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

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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.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Bible doesn’t specifically talk about masturbation.
  • Even though something is not directly mentioned in scripture, that doesn’t mean it is okay to do.
  • In order to masturbate, you need to commit other sins. Specifically, sexual immorality and lust. We get more into that below.

Could masturbation really be considered a sin? 

Cmon now. We all have urges and desires. Would God really be upset with me if I masturbated?

A recent study according to AFA Journal indicated that 68% of church-going men and over 50% of pastors view pornography regularly, implying a high likelihood of associated masturbation. Additionally, about 12% of Christian men report masturbating daily.

Masturbation has also been proven to have devastating affects on relationships. Crosswalk had a recent article that explained that regular masturbation can lead to decreased sensitivity during sex, struggles to connect emotionally, and a sense of unworthiness in spouses, highlighting the negative relational impacts.

With sex thrown in our faces every day, how could any man or woman avoid masturbation? Wouldn’t God understand?

Pornography and masturbation have become way more normalized in our current society, but the question is not what our society thinks, but what does God think?

Can a Christian Masturbate? Is it a sin or not?

The topic of masturbation and Christianity has been a subject of theological debate and moral concern throughout Christian history and continues to be so in society. As with any issue, it is essential to approach this topic with an open mind and a desire to understand the diverse perspectives that exist.

The thing is that the Bible does not specifically mention masturbation, and interpretations vary across different Christian 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.

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.

What about the Biblical story of Onan?

If you want to read this full story in the Bible, you can read it in Genesis 38:6-10.

In the story, Onan’s brother Er dies, leaving his wife Tamar a widow. According to the custom of levirate marriage, Onan is required to marry Tamar and produce offspring in his brother’s name. However, Onan, aware that any child born would not be considered his, “spilled his semen on the ground” to avoid providing offspring for his brother. God considers Onan’s actions wicked and punishes him with death.

A widespread misunderstanding is that this passage condemns masturbation or “spilling of seed” in general. However, the act described is not masturbation but coitus interruptus, where Onan withdraws to prevent conception.

The broader context indicates that the sin is not merely the act of spilling semen but Onan’s disobedience and refusal to fulfill his duty to his deceased brother. Onan’s action is seen as a direct defiance of the cultural and familial obligations of the time, showing selfishness and a lack of concern for his brother’s lineage.

So was the actual sin Onan “spilling the seed?” Or was his sin that he disobeyed God?

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

The Bible does not specifically address masturbation, so we have to interpret its silence with caution. Is it considered morally neutral because the Bible doesn’t mention it? On the other hand, you can argue that just because the Bible doesn’t mention something explicitly, it does not necessarily mean God condones it. 

My suggestion is to look at the overarching themes of scripture because I believe the act of masturbation violates several other issues that are clearly mentioned in the Bible.

A really great place to start is reading and understanding the Bible’s teachings on sexual morality, lust, and self-control. Let’s look at a few passages that discuss these three.

Sexual Morality:

1 Corinthians 6:18–20 (NIV): “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

We know from the Bible that sex is to be shared between one man and one woman. We know that sex consummates a marriage, and the two become one. 

Is masturbation a sexual act? Of course. Does it have any other purpose but to please yourself?

You can argue that it relieves stress and feels good, but there are also a lot of other things that relieve stress and feel good but are also destructive and sinful as well.

Drinking can relieve stress and make you feel good, and I would never encourage anyone to start drinking to relieve stress because of the addictive and unhealthy nature it has. 

Masturbation would seem to fall under the category of being sexually immoral since sex is to honor God and be enjoyed between the confines of a marriage. Any sexual acts outside of that are sinful. 


Matthew 5:27–28 (NIV): “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.

Lust is defined as “a strong, intense desire or craving, often of a sexual nature. It typically involves a deep yearning or longing for something, particularly in a way that is considered excessive or uncontrolled.”

I have to be honest. I do not think it is possible to masturbate without lust. When you are masturbating, are you thinking of nothing? How would that turn you on? You are thinking about or imagining something in your mind that is stimulating you, which is the very definition of lust. 

Self Control

Galatians 5:22–23 (NIV): “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Now this one is a hit-or-miss in the sense that not everyone who masturbates is addicted to it. But if you cannot stop or have lost control of your self-will to not masturbate, then you are in sin. 

In any situation, when you cannot control yourself, you are in sin. You have given your power to control your own life to something else. Self control is a fruit or a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is operating, you are in control.

In the next portion of this article, I want to chat about one of the only parts of scripture that directly has laws about the emission of semen.

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, just unclean.

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.

It’s also VERY 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 lives, are not directly applied to Christians.

Lustful Thoughts: The Sinful Precursor to Masturbation?

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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.

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. 

Despite the diverse views and interpretations, one common understanding is that there is a 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 journey with their faith and with God.

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 differences in individual experiences and understandings 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.

Just because these different denominations have differing views does not make the topic that confusing. What makes it hard at times is trying not to offend people or just trying to please them. Taking stances is not always the easiest thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. 

We went over some pretty straight forward verses above; now it’s up to you to make that choice yourself.

The bottom line is 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. Find a safe place you can open up and allow the men and women of God to pour into your life and love on you!

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

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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.

Is Masturbation a Sin? The Verdict Is In

The short answer is yes due to the many factors we have already listed. With that being said, this issue can be a bit complex, 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 that the Bible’s teachings of sexual purity, lust, and self-control 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 if needed.

If you’re seeking a community that will 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.

Sex and Porn Addiction Help Resources

  • Covenant Eyes enables accountability relationships and internet monitoring. If you implement only one strategy, prioritize this one!
  • Support resources for men and women struggling with pornography and their loved ones.
  • Every Man’s Battle: Support resources to help men maintain sexual integrity.
  • Pure Desire Ministries: Support resources to help men, women, and students establish connections necessary for living with sexual wholeness.
  • SHE Recovery is a ministry dedicated to empowering women to overcome pornography and heal from sexual brokenness.
  • Be Broken Ministries: Support resources to help adults achieve freedom from sexual addiction and heal from brokenness.
  • Fight the New Drug – A comprehensive resource center dedicated to raising awareness about the harmful effects of pornography, utilizing scientific research, factual evidence, and personal testimonies.

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lead Pastor of Sound of Heaven Church
Johnny Ova

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