As an ordained minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, I cannot even count the number of times that people have asked me this question over the last few decades. There is much confusion about this matter among young men (and women) in the church; and honestly, the reason for this confusion is that we all have been raised up in a world where our beliefs and values have been shaped by family, religious organizations, and media (like movies, TV, and music); and all those things belong to the realm of the god of this world, Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2, John 14:30, 16:11).
It is written in the Holy Bible:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.“
2 Timothy 3:16,17
And, it is also written,
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”
1 John 3:4
So, if something is a sin, then that means that it would be contrary to something that God Almighty has declared in his law. If someone asks me, a minister of Jesus Christ, if masturbation is a sin, then surely I can show him from the word of God that it is, right?
Let’s have a look, then.
If we look at God’s law, we can see several detailed things that God told his people Israel (and us also by the same law) not to engage in, with regard to sexual acts, for example:
“Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.
None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD.
The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.
The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover.
The nakedness of thy son’s daughter, or of thy daughter’s daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness.
The nakedness of thy father’s wife’s daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s sister: she is thy father’s near kinswoman.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister: for she is thy mother’s near kinswoman.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son’s wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son’s daughter, or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.
Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.
Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness.
Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour’s wife, to defile thyself with her.
And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.
Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:
And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.“
We can see that God Almighty went to great lengths to describe to the people of Israel ALL of the sexual perversion of the Canaanites, and what we are NOT to do with regard to our sexuality and nakedness.
And at no time in the law of Moses, or anywhere in the Holy Bible, has God ever said that it is against his law for a man to satisfy himself sexually while being alone.
Not once, ever.
So, as a minister of Jesus Christ, I cannot point to any word of the scripture that says that it is a sin against God to do so.
But a man may say, “But what if I am masturbating, and thinking of or looking at images of a woman who is not my wife? Surely that is a sin, isn’t it?”
Again, let us look at God’s word.
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.“
Many people will assume that Jesus was teaching in this passage that any man, who is looking at any female, to lust after her, is committing adultery with her in his heart. But is this so?
Let us look at what Jesus actually said, and not what many people think he said…
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
What is the subject that Jesus is teaching about here?
What is adultery (for a man)?
- It is the act of a man either lying with his neighbor’s wife (Exodus 20:14 – the 7th commandment), or,
- It is the act of a man coveting his neighbor’s wife (Exodus 20:17 – the 10th commandment).
(To “covet” means to devise means in your heart to take away something from your neighbor so that you can have it yourself.)
- The only other way that a man can be guilty of committing adultery, is if he puts away his wife and marries another woman (Matthew 5:32, 19:9).
Beside these three things, there is no other way that a man can be guilty of the sin of adultery, according to God’s law.
And THAT is what Jesus was teaching about.
Let us go on:
“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Jesus said that the act of a man looking on a woman to lust after her, is to commit adultery already with her in his heart.
First of all, let us remember that Jesus was teaching about adultery. And he spoke of “looking on a woman“.
He did not speak of looking upon a maid or a virgin.
It is not possible to commit adultery with a maid or a virgin, for they are not married women.
A woman, in the scripture, and in proper English, is a female who is married. A woman is a man’s wife.
A female who is not a man’s wife is a maid, or a virgin, or a damsel.
The word “woman” in this verse of the scripture, is referring to one thing, and one thing only – a man’s wife.
There is no reference in this teaching from our Lord to an unmarried female (a maid).
Also, we know from the teaching of the Lord that:
“…That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.“
Now, let us remember that, according to 1 John 3:4, sin is the transgression of the law.
It is written, “Thou shalt not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)
If a man therefore is in a store, and he thinks about stealing something, and then changes his mind and casts down that thought because it is written, Thou shalt not steal…did he sin against God by thinking about stealing something?
No, he did not. He has not broken any law, either of man, or of God.
But – if he thinks about stealing something, and meditates upon that thought until he takes that thing and puts it under his coat and walks out of the store with it…has he now sinned against God?
Yes, absolutely. He is a thief, and is guilty of sin, for he broke the law.
So, why is it a sin to lust after your neighbor’s wife? Is thinking about her a sin?
No, it is not, in itself — but IT WILL LEAD TO A SINFUL ACT if it is not cast down and put to death in your heart.
As it is written,
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:4,5
So, we can see that the reason that Jesus said that a man who is lusting after his neighbor’s wife hath committed adultery already with her in his heart, is because that man is plotting and planning a sinful act, which will eventually result in him carrying out that act, which is against the law.
And all such acts begin in the heart of man.
