Question:

I read your article.

In regards to the definition of masturbation, which for years has been taught to me that was a sin. According to what you say, there is no proof of that in the Word. Now, if the motives are what sets the definition of when masturbation is a sin and when it is not, then when do we define it? Doesn't masturbating include or calls for indecent thoughts that cause you to reach climax? Otherwise, how can you reach it?


Answer:

First, whether you were taught something all your life or not, such by itself does not define what is right. For example, the Bible warns there will be false teachers in the church (II Peter 2:1), it should be clear that just because a person who had followed a false teacher all his life, it doesn't imply that what he had always heard was true.

The only standard for determining right and wrong that God has given us is his Word. "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17). So it must be by appealing to God's Word that we decide whether something is right or wrong. Since the Bible does not directly state that masturbation is a sin, something you seem to agree with since you have not found a verse to cite, we then must look to see if there are things associated with masturbation that make it wrong.

I agree that many men use pornography and indecent sexual thoughts to climax during masturbation, but I know of nothing that states that those thoughts are necessary to masturbation. Masturbation is a process of mechanically stimulating yourself. The brain does naturally fall into a pattern of thought related to sexual arousal, but is it necessary that those thoughts be immoral in order to reach orgasm? If such were true, then all acts of sex, including the moral act of sex between a husband and wife, would have to be accompanied by immoral thoughts by at least the husband. We know that is not true. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4). Therefore, it is not true that a man must have indecent thoughts in order to ejaculate.

While bad habits are hard to break, and sexual bad habits are easy to establish, I have had numerous men tell me that they are able to masturbate without indecent thought, especially if they wait until the sexual urge because of semen build up gets very strong. While this isn't hard evidence, it does indicate that it is possible. One example that I've frequently cite are young men who experiences their first ejaculation in the shower. While today's society is filled with indecent ideas, still there are many young men who at the time it happened have no idea what was going to happen. Thus, the fact that such cases exist also provide incidental evidence that it is possible to climax without indecent thoughts.

The latter example is the one that I wrestled with because I was asked it on several occasions. Young men wanted to know if they sinned because they ejaculated. If the physical act of masturbation was a sin, then the answer would be "yes," but there was no verse to show this. If it was the thoughts which can make the act sinful (because it would then fall into the category of lust or lewdness) then the answer would be "no" because those thoughts weren't there. To be true to what God taught (I Peter 4:11), I stuck to what I know God says is wrong -- lustful thoughts about immoral sexual acts.

Related to this is the question of what to say about wet dreams. We understand that much as we wish it otherwise, we really don't have direct control over our dreams. Yet, wet dreams are acts of masturbation done in a man's sleep. Often they are accompanied by dreams of sexual situations which can be very disturbing. If masturbation was wrong, then each wet dream a man has is a sin. Yet, John defines sin as "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4). Sin occurs when a person chooses to break a law of God, whether willfully, through deceit, or through ignorance. But in a wet dream, a man doesn't make a choice. It is a biological response to full seminal vesicles.

I concluded that the only logical response is to state that wet dreams come about because that is the way God made men. In regards to the dreams, I point out that there isn't anything directly that can be done about them, but I do point out that dreams are combinations of things we experience during the day. If we limit the amount of filth we are exposed to, there will be less bad material for our brains to work with.

Sin is hard enough to deal with, without calling something sinful that God hasn't. "Do not be overly righteous, nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself?" (Ecclesiastes 7:16). If we set up standards beyond what God has defined, we set ourselves up for a fall because typically they involve things which we cannot prevent from happening. The result is people beating themselves up over things which are a normal part of life.

When I run across young men who because of their up bring believe that masturbation is a sin. I will typically go to "Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:22-23). For such a young man, masturbation is a sin because they are not certain it is right. There is nothing wrong with that. If a young man wants to avoid masturbation, either because he thinks the act is wrong or he cannot control his thoughts, then he should avoid it. It isn't going to cause him any harm. The male body will simply start having wet dreams more often to remove the excess semen. The only thing I deal with in such cases is making sure they understand that wet dreams are not sinful.

Wow! Your answer is most definetely helpful sir. I am most appreciative of it. For year I have had the wrong concept and have been feelings guilty of urges that as time has gone by, I have realized they are nothing but normal. As you said, this is the way God made men. We just need to know how to manage them.

