Q. What is the Biblical position on masturbation? I have sons that will be at the age soon where this subject may come up and truthfully I’m not sure what to tell them. I have done some looking into it and have also asked some people that I respect very much spiritually but I really wanted to get your take on it.
I have looked at the bible and cannot find anything satisfactory on it. I know of the account in Genesis where the guy is killed by the LORD for spilling his seed on the ground. But I have always understood this to be more about his refusal to carry on his brothers line.
I know that pornography is wrong and will tell my sons as much. If your focus (can’t think of a better way to say it) is about you spouse does that change anything? If your spouse has a medical condition or schedule that doesn’t allow for as much gratification as would be desired does that make a difference?
I have pondered if it is sort of a conditional thing too. Kind of like drinking. It is OK to have an alcoholic beverage so long as you are not getting drunk, etc. Are there times and conditions in which this activity is sinful and others where it is not?
I thank you for your willingness to take on subjects that can be a bit, well, sensitive. Thank you for being fearless in doing so.
A. You’re right, the Bible doesn’t say anything about masturbation as such. It does say that in the Levitical system a man was ceremonially unclean after a nocturnal emission until the following evening. (Deut. 23:10) And as you said, the incident in Genesis 38:9-10 involved Onan’s refusal to produce an heir for his dead brother.
Speaking of adultery the Lord made it clear that it’s the motive of our heart that determines when we’re sinning, not just the physical action. (Matt. 5:27-28) I suppose that a man masturbating while having lustful thoughts of his wife is in the clear, but that wouldn’t apply to your sons. (Someone once said that the mind is really the body’s sex organ. Is it possible to masturbate without having lustful thoughts?)
But even there, the issue wasn’t so much controlling our thoughts as demonstrating the impossibility of avoiding sin. By the way, on the husband / wife issue neither is to deprive the other sexually except by common consent, and then only temporarily, as in fasting. (1 Cor. 7:5)
Paul’s declaration that everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial may be the closest thing we get to advice on the issue. He went on to say that we shouldn’t let ourselves be controlled by anything, referring to obsessive behavior, and that our bodies aren’t meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord. Finally there’s the fact that being the Temple of the Holy Spirit means that the Lord dwells within us. We shouldn’t do anything with or to our bodies that would cause Him embarrassment. (1 Cor. 6:12-20)
But at the end of the day, we must always remember that none of our sins take the Lord by surprise. He fore saw them all and forgave us anyway, nailing them to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15). Sincere confession always brings restoration. However you counsel your sons, please be sure to include that.