“I might be ‘addicted’ to masturbation? How much is ‘too much’?” In Part 1 of this FAQ, we showed that the the Bible mentions, but does not condemn masturbation. In Part 2, we saw that we do have freedom to masturbate, provided it is not an expression of sinful lust. But if we’re “allowed” to do it, can we do it too much?
Compulsive Masturbation…I’m not a psychologist nor have I studied compulsive behavior, so my statements here are only my opinions based on my understanding of truth, my experiences and observations, along with my own reasoning from the Scriptures. If a person is so compulsive about masturbation that they have no control over it, they should consider seeking assistance from those who are trained to help people with compulsive behaviors of any kind.
It’s Not About the MasturbationFirst of all, we need to acknowledge that—as with all habitual behaviors (eating, drinking, nail-biting, etc.)—it is not that the activity itself is wrong or unhealthy, but that a person is somehow driven to repeatedly engage in the activity to an unhealthy degree. And so it is with masturbation. Simply because someone struggles to control a habit, we need not assume that the behavior is wrong. Each of us simply needs to be the master over the behavior rather than the other way around. There are many people who have tried but failed to break a masturbation habit for years. While they may now know that it’s not forbidden by God, they may still wonder if there should be a limit to how big of a role that habit should play in their lives. This is what I want to address.
But How Much is “Too Much”?The bible says so little about masturbation that many claim it says nothing at all. in Part 1 of this FAQ, we saw that there is a scripture passage that applies directly to masturbation… at least for men. But if we can conclude that masturbation is not forbidden in the Bible, can we discern any guidance that would help us answer the “how much” question? Let me share a couple of passages that might guide us to a reasonably practical answer to that question.
“I Will Not Be Mastered…”“All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” These are the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 6:12. The first point we must acknowledge is that we should not allow ourselves to be “mastered” by even a good thing. If we are totally consumed by any activity—be it eating or drinking or video gaming or masturbation—we need to examine our hearts to see if there is some sort of idolatry there (i.e. devoting ourselves to something other than God). If so, we should deal with it in our lives.
It’s Not Always About “Need”It is true that there is a physical need for sexual release, and masturbation can meet that need. But if we’re honest about it, no one is so virile that they “need” that release on a daily basis. The body has to replenish itself after every release and that takes time. For the young, that time is much shorter than for the older among us, but for none will the pressure become unbearable after just a day. For most (and maybe all), 2-3 days or more could be endured without any trouble. Remember, self control is still a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). If someone is so driven to engage in masturbation on a daily basis, there is most likely a different problem in their spirit that is the root cause, and that’s what should be explored. It is not merely an issue of physical “need.”
The Adrenaline Rush…I believe that part of the reason that so many men believe that they “need” sexual release so frequently is because they are addicted to the adrenaline rush that they get from viewing and masturbating in response to pornography. The “allure of the forbidden” is very real, and the anticipation of experiencing that “forbidden” view of sexually charged images initiates an adrenaline rush. That adrenaline joins forces with natural hormonal responses and propels the individual to find release of the artificially heightened sexual tension through masturbation. In other words, their drive to masturbate is more than justa simple physical need.
Back to the Bible…I am not trying to create any sort of “rule” that will tell anyone how much is “too much.” The Bible doesn’t give such a rule, so neither will I. However, if we take another look at Lev. 15 where masturbation is regulated in Old Testament Law, we can at least discern that God did not expect masturbation to be a daily habit and occurrence in a man’s life.
“Private” Wasn’t So Private Back Then…Masturbation makes a man ceremonially unclean for a day. When someone was ceremonially unclean according to Hebrew Law, it meant that they were not to enter the temple or participate in any of the other required ritual expressions of their faith. So, when anyone was ceremonially unclean, it would typically be public knowledge. When a woman was on her period, for example, everyone needed to know about it because they had to avoid even sitting on the same chair that she had sat upon (Lev. 15:19-23). If a husband and wife made love the night before, they would have to decline any involvement in religious rituals for the day (Lev. 15:18). And… if a man had masturbated, he too would have to decline (Lev. 15:16-17). In other words, the timing of a woman’s cycle, the occasion of a couple’s marital intimacy, and the frequency of a man’s masturbation habits were all—at least to some degree—common knowledge.
“You’re Still Unclean?!?”That a person would be ceremonially unclean on a given day—for any of these and many other reasons—was no big deal. But if someone was ceremonially unclean perpetually, then something had to be amiss. There is no “rule” here about how much is too much, but the law in Lev. 15:16-17 seems to imply that no one was expected to be ceremonially unclean every day. Religious rituals were required of everyone and they had to exercise enough self control to ensure that they were ceremonially clean when they needed to be.
So, What’s the Conclusion?The Bible doesn’t give an answer to the question, “How much is too much?” But it does seem to assume that you won’t need a daily fix. Paul’s words definitely warn against allowing ourselves to be “mastered” by any sort of habit. If you find that you’re still “mastered” by this habit, I rather suspect that you’re also in bondage to porn or some other false means of sexual arousal. If so, you should first deal with that addiction (read through the MCAG web site… multiple times if necessary) and most likely when you experience freedom from porn, the masturbation habit will lose its grip in your life as well. If masturbation is simply a tool for sexual release, then you have the freedom to use the tool when you need it. Just as you eat when you can sense that your body needs food, you can also tell when your body needs sexual release. In either case… don’t be a glutton!
A Bit of Advice…To the single men out there… relax. Take care of yourself and make sure the internal pressure never gets so strong that it weakens your resolve to stay pure and avoid treating women or their bodies as sexual objects… either in person or virtually. To the married men out there—whenever possible—save that release for times of intimacy with your wife. Your body—including your sexuality and your sex drive—belong to her (1 Cor. 7:4). Allow that internal pressure to drive you to her… that’s God’s design! To everyone,
- DO have a heart of gratitude towards God at all times for creating you as he did… sexually alive and virile. It’s His will that you are as you are. It certainly doesn’t bug Him.
- Do NOT ever mix masturbation with lust or pornography… if you need porn to successfully masturbate, your body still doesn’t really need release.
- FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 1)
- Masturbation in the Bible (it IS there!)
- FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 2)
- Masturbation and Lust – Inseparable?
- FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 4)
- How Man-made Rules Impede Purity