men. As Paul rebuked the Colossians for submitting to such things, saying,

If you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations - "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using - according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)

Such a regulation of "Do not touch, . . . do not handle" your genitals, i.e. do not masturbate, is a commandment and doctrine of men. It may very well have the appearance of wisdom, but no such "wisdom" is found in the word of God. It is the wisdom of the world, which God calls foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19); and it is indeed "self-imposed religion." It may very well result in "neglect of the body," that is, the body that is crying out for relief! It is also of "no value against the indulgence of the flesh." If anything, it exacerbates the problem. People left to no sexual satisfaction whatsoever, like Catholic priests who are told they cannot masturbate or get married, are left to the temptations of the flesh with little to no power to overcome.

"But," someone might argue, "believers, who have the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:23, "self-control"), should be able to overcome in such a situation." On the contrary, Scripture identifies Spirit filled married people as those who lack self-control in this area (1 Corinthians 7:5). Spirit filled single people may as well (1 Corinthians 7:9). Having the Holy Spirit does not mandate absolute control in this arena, especially when man made standards are placed upon an individual, standards that were never meant by God to be imposed (in righteousness, that is).

Finally, Paul said, "All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful." Can masturbation be helpful? Certainly, it can be helpful in alleviating the sexual drive, as long as it is done with pure thoughts, as it is written, "To the pure, all things are pure" (Titus 1:15). A godly person, motivated by a godly motive, certainly could masturbate without it being sinful or self-seeking. For example, a man of God wanting to alleviate the sexual drive in his striving to be pure and not wanting to be in a vulnerable position for temptation towards sexual immorality via pent-up sexual desires, could certainly masturbate with this in mind (wanting to be sexually pure) and it would be pure. Nothing in the word of God condemns this.

IV. Godly Limits

Even though Paul says, "All things are lawful for me," he also says, "but I will not be brought under the power of any" (1 Corinthians 6:12). Masturbation should not control the individual. The individual should be in control of any masturbation. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23) and should be a continual reality in the life of any believer (Romans 8:5-6).

Also, for married people Paul writes,

Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)

Since the wife and husband do not have authority over their own bodies, then masturbation should be in subjection to the spouse. In other words, any masturbation needs to be in submission to the spouse's desires and it should in no way diminish or take away from sexual intercourse and orgasm within the relationship. If it does, then a husband or a wife might deprive their spouse, either in part or in whole, in disobedience to 1 Corinthians 7:3-5.

Furthermore, as long as the spouse is available, sexual pleasure should be found in this relationship, as Proverbs declares to the man,

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. (Proverbs 5:18-19)

V. Conclusion

Those who maintain that masturbation is evil, in and of itself, are like the Pharisees of old of whom Christ said:

They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. (Matthew 23:4; see also Luke 11:46)

The sexual desire is a God given desire (Romans 11:36) and it is not evil in and of itself (Romans 14:14). Moreover, God has made a way for even those who are not married (male or female), or those who are away from their spouse (like a soldier at war), to at least somewhat satisfy the sexual drive via masturbation. It is oppressive to teach that such an act is against the will of God, and it is evil to maintain such a cause against the innocent in this matter (Proverbs 30:5-6).

Scripture says,

To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. (Titus 1:15)

If you have been defiled on this subject by those who profess to know God but deny Him (Titus 1:16) and your conscience is not pure on this matter (Romans 14:22-23), it is high time to renew your mind.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

This subject is a good example of Christ's words found in Matthew 11:28-30.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

The commandments of men are burdensome, but God's commandments are not (1 John 5:3).

They are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. (Proverbs 4:22)

Questions

Bryan Keith (ironsharpens@yahoo.com) wrote asking several questions on this subject. Most of the questions and the answers are listed below.

"Does, 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, instruct a single person to marry or masturbate if they cannot exercise self-control?"

Neither. It instructs the church to "let them marry".

"If it is to marry, then is teaching an unmarried person to masturbate, instead of marrying, adding to the scripture (Proverbs 30:5-6) of 1 Corinthians 7:9?"

It certainly is, and our article teaches no such thing. If you think it does, please give us the quote so we can correct it.

"do you condemn others for adding to scripture (Luke 6:37)?"

Yes we do, time and again, as Scripture does (Proverbs 30:5-6).

"Is it written, in Romans 14:1-13;21, that a believer is not to judge or cause another believer to stumble concerning disputable matters of faith, even matters such as what to eat or to drink or which day(s) is/are sacred or anything else"

The "disputable matters of faith" in Romans 14 are matters of one's own conscience before God (see verses 22-23). If they are left to one's own conscience, they are "disputable" and not to be judged (as both parties are told not to judge, see verses 3-4, 10-13). If they are matters of doctrine (teaching others), then they are a matter of life or death, heaven or hell, as these same issues are addressed as matters of doctrine (the faith) in 1 Timothy 4:1-3 (eating) and Galatians 4:10-11 (days).

In 1 Timothy 4:1-3 Paul addresses two doctrines (forbidding to eat certain foods and to abstain from marriage) as identifying doctrines for those who "depart from the faith" and follow "doctrines of demons." So, in Romans 14, when left to one's own personal conscience (not doctrine), we are not to judge. When it is a matter of doctrine, we judge such people as those who "depart from the faith" and follow "doctrines of demons."

