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“But godly men will not masturbate, even if the Bible is silent about it” — or so people say.

Is it OK to create “rules” for living that God didn’t include in the Scriptures? Can they help? Can they hurt?

Man-Made “Rules” for Righteousness

Man-made rules for righteousness always make sense. They’re really pretty easy to defend.

But… that doesn’t make them God’s Rules. We are not obligated to follow them. We should not assess our spiritual maturity or health by them.

Why? Because those man-made rules—no matter how wise they appear to be—are of no value at all in the promotion of righteousness.

God really couldn’t be more clear on this… let me show you:

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.(Col. 2:20-23)

Need I say more?

Listen, it is absolutely senseless to waste time defending a rule for righteousness that God didn’t give to us. Even if you can defend its “wisdom” impeccably, the rule is still worthless.

And if I read Paul’s words correctly here, we should actively reject those rules… if for no other reason, to demonstrate to ourselves and others that we will not be submissive to man-made rules for righteousness (be ready for some criticism from the defenders of those rules, though…).

No, man-made rules cannot help.

But it Gets Worse…

There’s another very significant reason to reject the man-made rules…

Man-made rules for righteousness are counterproductive to purity!

Those false rules for righteousness do not keep us from being enslaved to our sin… they actually  make it worse!

How can I say that? Let me explain:

  • We can’t expect God to support them!
      • God will not contribute to the “success” of a man-made rule for righteousness; He’s already told us that they are worthless.
      • If any real success were to be attained by following man’s ways, it would ultimately mean that God is untrue. Therefore, our commitment to man-made rules for righteousness invite God’s active opposition.
  • They Distract Us From the “Real” Rules.
      • God has real rules for righteous living… but if we are trying to follow false rules, we do so at the expense of a proper focus on the real rules.
      • Time, energy, and spiritual focus are given to fruitless efforts… rather than efforts that will yield fruit.
  • We lose out on God’s Grace.
      • When we fail to live up to false rules, it results in false guilt.
          • False guilt is not God’s will
          • False guilt does not lead us to grace.
          • False guilt results in hopelessness, defeat, condemnation, and despair.
      • God gives us His grace to follow His true will. We lose out on that if we’re pursuing something else.
      • All effort expended to follow man-made rules are going to be completely in the power of the flesh. And that’s a recipe for failure.

Let’s Get Practical…

So, how does the “No Masturbation” rule actually impede someone’s progress towards sexual purity?

I’ve known of many young men who battled continuously with masturbation, trying desperately to follow that “rule.” As a single man, I was one of them! The rule was and is never any help to sexual purity. Instead, it creates a persistent state of frustration and failure.

Let me lay out the progression of how I believe this particular rule has such a debilitating impact on a young man who wants to live his life in purity before the Lord. Let me say up front here that this is my speculation based on my own observation, reasoning, and experience. Hopefully, however, it will resonate with men who are struggling… and serve as an encouragement to them.

A Recipe for Failure

(Note: I’m going to describe what could potentially be the experience of a single man who is committed to celibacy and sexual purity until marriage, and who therefore does not have the opportunity for sexual release with his own wife. For married men, this should only apply when the opportunity to unite with your wife is not there.)

  • I commit to “No Masturbation”
      • This false rule is treated as if it is God’s rule, and therefore also a measure of sexual purity for a young man.
  • Increased (and ever increasing) physical sexual pressure.
      • This is simply how the male body works.
  • Heightened sexual awareness and interest
      • When sexual pressure is elevated, everything about the man feels and responds to that pressure.
  • Frequent involuntary sexual responses.
      • All the plumbing works as designed (that’s a good thing!)
  • “Oh, by the way, that is LUST that you’re feeling there…”
      • Satan whispers a lie in the man’s heart to induces false guilt and erode resolve.
  • I might as well give in… to masturbation… and  lust…
      • The desire to have release is powerful.
      • The man feels like he’s already failed (although he really hasn’t).
      • The man gives in to masturbation.
      • The man does not know that it is possible to masturbate without lust, so he doesn’t even attempt to avoid lust while masturbating.
  • After release, there’s a deep sense of shame and guilt
      • The guilt for the lust is legitimate, but it is assigned in his mind equally to the masturbation.
  • “You’re a no-good, hopeless, dirty-minded failure… how can you think you’re of any use to God at all?”
      • Another lie from the enemy, who doesn’t play fair…
  • Live in hopelessness, despair, and on-going defeat
      • After yet another failure, the resolve to live in purity is gone, and the man feels like any renewed effort will be just as fruitless, so he stops trying to fight it all.
  • Finally cry out to God in desperation and repentance
      • God’s grace is greater than our sin, so the man’s heart is restored to fellowship with God.
  • Repeat… and repeat… and repeat.