In Deuteronomy 23:10-13 I found something which sounds very much like a suggestion to go ahead and masturbate so that you can relieve yourself (NIV version) - I found it too much of a delicate theme to ask one of the people I consider church leaders because it might bring them to think I am trying to get away with sinning "lawfully" or using certain Scriptures as a license to do these activities. So I did some research and found you! Praise God for you and for your obedience to your calling! You have caused a chain reaction of deliverance for me and possibly for others who I will one day share this with.

Could you help me understand this Scripture above and also enlighten me on the other side of this coin by clarifying if there is a Scripture against female masturbation? Or is this something only allowed for males?

Deuteronomy 23:10-11 is one of three passages which talk about ejaculation and semen. People are often surprised to find such things discussed in the Bible, but Peter did say, "as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue" (II Peter 1:3). Since reproduction is a part of life, we should not be surprised it is discussed.

"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. Also, when a woman lies with a man, and there is an emission of semen, they shall bathe in water, and be unclean until evening" (Leviticus 15:16-18).

"Whatever man of the descendants of Aaron, who is a leper or has a discharge, shall not eat the holy offerings until he is clean. And whoever touches anything made unclean by a corpse, or a man who has had an emission of semen, or whoever touches any creeping thing by which he would be made unclean, or any person by whom he would become unclean, whatever his uncleanness may be- the person who has touched any such thing shall be unclean until evening, and shall not eat the holy offerings unless he washes his body with water. And when the sun goes down he shall be clean; and afterward he may eat the holy offerings, because it is his food" (Leviticus 22:4-7).

"If there is any man among you who becomes unclean by some occurrence in the night, then he shall go outside the camp; he shall not come inside the camp. But it shall be, when evening comes, that he shall wash with water; and when the sun sets, he may come into the camp" (Deuteronomy 23:10-11).

These are all laws concerning an Old Testament concept called "uncleanness." To understand the concept better, I would like you to read the article "Uncleanness." Typically people were not made unclean by things that were sinful. It was sinful to break the laws of uncleanness, but the things that made a person unclean were not sinful in and of themselves. There is nothing about a pig, or a dead body, or menstruation, or any of a number of other things which were sinful.

God purposely chose some things which were avoidable, some things which obligations would not allow you to avoid, and some things which you could not help avoiding to be unclean. Menstruation and ejaculation fall in the latter category -- one for women and one for men. Any time a man ejaculated under the Old Law he became unclean for the day and anything his semen touched also became unclean. This includes normal sexual relationships (Leviticus 15:18). Notice that Leviticus 15:16-17 talks about ejaculation in general, but doesn't specify the cause. It doesn't include sex because that is covered in verse 18. Thus both wet dreams and masturbation would be covered in Leviticus 15:16. An act of masturbation or having a wet dream would make a man unclean for a day.

Deuteronomy 23:10 literally refers to a night ejaculation and is generally taken as a reference to wet dreams, though the translators of the New Kings James avoided the blunt translation and just said "some occurrence in the night." The New International were more direct with their translation "nocturnal emission."

None of these laws of uncleanness were encouragements to do these things. Rather, it specified what to do when those things happened. If you think about it, the laws would actually discourage young men from purposely masturbating too often because it would mean they would have to be isolated an entire day. However, wet dreams can't be avoided, and if a man decides he has to relieve himself to calm down his body's sexual desires, he must balance it with knowing that he has interrupted his entire day. Still, the possibility exists and how to manage it is stated.

Female masturbation is different from male masturbation. Male masturbation does relieve excess semen while giving sexual pleasure. Female masturbation is only about stimulating sexual pleasure. I have talked with boys who have gotten compulsive about self-pleasure and I give them and females the same advice: to pursue pleasure for pleasure's sake is a danger. Satan uses our body's desires against us to tempt us into sin (James 1:13-16). We ought not to be giving him extra ammunition. It is easy to fall into a trap of pursuing immoral thoughts or actions to gain the "high" of self-pleasure. Doing this moves from a bodily need to a lust, just as eating is a need while stuffing yourself every chance you get is a lust (gluttony).