Is masturbation wrong because it is pleasurable?
A Christian friend of mine brought to my attention concerning masturbation, that since the purpose and context for which God created sex to be used is between a married man and woman, (at least as far as the Bible speaks of) that masturbation is in opposition to God's design for sex and is therefore a sin.
Here is a quote from one of his replies. He is explaining his view on the way a single should live, without any sex:
"God is for the body, and the body is for God. Those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away."
We are no longer living on earth for the satisfactions of the body, nor the needs of it. We are simply temporarily trapped in it and should live in the spirit, by faith. Not in the body, by sight.
We simply get by on the necessities of the body so we can do the work of God - sleep, water, and food, are just the "gas" that allows us to "drive" the work of God to where it needs to be. It is no longer about us, none of it, it is all about Him. That's why Paul says "It is better not to get married" for those who marry care about fleshly things, on how to please their spouse, and not of God.
And those who are unmarried - should serve the Lord wholeheartedly, not going after any desire of the flesh, whether it be overindulgence of food, or oversleeping, or pleasing yourself sexually. of the body so we can do the work of God - sleep, water, and food, are just the "gas" that allows us to "drive" the work of God to where it needs to be. It is no longer about us, none of it, it is all about Him. That's why Paul says "It is better not to get married" for those who marry care about fleshly things, on how to please their spouse, and not of God.
"And those who are unmarried - should serve the Lord wholeheartedly, not going after any desire of the flesh, whether it be overindulgence of food, or oversleeping, or pleasing yourself sexually."
On one hand, I can see why he would choose to label masturbation as a sin because it contradicts its original purpose. But on the other hand, since the Bible does not allude to, or mention anything directly or in principle to masturbation being a sin, I have a hard time not viewing it as a gift from God for singles to use as a way to help hedge against temptation, remain pure and relieve sexual tension in a safe, healthy and pleasurable way. (We are speaking of masturbation solely for sexual relief or personal pleasure. Only in a physiological, or mechanical sense, not connected to fantasizing, porn, or any other lustful thinking.)
Can you help me view this from a scriptural standpoint?
The problem is that your friend is misquoting Scriptures to make his point.
"God is for the body, and the body is for God."
The actual quote is: "Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body" (I Corinthians 6:13). In context, Paul is addressing the topic of fornication. One argument made in favor of fornication is that God made people to be sexual, sex is a natural response to the desires that God gave us, so therefore all sex is allowable. Paul's response is that things of this life are temporary. You cannot use temporary things as the foundation of deciding eternal concepts of right and wrong. Yes, God made the body to eat and gave us hunger to remind us to eat. Does that mean I can eat whenever I want (which can become gluttony) or whatever I want (including stealing food from others)? By the same line of reasoning, God made people sexual and gave us a desire for sex, but God does not want His gift used to commit sin.
He then juxtaposed another passage, dropping out the context: "But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away" (I Corinthians 7:29-31). What Paul is talking about deals with something that is coming very shortly. What? "I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress --that it is good for a man to remain as he is" (I Corinthians 7:26). Persecution against the church was about to get very strong in the very near future. Because of this, people need to avoid distractions and not get caught up in a worldly point of view. These comments were not meant to be used as everyday advice. After all, Paul also said, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15) and "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4).
Hiding one's personal feelings, not getting strongly attached to possessions, not allowing family ties to sway your beliefs are all important during times of persecution when anything and everything may be used against you to break you. However, this is not how life is led when we are not facing persecution.
From this combination of a misquote and a quote taken out of context, your friend concluded that anything pleasurable is wrong. Thus, he contradicts God who said concerning sex in marriage, "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).
God did not say that we can't enjoy life's pleasures. "I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor -- it is the gift of God" (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13). The problem comes in when pleasure is our sole focus. "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have" (Hebrews 13:5). "And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content" (I Timothy 6:8). The pursuit of pleasure can cause us to lose our caution.
Where your friend went wrong was to conclude that anything pleasurable is wrong. If I'm hungry, I will really enjoy my next meal. That enjoyment did not make the meal wrong. Notice that he concluded that marriage was wrong, even though Paul stated in the same context: "But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned" (I Corinthians 7:28). He also moves from not overindulging in food and drink to not pleasing yourself sexually at all. It is a combination of unlike concepts.
The last quote is not in the Bible at all, though it is presented as if it is biblical.
Now, here is the primary problem. He is arguing that masturbation (we are assuming the physical act unconnected to sins like pornography or lust) is wrong simply because it is pleasurable. But we look at all other basic necessities of living in this world, from eating, drinking, to communicating, and, yes, even sex, and find that these necessities are accompanied by various levels of pleasure when done -- whether done for purposes of survival or for wickedness. The pleasure alone does not indicate whether something is wrong or not. Therefore, the basis of his argument is wrong. He has not proved his point. If he is correct, he has to find another way to reason -- hopefully one that uses the Scriptures honestly this time.