Is masturbation okay?

Straight Talk

The Question:

I have a 16-year-old son who is saved and is a good kid who loves God. We talked about masturbation the other day and he seems to think that it’s a very normal thing for kids to go through and he even thinks that it’s written in the Bible somewhere that it’s okay with God. I don’t think he’s right. Can you help us out?

-KK from the United States

The Answer
Part 1: The Bible and masturbation
Part 2: Unsatisfactory solution

The Bible and masturbation (Part 1)

I think your son is partially right; I think that masturbation is pretty normal—meaning it is common and there is usually a period of time in adolescence when it can become quite demanding because of handling all the new hormones. However, I would agree with you on the other part; I don’t see where God gives an okay to it in the Bible.

Actually, the only Biblical reference I am aware of which addresses masturbation in any form at all is found in Genesis 38:9. It is the story of a man named Onan who was a son of Judah. Judah told Onan to marry his dead brother Er’s widow and have children by her. The children would legally be considered Er’s.

“And Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so it came about that when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground, in order not to give offspring to his brother.” (Genesis 38:9) This action displeased God and he took Onan’s life. It is the “wasting of the seed” that is akin to masturbation. In fact, there was a time not that long ago when masturbation was often called the sin of Onan.

I think the Bible story bears little resemblance to what we consider masturbation today. It seems clear to me that God’s displeasure was the rebellion and disobedience of Onan; not the wasting of his seed per se. Even so, if this is the only reference to masturbation in the Bible nothing about the story gives the okay—quite the opposite.

God does have much to say about human sexually in his Word and he isn’t prudish about it either. But the thing that is constantly clear in both the Old and New Testaments is that sexual activity is permitted only in marriage between the husband and wife. The Bible often sites sex outside marriage as sin.

Unsatisfactory solution (Part 2)

Masturbation is a hollow and eventually unsatisfactory solution to the demand of our flesh. When this issue comes up whether in adolescence or any other age it is a time to begin to learn about discipline and letting the spirit control the flesh instead of vice versa. While it may be difficult it is not impossible.

The less we give in to our flesh the less it demands. “For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8) Masturbation is certainly not an unforgivable sin but it should not be given free reign either. While the body only cares about NOW, it is better to heed our spirit and thus prepare for our future: eternal life.


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