still_life_with_open_bible_candlestick_and_novelMasturbation and Lust… are they the same?

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

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For the rest of the articles in this FAQ series:

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4 Responses to FAQ—What about Masturbation? (Part 2)

  • Pastor Ed,
    Thank you so much for this wonderful series on masturbation. I know you seem to be addressing male masturbation, but I wanted to point out that females masturbate too, and definitely have a need for sexual release. I begin masturbating at a very young age, before I even knew anything about sexual desire or release. I don’t recall exactly when, but I would guess that I was around the age of seven or so. My father was a very sincere minister; sex was a no-no subject in our house. The very word was “dirty” and something that a good christian didn’t discuss. Don’t get me wrong; my dad(who is now deceased) and mom were both wonderful people, but they just weren’t comfortable discussing sex, lust, or masturbation. I used to have guilty feelings for masturbating, even at a very young age. I didn’t know anything about sex, but I just instinctively knew that my parts down there were “dirty” somehow and that if my parents knew that I was playing with myself, I would be a very ashamed and bad little girl. Of course, as I grew older, I learned there was a word for this pleasurable act and all the girls who talked about it did so in breathless, giggly voices. The implication was that it was a naughty, but thrilling thing to do. Because of this, I’ve always had a very guilty feeling while masturbating, and like you, I was told it was lustful, and therefore after I became old enough to know about sex and sexual experiences, I started fantasizing every time I masturbated. Another so-called “truth” that is prevalent is that men have a problem with lust and masturbation because they are so visual. I can tell you from experience that women can and certainly do have this problem too. I like looking at naked men and was drawn to male bodies from a young age also. When I got my first computer, what do you think were some of the first things I went searching for? Erotic pictures and video that gave me access to handsome, naked men and men and women engaged in sexual acts. I’m definitely not proud of this. I just wanted to point out that God created both the male and female to be attractive and sexually desirable to each other.
    I was single and still a virgin for the early part of my twenties. Although I struggled on a daily basis with lust, I still considered myself to be a christian. I wanted to find a Godly man to marry and I rationalized that it was better to masturbate than to commit physical fornication. Unfortunately, I also entertained many lustful thoughts and fantasies as a way to bring myself to orgasm. Then I felt so terrible after each time, I would plead with God to forgive me and save me from my sin. This continued until finally at a very low point in my life, I just gave up the seemingly endless fight that was doomed to failure and actually committed the fornication that I had so desperately tried to prevent. I continued to masturbate on a regular basis, with the ever-present feeling of shame. To make a long story short, I ended up married to a Christian man(who secretly masturbates, too, I’m sure!), and ten years into our marriage I still have this problem. It’s a feel-good habit that I cannot seem to break, but I always come away from it with a dirty, guilty feeling, because I know I feel lustful while doing it. I do sometimes think about my husband while masturbating, but certainly not always. My husband has a problem with porn because, sadly, he too, is a victim of our culture and all the lies we have been fed from childhood on up. He struggles greatly in this area and it has had a bad effect on our marriage. I am no help really, because secretly I struggle with lust too. It hurts me deeply that he lusts after other women and looks at internet porn, but I would be a hypocrite if I were to make a big fuss over it because I have the same problem in reverse. Outwardly, I am a strong, level-headed Christian woman, and it would shock and disgust those who knew me if they knew how many times my mind is on sex and sexual images . I think about it many times through-out the day and I masturbate often. My marriage and intimacy with my husband has been hurt also because I grew up with this pornographic view of the body. Even though, I struggle with porn and masturbation, I also struggle with a healthy self-image and understanding of the body. I have a hard time letting my husband see me naked because I’m ashamed of my nakedness and it feels sinful . I feel guilty about it. I love to look at him, but at the same time I have a sense of guilt and shame about it. Our marriage has suffered because of this. I need him. I need the sexual outlet that he can provide, but because I feel shame in the act, it is easier for me to wait until I have a free moment while he’s gone and then I conjure up images and fantasies in my head while masturbating.
    Your series is helping me realize that the implied teaching that was there in my upbringing was wrong and the information I was fed while a teenager and young adult is deeply flawed. Sexual desire, the act of sex and masturbation isn’t inherently evil or dirty. It’s a God-given gift to both genders. The world has given us a lie that has destroyed both men and women. Thank you for offering me hope for my situation and my husband’s. We are both victims. Both of us are addicted to pornography to a certain extent. The difference is that I am aware of his addiction, and he has no idea about mine. My shame is always too great to allow me to reveal it to him. I am reading your articles and I’m hoping to one day be able to get my husband to read them too. I think it would be the salvation of our marriage.
    I am opening up on this blog because I think there are other women out there with this problem, and my hope is that they will stumble across your site, read my story and find hope in knowing that they are not alone. Women do have a problem with lust, masturbation, and pornography also. It’s not solely a male weakness and sin. So many times you come across help sites for men and how they can deal with sexual sin, but women are left in an abyss of darkness and shame because so few people realize or sympathize with the fact that we suffer sexual sins also. We are often afraid to admit we have this weakness. But the truth is we aren’t just objects of sexual desire for men, we are sexual beings created by God to have valid, sexual needs of our own. I don’t necessarily believe that women are less sexual by nature, it’s just that for thousands of years women have been taught that it’s not feminine to like or desire sex or nudity. On the other hand, men and boys have been taught and programmed to believe that it’s expected of them to be enthralled by the naked female form and the act of sex.
    Once again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for making the effort to help set both men and women free from these lies. If there is any advice or encouragement that you could offer me, I would be very grateful.
    God bless you and continue on with your ministry. It truly could do miracles for our deceived nation.
    Katya

