In Part 1 of this FAQ, we demonstrated that when masturbation is mentioned in the bible, it is not condemned. If we claim it is wrong in spite of that fact, we risk creating and promoting a “man-made” rule for righteousness… something that’s doomed to fail (Col. 2:20-23).
But masturbation and lust are pretty tight… Could it be that masturbation should be considered wrong… because lust is wrong?
Let’s Agree about Lust…
“Don’t Lust” absolutely IS one of the “God-made” rules for righteousness. In the Old Testament, it is the 10th commandment (Do not covet… your neighbor’s wife) and in the New Testament, Jesus stated it quite clearly in Matthew 5:28.
So, where there is sinful lust, there is sin. Period.
But… What IS Sinful Lust?
This will be the subject of a future blog post, but for now, let me offer a working definition here:
Sinful lust is a strong desire for—and the intent to possess—something which I cannot righteously obtain.
Notice that it is not simply a strong desire for something, but also the active intent to pursue the possession of it. Notice also that if the object of the desire can be righteously obtained, it is not sinful to desire and possess it.
Is Masturbation Always an Expression of Sinful Lust?
Let’s be clear… if the answer to that question is “yes,” then we can declare unequivocally that masturbation is wrong.
But what if the answer is “no”? What if it is possible to masturbate without sinful lust?
As I already said, anytime masturbation is engaged in lustfully, it is wrong. But what about masturbation without lust? If that is possible, then based on what we covered in Part 1 of this FAQ, we have to conclude that masturbation itself is not forbidden in Scripture.
Therefore, that’s the question we have to address.
Answering That Question… Subjectively
To start with, we should acknowledge that in the one passage where it is mentioned in the Bible, masturbation is not equated with lust. Since the Bible is silent on that question, any objective scriptural declaration on a masturbation-lust connection is not possible. Instead, we have to look at our subjective experience.
And since we are in the realm of the subjective, we should very naturally expect that different people will have different experiences, and therefore reach different conclusions.
My Own Experience
I can only speak from my own subjective experience, but for the purpose of the question at hand, it is as valid as anyone’s.
I can unequivocally say this: I learned to masturbate long before I knew…
- the mechanics of sex.
- what sexual attraction to a woman was.
- that masturbation had anything to do with sexual function at all.
I first started masturbating even before I was physically mature enough to ejaculate. And no one “showed me how,” either. It was simply a matter of discovering the function my own body.
When I think back on it, I know that I was not lusting after anyone. There was absolutely nothing that I was desiring that I could not righteously possess. I was only exploring and experiencing the pleasurable sensations produced by my genitals in response to stimulation (which, by the way, is part of God’s good design of our bodies).
My Own “Valid” Conclusion
Therefore, my conclusion has to be that it IS possible to masturbate without sinful lust.
Of course, I learned to associate and practice masturbation with sinful lust later, but that was a learned association, not an intrinsic one. And anything that can be learned can also be un-learned.
I know that others’ experiences might lead them to a different conclusion. And, of course, their experience and conclusion is just as “valid” as mine. Their conclusion applies to their life, and mine applies to my life.
But if masturbation without lust is possible for me, it must also be possible for others. Consequently, no one can claim that masturbation is always an expression of sinful lust for everyone!
… although many do make that claim.
Those who claim that masturbation is not possible without sinful lust are really only admitting that they themselves cannot masturbate without lust.
For them—and for that reason—masturbation is wrong. But that does not give them the right to impose their own limitations on everyone else.
Pick the Right Fight
If you’ve been fightingfightingfighting the urge to find physical release through masturbation… I suggest that you’ve been fighting the wrong battle.
Here’s why: when you finally “give in” to the urge to masturbate, you don’t even try to avoid lust. Have you noticed that?
You have so thoroughly bought the lie that masturbation IS lust that you have just assumed that a decision to masturbate is also a decision to lust.
Those two decisions don’t have to be linked.
What if—instead—you determined that when you feel the need for release, you maintained control of your thoughts… to ensure that you were not objectifying and mentally “using” other people for your own gratification?
Could you not instead offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for His design in your sexual capacity? Couldn’t you give thanks for the hope that your sexuality holds for you to reflect His image as a source of new life? God wants you to be sexually virile. He intends for your gonads to function… especially while you are young. He made you that way on purpose!!
A Little Known Secret…
Nobody really seems to know it, but guess what… the battle to avoid lust in our hearts is much easier to win than the battle to suppress the sex drive and sexual function in our bodies!
Whose big idea was it that we should think of them as one and the same? Wait… I think I know the answer to that one…
Listen—it is no coincidence that the battle that is easier to win is also the only one that God has told you to fight!!
If you assume that masturbation and lust are synonymous, your battle with lust will be nigh on impossible to win (know the feeling?).
Do yourself a favor… focus only on the real fight.
Yes… you have permission.
— Pastor David Martin
For the rest of the articles in this FAQ series:
- FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 1)
- Masturbation in the Bible (it IS there!)
- FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 3)
- “How Much is Too Much?”
- FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 4)
- How Man-made Rules Impede Purity
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