Result: A man who truly loves that Lord and wants to serve Him lives in a perpetual cycle of defeat and guilt.

Yes, man-made rules can hurt.

Unintended Consequences

As is typical with “rules” based on man’s wisdom, there are unintended consequences to the commitment to a rule that God did not give. Because purity has been defined by man in a way that God did not require, the rule is false. Following the false rule results in increased strength in the temptation that God never intended us to face.

The commitment made to pursue purity becomes the very reason that purity is so difficult to maintain!

So… Where Is the “Way of Escape?”

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Cor. 10:13 – NASB)

I can only guess how many men have come to scoff at this verse—the “promise” of a way of escape—when they’ve never consistently found it.

I suggest to you that the way of escape is to reject the commitment to something God never asked of you! Learn how to masturbate without objectifying God’s daughters. Learn how to masturbate with gratitude in your heart for God making you sexually alive and virile. Learn how to gain release righteously.

It is much easier to avoid lust and sexual thoughts or responses to women when your body isn’t screaming for sexual release!

A Recipe for Relief.

  • I commit to “No Sinful Lust”
      • This is God’s rule. And it’s the only one needed.
  • Increased physical sexual pressure.
      • This is simply how the male body works.
  • When needed, masturbation is employed to release the pressure.
      • The heart is committed to thank God and reject sinful lust.
      • No false guilt. No shame.
  • The power of temptation to sinful lust is greatly reduced…
      • …When not combined with pent up sexual pressure!
  • Daily life is focused on pleasing the Lord… not on “avoiding masturbation.”
      • Because physical sexual pressures are managed effectively, the man’s mind is free to focus elsewhere.
  • Live in… and by… God’s Grace!

Result: A man who lives in freedom can live for the Lord he loves.

Summary

Yes, these characterizations are probably oversimplified and idealistic… but hopefully you see my point.

It is better to learn how to masturbate in purity before God, than commit to a rule for “purity” that God did not give.

It is never OK to justify the rejection of God’s true rules for righteousness… that’s why I didn’t start the Masturbation FAQ articles with this one… I had to first demonstrate that “No Masturbation” is not one of those God-given rules. Only then, can we look at it and see that following it is a mistake, or discuss how following it contributes to impurity rather than purity.

— Pastor David Martin

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Check out the rest of the articles in this FAQ series:

Feel free to Leave a Comment on this post.

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11 Responses to FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 4)

  • Actually it’s perhaps not quite that easy! What about the lust for the pleasuring sensation of the ejaculation?

    Surely the transgression here discussed is not that against the other person (not here present in the case of masturbation other than mutual where the full act is not feasible), or the institutes which God has provided to guide us – but against the human body, the image of God and thus ultimately against God Himself?

    This sensation is also in turn capable of grabbing laudatory attention for the body of the person concerned without much concern for God at that moment!

    If such act were to be performed with a merely clinical interest in one’s own body then that would be an entirely different matter.

    Maybe I’m barking up a non-existent tree, being far less qualified than you – not so much as a certificate in any human science, such as theology.

    Greetings, and please keep up the good work!

    Donald Dewson

    • Donald,

      Thanks for writing!

      I agree that it is possible to become addicted to (and express a sinful lust for) orgasm through masturbation. But that fact does not change the nature of the issues involved. For example, if we were to apply the same “assessment” to food, remember that it is possible to have a tremendous desire for food, and to really enjoy satisfying that desire… without being gluttonous or exercise a sinful lust for the food. And we don’t eat simply for the “clinical interest” in the food, do we?

      On the flip side, it’s possible in both cases to harbor a sinful lust for the food or orgasm without ever physically indulging in either.

      Going a little further into your question, it almost suggests that orgasm is a sin against the human body. I doubt you would ever say that directly, but if you read your words again, I think you’ll see what I mean. Certainly it can become so if abused, but so can food when eaten obsessively or gluttonously.

      Any physical desire (for orgasmic release or to eat food) can become disordered and turn into a sin problem for an individual. But that does not make the desire, the object of that desire, or even the fulfillment of that desire sinful by itself.