    • Hi Katya. I truly sympathize with you and your story was really heart warming and sorrowful. However there is great hope for your and your husband and that comes not only by realizing how powerful the Lord Jesus is, but as importantly knowing the truth regarding this matter. I cannot even begin to fathom especially now at my age the destruction that the lies of the human body and sexuality has done, destroying marriages, giving strength to pornographic industries, enslaving men and women in a habitual sin and it all came down to one simple reason, IGNORANCE!!!! I too at one time in my was a slave to sexual immorality and porn addiction. I was raised in a Christian home but like so many grew up with the believe that nudity or half nudity of any kind will cause me to sin and so even though i had the problem of lust in my heart, i was more focused on the porn addiction which came later on in my life as i grew older. I had and up till now never had physical sexual union with anyone but in my heart, i can say that i have slept with so many women i see in the pornographic media and Hollywood movies. I began to accept that there as no hope whatsoever until i came across this site and the Pastors involved. At first i did not believe what they said could ever be possible, but you know what, when i allowed the Lord to heal me with His Truth, the only truth that really matters, i am free from the desire to indulge in porn for years (a few years ever since i came across this site). Of course i at times especially earlier seen the pics and videos of those same people idolized but my reaction was so different because i knew i had a choice to make, that i can still respect their dignity as women and human beings even though i completely abhorred their immoral sex acts (which are all staged and scripted even when their practices are obviously real) and ever since I cannot bear being associated with any fruits of sexual immorality; it completely goes against the truth. My new perspective is one of healing and helping others to know this important truth as we desire to walk with the Lord Jesus, i believe it is time for you to stand up and reveal your true self to your husband even though he himself is struggling with the problem. You are his wife, you are not doing yourself any favor by hiding and being ashamed of yourself and even him. Both of you can reveal yourself to each other objectively and lovingly knowing that you can find and accept the truth that the human body has never been evil or created to cause people to lust. The world through the media teaches the exact opposite of the word of the Lord regarding our bodies being created in the image of the God himself. Its a choice both of you will need to make. Both your perspective needs to be complete washed and renewed with the truth (Romans 12: 1-2). stand up and take courage because the enemy will continue to suppress both of you through lies and keep you where you are. The Lord used the Pastor who wrote these series along with others to help and my journey was truly an amazing one because i realized how ignorant i had been almost all my life regarding sex and now I believe the Lord is using me to help tell others who have been blinded. The Church is truly in danger and if this matter is not addressed in the Church from the Lord’s truth, many people even Christians will continue to be in bondage. We do not even need to start with the church, it must first start with christian homes, your home must be liberated so that our children of the next generation will grow up for you and your husband to teach them about what sex is and is not!!! to teach them that nudity of any sizes is not evil and does not cause people to stumble. That true beauty comes by not how someone physically looks like but the by the divine presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life that changes their views, their characters and extension their actions. If you are on twitter you can find me at @redeemedbody or @josephskywalker but i prefer the former. Please i beg of you, trust in the Lord that He will give you courage for both you and your husband so that you both will finally be free of this sickening lie that has crippled the people of the Lord, reject ignorance!!! God bless and keep you both in Him. Shalom

  • Hello. I’ve lived my life struggling with this addiction. I am 29 now, single, and decided that I would involve myself in a men’s group at church in which we study purity through a book/workbook. It is an accountability group. For those who don’t know, we hold eachother accountable to not sin (even if it involves masturbation without lust). If you sin, at the next meeting you confess it. Somehow this is supposed to work. I would go weeks without lusting. I would see a beautiful half naked woman (the NORM for the dress code today is what causes us men to want to lust after women.. women do as Christ says and dress in a manner that honors the body.. not promote it sexually) and I would have to look away. I would have to look from the chest up. It got to the point where when women came in dressed appropriately (covered up) my natural instinct was chest up only. I couldn’t even look at what they were wearing. Of course my natural sexual attraction would lead me to take a glance but I would remind myself that it would lead to sin. Weeks would pass and I wouldn’t lust with masturbation. Eventually though, the battle to refrain from sin and lust would be lost. I spent so much of my time thinking around how to prevent the sin that this approach itself LED TO THE SIN. (keep in mind that masturbation is equal to lust in this accountability program) How did it lead to the sin? Well, I found I couldn’t sleep because I had way to much energy in my body. I would show up to work like a zombie. I could barely function. So, I decided to release the sexual tension that was building. Guess what? I just masturbated (without lusting) but because I have been taught it was equivalent to lusting (even though I never lusted) my natural inclination was to get the best of both worlds. Why not just go onto a website and lust while I masturbate. Why not right? There’s a subtle trap in this. I have learned that the best thing to do is to simply avoid masturbating but when it gets to the point where I need to relieve myself that I will simply do it WITHOUT lusting. We do have sex drives and we do need to meet ourselves a partner we can express this with but if we are following Christ and we are to wait until marriage then guess what.. we are going to need to relieve ourselves.

    • It sounds like God is working through things in your life, Bryan.

      You are right… you should not be lusting if/when you masturbate, for that is always wrong. But for a single person to relieve the pressure is not–in my view–a violation of righteousness in a single person’s life.

      Pastor David Martin

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