It is debatable to say whether masturbation is listed specifically as a
sin in the Bible. There are probable references to it in the Old
Testament. Even involuntary nocturnal ejaculation made the Jewish men
“unclean” and required a time when the Israelite was unable to offer
certain types of worship. However, we are not under the Old Testament
laws, so references to masturbation in the Law of Moses may be
instructive, but they do not really give a final answer for a Christian.
Therefore, to decide whether masturbation is a sin, one must use
principles in the New Testament. To explain this need, for example, being
addicted to heroine is not specifically listed as a sin in the New
Testament, but there are several principles found there which can allow
one to conclude without a doubt that being addicted to heroine is
definitely not OK. The question, then, is whether there are New Testament
principles which would clearly lead an open person to conclude that this
behavior is sinful.
I would definitely say that masturbation is a sin based on two principles.
First, in Galatians 5:19-21 one finds a list of sins of which Paul says,
“those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Included
in this list is impurity and debauchery. Impurity is holding an impure
thought in one’s mind. I do not know anyone who is able to masturbate
without holding some sort of impure thought in their mind. From our youth
we are taught and we teach ourselves to use impure thoughts in conjunction
with this act. Debauchery is giving in to pleasures in an uncontrolled way
which would lead you away from a pure relationship with God. Masturbation
seems to me to be the most obvious example of this category of sin.
Another principle which may be helpful is to ask yourself whether Jesus,
the Son of God, the perfect one, would have engaged in this activity. I
find it absolutely impossible to even conceive of Jesus masturbating
himself. In fact, even writing the phrase down seems to be disrespectful.
So, masturbation is a sin. I would imagine that virtually all adult males
(and many females as well) have committed this sin, and a majority are
enslaved to it. This does not make it OK. One needs to learn to control
oneself. It is challenging, but so is quitting drunkenness and
uncontrolled anger and a whole host of other sins. The good news is that
when one comes to God in faith, trusting in the blood of Jesus, making
Jesus Lord and being baptized into Christ, one can be forgiven of this and
all other sins. I pray you will be able to apply this to your life in a
healthy and godly way.
John Oakes, PhD