Likewise, in Galatians 4:10-11 Paul says, "I am afraid for you" because "You observe days . . . " etc.. In Romans 14, when left to one's own personal conscience, observing days is no big deal (Romans 14:5-6). When it becomes doctrine, as it was in Galatians, it's a matter of heaven or hell, that's why Paul was afraid for them, because they were being taught a false gospel (i.e. false doctrine, Galatians 1:8-9).

"In light of, 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, would not masturbation be one of these disputable matters?"

Indeed, as a matter of personal conscience. If it was taught as doctrine, it should be contended (Jude 3) for what the Biblical view is.

"If someone, who is not married, were to adhere to your teaching and during masturbation think of another person in a sexual nature, would they not end up committing fornication?"

Of course, if they were lusting for that person (similar to Matthew 5:28).

"If so, have you not led them to stumble/sin, especially if according to their faith they had previously refrained from masturbation?"

No, because we have a whole section in that article addressing such wickedness. If they did so, they would be rejecting what we have taught.

"Is it reasonable to believe that someone who previously refrained from masturbation, because it was an area of weakness in the past, might again be tempted if someone is teaching them that it is alright to do so because God is silent on the matter?"

God is not silent on the matter, or on any matter, that Scripture does not condemn (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23; Titus 1:15). That person, if they believed God, would find it quite liberating, because God puts no such prohibition on man anywhere in the Word.

"What about a previous alcoholic, would it be edifying for them if they were encouraged by someone to drink because scripture does not condemn it?"

Again, if they believed what the Bible teaches on that subject (www.atruechurch.info/alcohol.html), they would find it quite liberating (2 Corinthians 3:17), and since they would have the Spirit of God, they would have self-control (Galatians 5:23) and would be able to drink in moderation.

"Would it be edifying for a previous alcoholic to have another person of faith drink around them (Romans 14:21)?"

That depends on the conscience of the ex-alcoholic. If he is weak in his faith/conscience (as described in Romans 14), then no. That's why Romans 15:1-2 goes on to say that those who are strong in the faith are to "bear with the scruples of the weak" . . . "leading to edification." In other words, the strong in faith are to not be offensive in the matter, that they might build the others faith and bring them to the point where the weak brother's conscience lines up with the teaching of the faith. Of course, all along the weak brother must acknowledge the teaching of Scripture on the matter. That's how he could not judge those who are strong (Romans 14:3). Nonetheless, the weak brother is encouraged to get his conscience in line with the teaching of the Word, so that he is comfortable (in conscience) on the matter.

"Is it written, in Galatians 5:22-23, that self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit?"

Indeed it is.

"Is masturbating an indication of self-control or is abstaining from masturbation and controlling your sexual passion an indication of self-control?"

Neither is necessarily an indication of self-control. Only when one views masturbation as a sin does it indicate to one's mind a lack of self-control. Moreover, one can abstain from masturbation and still lack self-control. Married couples are explicitly told they lack self-control (1 Corinthians 7:5). That doesn't mean they masturbate.

"Is masturbating, of the Spirit or of the flesh?"

Neither, specifically. "Whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). If you give to the poor, but not from faith, it is sin. If you plow a field not from faith, it is sin (Proverbs 21:4).

"Do you think Jesus masturbated?"

The Bible doesn't say (Proverbs 30:5-6).

"Do you think Jesus had control over His sexual passion or did He “burn with sexual passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9)?"

No doubt, Jesus had self-control over His sexual desires (Galatians 5:23). Burning with sexual passion is never identified as sin. It is simply noted as having strong sexual desire, as 1 Corinthians describes it as literally, "to burn" (Greek infinitive; "with sexual passion" is not in the Greek). Such temptation Christ certainly experienced (Hebrews 4:15). The sexual desire is not sinful in itself.

"Is it possible for a person of faith to consider or believe that masturbation is a lack of self-control?"

Yes, if they are ignorant of the Word on the matter.

"Do you think that, Romans 14:21, leaves room for something like masturbation, when it says “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak?”"

This is not something that would be practiced with any brother present. Paul is not addressing abstinence from eating or drinking when the brother is nowhere around. 1 Corinthians 10 deals with this very same subject matter, and there it shows that it has to do with anyone present. See 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. See also 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

"Therefore, is masturbation disputable?"

Only when talking about one's own conscience before God.

"If God is silent in scripture as to whether masturbation is good or evil, should a person of faith be silent on the matter also (in so much as not judging others concerning disputable matters)?"

God is not silent on what He is silent on (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23; Titus 1:15).

"Can you prove, through scripture, that an unmarried person, gifted by God with self-control in regards to NOT burning with passion (1 Corinthians 7:7-9) would have a need to achieve self sexual gratification?"

Your question implies sin on your part. There is no Biblical mandate to prove such a thing, unless you have a manmade standard (Matthew 7:1-2; 15:8-9), and that standard would be sin (Proverbs 30:5-6). When things are lawful (Titus 1:15), there is freedom to do or not to do. It is not a matter of need. Your question is like asking,
 
"Can you prove, through scripture, that a sober person, gifted by God with self-control in regards to NOT having a passion to drink would have a need (minus 1 Timothy 5:23) to drink alcohol?"
 
God "gives us richly all things to enjoy" (1 Timothy 6:17). It is lawful to enjoy what He has given. We should consider its profitability (Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23 "helpful") within our own conscience before God (Romans 14:22-23; 1 Timothy 1:5), but it is not a matter of need.

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