Is Masturbation a sin? What does the Bible say...

is masturbation a sin main img
Johnny Ova
Johnny Ova

Senior Pastor | Sound of Heaven Church

What You Will Learn


QUICK ANSWER- Yes, masturbation is a sin according to the Bible due to the act of lust and to some a lack of self control.

In discussions around sexuality and faith, the question often arises: “Is masturbation a sin?” This topic has been a subject of theological debate and moral concern throughout history and continues to be so in our modern society. As with any issue, it is essential to approach it with open-mindedness and a desire to understand the diverse perspectives that exist.

The Bible does not explicitly mention masturbation, and interpretations vary across different faith communities and individuals. Some view it as a natural part of human sexuality, while others see it as a deviation from God’s intended design for sexual expression, typically within the confines of marriage.

Understanding what the Bible says requires a careful examination of scripture, taking into consideration the context, cultural norms of the time, and the overarching themes of love, respect, and personal integrity. It is also important to note that different translations may provide slightly different perspectives, adding another layer of complexity to the interpretation.

While it’s important to reiterate that the Bible doesn’t explicitly mention masturbation, there are several verses that some individuals interpret as condemning masturbation and categorizing it as sin. Here are five of the most frequently cited:

  1. Matthew 5:28 (NIV): “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Some people interpret this verse as a condemnation of lustful thoughts, which are often associated with masturbation.
  2. 1 Corinthians 6:18 (NIV): “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” This verse is sometimes interpreted as a general warning against sexual activities outside of marriage, possibly including masturbation.
  3. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 (NIV): “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.” This verse often gets used to argue for self-control in sexual matters.
  4. Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV): “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Some interpreters see masturbation as part of the “impurity” or “debauchery” mentioned here.
  5. Ephesians 5:3 (NIV): “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.” As with the previous verses, some individuals interpret “sexual immorality” and “impurity” as encompassing masturbation.

Interpreting Silence: What the Bible Doesn't Say About Masturbation

Given that the Bible does not directly address masturbation, we must cautiously interpret its silence. Some argue that since the Bible does not explicitly condemn the act, it can be considered morally neutral unless it contravenes other Biblical principles. On the other hand, there are those who believe that just because the Bible doesn’t mention something explicitly, it does not necessarily mean it condones it. The task then is to understand where masturbation fits within the broader teachings of the Bible.

One approach to derive understanding is by examining the Bible’s teachings on sexual morality, lust, and self-control. Passages that discuss these subjects are often used in discussions about masturbation. The teachings on sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18) and lust (Matthew 5:28) could be extrapolated to suggest that sexual desire or actions that exist outside of a marital relationship may be considered sinful. However, this interpretation is not universally accepted and depends on one’s perspective regarding the intent and scope of these verses.

Another principle that is often applied in these discussions is the idea of self-control, a virtue often emphasized in the New Testament (Galatians 5:22-23). Those who argue against masturbation may suggest that it represents a lack of self-control and can lead to an unhealthy fixation on sex, which could be harmful spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. Nevertheless, this perspective is not universally adopted, and many argue that masturbation, when not linked to lustful fantasies or addictive behaviors, can be a natural expression of sexuality. As with many topics of this nature, the interpretation often depends on one’s personal beliefs, background, and understanding of the scripture as a whole.

“The key to overcoming addiction is to not fight it but to replace it with something you’d rather be addicted to.” – Roberto Assagioli

This quote, while not explicitly about masturbation, highlights a fundamental principle in overcoming addictions or habits perceived as negative. By focusing on cultivating positive habits, one can naturally minimize the space in their life for less desirable ones. This quote can be a source of inspiration for individuals grappling with issues around masturbation, encouraging them to seek wholesome and constructive outlets for their energies.

Leviticus 15:1-18: A Biblical Perspective on Emission of Semen

Leviticus 15:1-18 is one of the few sections in the Bible that directly addresses the issue of seminal emissions. This passage, part of the Old Testament’s Levitical law, discusses the ceremonial cleanliness of a man after he has had a seminal emission. However, it is essential to note that this passage does not specifically mention masturbation nor does it label seminal emissions as inherently sinful.