      If we are careful to assess all such desires with consistency (and without adding meaning where God does not), I think we’ll be able to come to more accurate conclusions about them. I think it helps to check ourselves by comparing them directly… swapping out the object of the desire to see if the assessment still makes sense. That’s what I’ve done here, and I believe it helps clarify the issue.

      — David Martin (aka Pastor Ed)

  • Hi, Pastor Ed!

    Thanks for tackling this important topic. I thought you might be interested in a book that I just read on this subject: “Masturbation: The History of A Great Terror” by Jean Stengers and Ann Van Neck. As a Christian, I can’t endorse all of the opinions in the book, but the authors’ look at the history of Western culture’s taboo against masturbation is compelling and eye-opening. Where did the big taboo against this come from in the first place? That’s what they uncover, and the answer is quite interesting.

    Thanks for all that you do, and God bless!

    Pastor Dan

  • Excellent series brother, and great treatment of a badly-understood (misunderstood) topic. You might want to consider doing a post on the “Onan-lie”, because that lie has been used by countless Christian parents to shame their young sons into giving up masturbation. It took me many years to overcome it, and come to an accurate understanding of the passage. Like you, I started masturbating long before I even knew what sex was. All I knew was that it felt good.

    One of the problems I see in the Christian community is the gross lack of understanding of a man’s normal sexual functions and needs. Since they believe that masturbation is wrong, and that sexual intercourse is the only “legitimate” sexual outlet, they have this notion that a man can go for an indefinite period of time without any release. That is not medically-sound information. Even though I have no wife at home, one of my urologists is aggressively treating me for erectile dysfunction, in part because I have a history of prostatitis. Even though she wasn’t the doctor who treated me last year, she does have my medical history and knows that just a year ago, I had a serious bout of prostatitis. It is easier and better to PREVENT it than to treat it with antibiotics. One of my urologists even went as far as offering me penile-implants, because proper sexual function is important to me overall health, physical, mental and emotional. I wasn’t quite ready to get sliced and diced down there.

    Keep up the good work, and God bless!

    Steve

    • Hey, Steve. Thanks for your comments.

      Regarding the “Onan-Lie”… I did write about that once on a Christian discussion forum. Turns out that someone found that post and wanted to repost what I wrote on his own website. I was happy to give my permission that he republish what I had written.

      Perhaps it would be worth posting here as a new blog post, but for now, I’ll just give you the link and you can read it on his site.

      http://www.waitingforintimacy.com/masturbation,%20a%20commentary.html

      David Martin (aka Pastor Ed)

  • As a single woman, waiting until marriage to be intimate. But also a single woman with a sex drive, this is pointed towards just men. Does that mean it is not OK for women to enjoy that side of themselves guilt free??? This is a common issue for us single Christian women as well. Could you perhaps share something about this topic for us single ladies? I came across this article: http://goodwomenproject.com/sex/what-do-i-do-with-this-sex-drive So I know its a common issue not just with myself. Let me know! Thanks! 🙂

    • Hi, Heather.

      First of all, thanks for writing. And great question. It’s good to know that some ladies are reading the MCAG site and blog.

      Let me answer your question from two angles. First from the more “authoritative” biblical angle, then from the IMHO angle…

      Biblically speaking, we find that the Bible never addresses masturbation in a specific way for men or women. Where I did say that the Bible addresses it, it applies only to men. But as you can see from the Scriptural text, the central concern is the “emission of semen.” Not coincidentally, for the uncleanness that is mentioned for women in the same context, it has to do with her menstrual flow… another sort of “emission” of bodily fluid. Clearly, what God is speaking about here is dealing with the fact that in all three cases, the bodily fluid is what matters.

      The fact that orgasm took place in two of the three is completely beside the point in the text. It’s not even mentioned in the text, and the only reason we can figure that it happened is that that’s how semen is emitted. OK… so there must have been an orgasm. Not the point, though; it’s the emission itself that drives these specific laws.

      Therefore… does God have any regulation about manual stimulation to orgasm specifically? No. Should we add it to the Scriptures because we think God was too squeamish to address such a thing? Good grief, no. So, is there any unrighteousness simply in manual stimulation to orgasm for men or women? No.

