One subject on which many people have questions is masturbation. It is a difficult area and I don’t want to bring anybody reading this post under condemnation, but there are some principles to consider which should guide us as to whether masturbation is permissible or not.
A question that crops up time and again is, “Surely it is OK to give yourself some sexual relief occasionally?” I believe there is need for a lot of compassion and understanding here, especially for single people who have not emulated their peers, but have sought to keep themselves exclusively for their future partner in marriage. But there are three things that must be considered:
i. The context of sex is not self-enjoyment, but to bring pleasure to and bless your husband or wife. When you have sex with yourself (if you can describe it as such) it is so inwardly-focused that it becomes the very opposite of the purpose of sex.
ii. The Bible speaks about self-control and not being mastered by anything. The difficulty with masturbation is that it often can end in habitual masturbation and bring a person into bondage. As a Christian pastor and counsellor I’ve seen down through the years what a terrible bondage this can be.
iii. Finally, masturbation inevitably involves lust. I remember one pastor preaching and trying so hard to help people in this area. He was trying to be loving, but he said something so ridiculous: “Masturbation is OK as long as you don’t think lustful thoughts and it doesn’t become a habit.” But lust and habitual bondage are the very things that masturbation tends to lead to!
Compared to the damage that such sins as adultery can cause, masturbation is, by all accounts, not the worst sin in the world. But the worst aspect of it is the guilt, condemnation and self-destruction that it produces. Guilt just complicates and worsens the problem of bondage, but thank God with the Holy Spirit’s help it is possible to break out of this.