The context of these verses is crucial. Levitical law was written for the Israelites after their exodus from Egypt, intending to set them apart culturally and religiously from their surrounding nations. Many of the laws, including those regarding ceremonial purity, had both spiritual and practical health implications. Therefore, it’s not accurate to interpret the mandate for ceremonial cleanliness after seminal emission as a blanket condemnation of all acts leading to it, including masturbation.

Furthermore, it’s important to remember that Christians are not under the Old Testament law. The New Testament teaches that Christ fulfilled the law through His death and resurrection (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25). This shift does not imply that moral standards were abolished, but that the ceremonial and judicial aspects of the law, which governed the Israelites’ religious and daily life, are not directly applied to Christians. Consequently, it’s questionable to use Levitical law as a moral code for Christians regarding masturbation.

While Leviticus 15:1-18 is often included in discussions about masturbation, a careful reading suggests that it does not directly address this issue nor does it label masturbation as sinful. As with other parts of the Bible, interpretation requires thoughtful consideration of the context, historical setting, and the broader message of the scriptures. Consequently, it’s advisable for individuals to seek wisdom, pray, and get wise counsel when forming their beliefs and practices around sensitive topics like masturbation.

Lustful Thoughts: The Sinful Precursor to Masturbation?

masturbation sin female

While many discussions on this subject often focus on the physical act of masturbation, others lean towards the often-associated mental component – lustful thoughts. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made a pivotal statement that reframes our understanding of sin not just as a physical act, but also as a matter of the heart and mind: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28). This verse makes it clear that harboring lustful thoughts is seen as a sin in itself, and with masturbation often being linked to lustful fantasies, this connection forms the basis for some to label masturbation as sinful.

However, the counterpoint to this argument is that not all instances of masturbation involve lustful thoughts. Some people may engage in it as a purely physical act without the attachment of lustful fantasies or the objectification of others. In such cases, the line of sin becomes blurry and the question of morality becomes subjective. I personally find this very hard to believe. How could you possibly masturbate without engaging in lustful or sexual thoughts?

A further point to consider is the concept of idolatry. In Colossians 3:5, Paul refers to “evil desires” and “greed, which is idolatry”. If masturbation becomes a fixation, an obsession, or starts to interfere with personal relationships and responsibilities, it could be considered a form of idolatry. This perspective suggests that anything that takes the place of God or becomes a greater priority than one’s relationship with God could be seen as sinful. Therefore, it’s not necessarily the act of masturbation in itself, but the implications and effects it may have on one’s life and faith.

Despite the diverse views and interpretations, one common understanding is the need for grace and compassion in these discussions. The issue of masturbation is a personal one and can cause a significant amount of guilt and shame. It’s important to approach this topic with sensitivity, understanding that everyone is navigating their own unique relationship with their faith and sexuality. Avoiding judgment and creating a safe and open space for discussion can help individuals develop a healthier understanding of their sexuality in the context of their faith.

Different Christian Perspectives on Masturbation

The Christian perspective on masturbation varies widely across different denominations, cultures, and individuals. For example, the Roman Catholic Church has traditionally viewed masturbation as morally wrong, based on its understanding of sex as a divinely designed act for procreation within the context of marriage. Any sexual act outside of this construct, including masturbation, is therefore seen as a misuse of sexual energy and a violation of natural law.

Protestant denominations, on the other hand, lack a unified stance on the issue. Some, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, advocate for sexual purity, interpreting this to include the avoidance of masturbation. Others, including some mainline Protestant churches, tend to be more permissive, recognizing the complexity of human sexuality and the potential for difference in individual experiences and understanding of masturbation. These churches often emphasize the importance of context, motivation, and potential harm or benefit when evaluating the morality of masturbation.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Orthodox Church takes a more mystical view of human sexuality, seeing it as an integral part of our humanity that can lead us either toward or away from divine union. While masturbation, like any sexual activity outside of marriage, is generally discouraged, there is also an understanding that it may be a lesser evil compared to committing sexual acts that harm others. Ultimately, it’s emphasized that each person should strive to live a life in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ and seek spiritual guidance when struggling with challenges related to sexuality.