      Now the IMHO answer…

      First of all, to address the problem raised in the article you linked to, it would seem very logical that masturbation is a completely acceptable way to quell the sex drive’s pressure to find release through sexual impurity with another person to whom one is not married. This would be just as true for women as for men.

      Sadly, by teaching a “rule for righteousness” that God never gave us, the church has unwittingly put untold numbers of young people in a place where their unfulfilled sex drive pushes them headlong towards moral failure because the simple manual-release solution has been regulated out of the realm of options, leaving them in a perpetual stated of heightened sexual need for release. For many, it’s not long before they give up on righteousness because they simply cannot endure their own sex drive under the false “rule of righteousness” standard.

      Secondly, even further down the IMHO path, I personally suspect that a woman who already understands what it means to experience orgasm alone and how her own body experiences that pleasure will be much better fulfilled in her sexual union with her husband when she marries. Most guys probably imagine that simple vaginal penetration is all it takes to satisfy their wife, and they probably imagine that simultaneous orgasm is just automatic… because that’s what they’ve seen in porn. The reality is much different. Most guys need to be shown what gives their wives sexual pleasure. But if neither he nor his new wife knows what works for her, I think she might be in for a disappointing “first time” on their honeymoon.

      For the record, as enjoyable as orgasm might be when reached through masturbation alone, its not even close to the experience of enjoying it with the love of your life… both as the giver and as the receiver of that orgasm. Both roles are wonderful. And for what it’s worth, when the couple’s orgasms are simultaneous, they sort of miss out on fully experiencing one of those roles.

      I hope this helps.

      David Martin

      • I’ve read a few of the articles and find them interesting and hopeful. I do have a different opinion on the topic of masturbation. Masturbation is the ultimate form of single sex. I think instead of searching for scripture that speaks to masturbating (of which one verse has been linked to the subject-seminal emissions which doesn’t mean masturbation has taken place) that we should ask, “What is the purpose of sex that God has designed for us?” There are well defined verses in the bible that say sex is designed for man and woman to enjoy in marriage. To become one…not to have sex as one person. I think the reason that there isn’t a verse speaking to masturbation is because sex wasn’t designed to be single sex. Masturbation doesn’t have a purpose to bring God glory. I think we are foolish to think that we can masturbate and ‘in moderation.’ Whatever moderation means regarding masturbation…that’s a tricky one to define and confusing. And maybe dangerous for those who’ve struggled with lust in the past and those who have yet to struggle with lust.

        I’ve learned a lot about sex addiction because my husband has struggled with it. In my own research, I’ve read many articles which link the orgasm’s release of dopamine to creating an attachment with whatever is occurring at that moment. It’s why the addiction progressively worsens because each time one masturbates to porn, an attachment is made to something inanimate. With addiction, the porn searches become more..adventurous, dirtier and each time it takes something just a little more over the top to get that same excitement. Porn rewires your brain circuits to be stimulated to porn, women’s body parts, and eventually, your wife isn’t as attractive anymore, not as exciting as the girls in print or video. Women become objects. My point is this: if you can suggest that one can masturbate without lust, what thoughts are you letting the dopamine attach to? And, isn’t it dangerous? IMHO, it’s like telling a child to play with fire unsupervised. You can play with it, you may or may not get burned today…

        Lastly, I just want to say how disappointed I am to read the suggestion above to women to masturbate so she would be “more fulfilled in her sexual union with her husband when she marries.” This statement suggests that orgasm is the ultimate goal of sex when it’s not. Intimacy is the goal. And I think, that a man and woman, in marriage, figuring out each other’s bodies, communicating them to one another, learning together in their whole lifetime, is exciting enough. In fact, to suggest that the woman should figure out her body so she can be satisfied on her honeymoon steals the gift of herself away from God and her husband.

        My two cents…

  • Hi,

    I have a question concerning involuntary physical responses, as a woman i don’t quite get it. I’m trying to understand my boyfriend in that regard and not judge, but I have hard time as I find my arousal is quite “steerable”. I don’t quite understand the difference with an involuntary physical response in this case and arousal. Also I feel like I might have started to live in an ideal that I’ve built myself, that isn’t even biblical that any time my boyfriend has an “involuntary” physical response to sth I feel cheated on, cause i don’t quite understand the “involuntary” part in it.

    Thank you,

    Sara

  • Thank you so much for your time and resources you have made available for us . I am so grateful for the TRUTH of the Bible. I am no longer interested in the world’s opinions, only God’s.

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