So, in Matthew 5:27,28, did Jesus say that it is a sin for a young man to look upon a beautiful maid, and lust after her (desire her)?
No, he did not.
Listen, my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus; it is a normal and healthy thing for a young man to desire a maid. That is how people get married, and have babies. There is absolutely NO SIN in a man lusting after a young unmarried female, so long as he does not sin by acting inappropriately with her (i.e. fornicating). If he delights in her, and wishes to take her to wife, and if she is in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, and old enough to marry, then let him take her.
As it is written,
“But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.“
1 Corinthians 7:36
And, if he does not wish to take her to wife, but only wishes to fantasize about her in his heart, and satisfy himself sexually, being alone, no one knowing about what he is doing, has he sinned?
No, he has not.
There is not a word of the Holy Scripture that says that he has sinned in so doing; and the only reason that many think that it is a sin, is because of the lies whispered into their hearts by the devil, whose purpose is to bring men into condemnation for that which is normal and common, and therefore stifle and neutralize Christians by taking away their confidence before God to receive petitions in prayer. We are to be clad with the breastplate of righteousness; and a broken breastplate makes for a weak and vulnerable soldier.
Friends and brethren, if such a thing as is common to just about every man and woman, in the course of our lives, were sinful, might we not be right to think that God Almighty would have said something about it in his word to men?
We have 66 books of the prophets and apostles, including the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, in the Holy Bible. Would it not be written that it is a sin for a man to satisfy himself sexually, being alone, if it was a sin against God?
But the simple answer is, that it is not.
What it is, my friends and brethren, is a private matter that is nobody’s business.
If you have masturbated, you owe NO ONE a confession or an explanation, any more than you would confess something that you did while using the bathroom.
Why is there a door on your bathroom? It is there because no one else needs to see what you do in there. Is it a sin for you to go to the bathroom? No, certainly not. Do people know that you go to the bathroom? Yes, of course…but it is a private matter, and no one needs to know what you do in there, and you have no obligation to confess it to anyone. That is why your bathroom has a door on it.
Married men, why is there a door on your marriage chamber (bedroom)? Do not your children and friends know that you make love to your wife? Yes, of course…but that is not for anyone to see, except you and your wife.
Is it a sin for you to make love to your wife? Of course not! That is what your wife is for! You may do anything that you like in your marriage bed with your wife, for she is given you to serve you and please you.
“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”
Does God Almighty watch you make love to your wife?
No, he does not.
Do angels watch you?
No, they do not. They turn their backs to you, while still protecting you, if you are in Christ. It is none of their business what you do with your wife.
Can God see you when you go to the bathroom?
Yes, he can.
Does he watch you, then?
No, of course not. That is a private matter that neither God nor angels will watch. It is a natural part of life, and God is not interested in watching you use the bathroom.
And in the very same way, Neither God nor the holy angels are interested in watching you satisfy your sexual desire, whether you are with your wife, or alone.
And finally, there is this very important point, which must be made:
“…whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”
Is it a sin against God to eat shellfish?
No, it is not.
Jesus clearly taught, during the time of the old testament, saying:
“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”
And, the apostle wrote, in the new testament:
“For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.“
1 Timothy 4:4,5
It is not a sin to eat any kind of creature.
A man may eat anything he wants to (except blood, for the life of the flesh is in the blood), and it is clean unto him, if it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
However, if a man does not have a clear conscience about this matter, and he THINKS that it is a sin to eat shellfish, and one of us convinces him to eat it anyway, then his conscience is defiled, and he is doing that which he believes to be wrong.
And therefore to him it is sin.
So, even though there is no word from God that says that masturbation is a sin, IF A MAN BELIEVES IT TO BE A SIN, THEN TO HIM IT IS A SIN; and he should abstain from doing so, because it will bring him under condemnation.
And so, as it is written, concerning such matters as are believed to be sin but it is not written that they are:
“Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
So, let us hear the conclusion of the matter.
The Bible does not say that it is a sin for a man to satisfy himself in a sexual manner, being alone, and meditating on a maid, or even looking at an image of her, clothed or not. The Bible is very explicit in the condemnation of many sexual acts which God Almighty has declared to be unlawful, and the act of a man satisfying himself alone is not among them.
God has never made mention of it, because it is a private matter that no one needs to know about, and that he does not look upon.
However, if a man is not learned in this matter, and he believes that for him to satisfy himself sexually, being alone, is a sin, then to him it is a sin; and if he does so he is under condemnation, having gone against his conscience; and whatsoever is not of faith, is sin.
May God bless you, the reader, as you abide in his holy word, for it is written,
“If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.“