Overcoming An Addiction to Masturbation

This is a pretty powerful story of one of our congregation members…Ryan. He shares his story quite often. Ryan was always a devout Christian, having been raised in a family that greatly valued faith and service. He married his college sweetheart, Emily, and together they built a beautiful life, nurturing their faith and their love for each other. However, a hidden struggle with masturbation began to drive a wedge between them.

Ryan’s habit was a secret he closely guarded, a private addiction he justified as a harmless indulgence. However, as his compulsive behavior escalated, he found himself increasingly detached from Emily. He lived with a constant sense of guilt and shame that affected his relationship with his wife and his relationship with God.

Feeling trapped and desperate, Ryan confided in his pastor about his struggle. His pastor gently reminded him of the biblical teachings of confession, repentance, and redemption. Inspired by the grace and mercy of God, Ryan decided to confront his addiction. He confessed his struggle to Emily, who, while hurt, chose to stand by him in his journey towards healing.

Ryan began to turn to prayer and scripture reading whenever he felt tempted, replacing his addiction with faith-based practices. He sought counseling from his pastor and joined a support group for individuals dealing with similar struggles. As he opened up about his addiction, he felt the shame that had once consumed him beginning to dissipate.

Over time, Ryan noticed a significant change in himself. His compulsion lessened, replaced by a growing sense of peace and freedom. He found himself more present in his relationship with Emily, their bond growing stronger as they navigated this challenge together. He also felt a deeper connection to God, appreciating more than ever the power of His love and forgiveness.

Ryan’s journey wasn’t easy, but through faith, he was able to overcome his addiction. His experience not only freed him from a destructive habit but also deepened his understanding of God’s grace, forgiveness, and transformative power. Ryan’s story serves as a testament to the power of faith in overcoming personal struggles and renewing one’s commitment to their relationships and to God.

A prayer to be set free from masturbation addiction

masturbation sin man

If you are struggling with Masturbation, recite this prayer out loud and allow God to set you free!

Heavenly Father, I come before you today burdened by the shackles of addiction. I acknowledge my struggle with masturbation and the guilt, shame, and isolation it has brought into my life. I confess that I’ve allowed this habit to come between me and my relationship with You, and I sincerely repent. I ask for Your forgiveness, Lord, and for the strength to break free from this cycle of addiction.

God of mercy and grace, I ask for Your divine intervention in my struggle. Help me to replace my unhealthy habits with actions that bring me closer to You. Teach me to rely on Your Word in moments of temptation. May Your Holy Spirit guide me towards healthy ways of managing my thoughts and desires. I seek Your wisdom and strength, Lord, to lead a life that is pleasing to You.

Finally, Lord, I thank You for Your boundless love and patience. Despite my shortcomings, You continue to welcome me with open arms. I surrender my struggles to You, trusting in Your promises of transformation and redemption. I believe in Your power to change my life, and I look forward to the day when I can testify to Your goodness and mercy in setting me free from this bondage. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Conclusion: The Ongoing Debate on Masturbation and Sin

In conclusion, the question of whether masturbation is a sin is not a straightforward one. This issue tends to be complex and subjective, largely depending on cultural backgrounds, scriptural interpretation, and tradition. However, if masturbation is intertwined with lust and objectification, or if it becomes an obsession that takes precedence over one’s relationship with God, it is viewed as sin according to the Bible. It’s crucial to remember the Bible’s teaching of self-control and avoiding idolatry, which are core aspects of living a Christ-centered life.

For those struggling with feelings of guilt, shame, or confusion about this matter, remember that you’re not alone. The journey of faith is not without its challenges. It’s important to seek guidance in prayer and through the Word of God, and not hesitate to reach out to trusted spiritual advisors or church leaders for support and counsel.

If you’re seeking a community that would journey with you, consider reaching out to the Sound of Heaven Church. We believe in fostering a compassionate, understanding, and non-judgmental environment where these difficult conversations can take place. We are here to pray with and for you, to support you in your walk with Christ, and to help you navigate these complex issues. Remember, in every struggle and doubt, God’s grace is sufficient and His love is unchanging. Also, download our free APP and stay connected to Christians all over the world.

Connect with the author and
lead Pastor of Sound of Heaven Church
Johnny Ova

Follow Johnny Ova on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Follow Sound of Heaven Church on Facebook and Instagram

Ova Family