The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Question

I am a 19 year old guy who has grown up in the Southern Baptist Church all my life. My youth leaders and close friends in church have always held firm to the belief that masturbation is always a sin - save for done with a spouse inside of marriage. Furthermore, a biblical Christian website I often visit, "GotQuestions.org", has written an article on the subject and reaffirms that they believe that masturbation being a sin is biblical (http://www.gotquestions.org/masturbation-sin.html).

Now as for me: When I was 10 years old I became addicted to pornography. I have struggled with it immensely ever since, and every imaginable type of porn, I have lusted in and defiled myself with. Almost one month ago from today on which I am writing this, God freed me from this pornography addiction after nine years of being enslaved to it. I am very grateful for what God has done in this, though I still stay on the alert.

The means through which He did it was by breaking my heart -- He revealed to me that the girl I was close to and who I had longed to be with had engaged in premarital sex with another guy. She is the same age as me. It absolutely devastated me, perhaps as much as it did her parents, to the point where I cannot even bear the thought of looking at porn anymore because I immediately picture that girl in my mind, her engaged in the act of sex with that other guy, and it heavily breaks my heart. However, I am glad for it, as God has used my grief to help turn me toward Him. God uses my sorrow to give me strength and help me to trust in him. It is a blessing, in my opinion.

Now, I have been reading your site thoroughly for the past two days, and your website coupled with another one I have visited before, "TheMarriageBed", both support the viewpoint that masturbation is not inherently sinful. Your explanations make sense and are more in-depth than GotQuestions.org's article, though I am still being cautious about blindly trusting whatever you say (no offense intended). However, obviously I still trust you enough to share this all with you.

I have struggled with intense sexual urges ever since I first was addicted to pornography. I have very strong (I believe, natural) attractions toward certain parts of the female body (sometimes I have heard people describe such a matter as a fetish): attractions that have developed over time, and though I do not believe it is wrong for me to be attracted to girls in this way (really, the beauty of the female body continually reminds me that God is good and real), it still is something that I struggle with lust-wise in my life. I am also still struggling with leftover images of sin and lust from my former porn addiction, which will no doubt continue to linger in my mind for a long time.

But mainly now, my biggest deal is that, though I am no longer addicted to porn, I still have immense sexual urges to ejaculate and orgasm, and I do not fully feel comfortable with masturbating, as I have always been taught by my church that it is wrong. However, my dad has told me before in private that he did the same thing when he was my age, and neither of my parents have condemned it when talking to me about it. I have masturbated frequently for years and years, every single day usually, and oftentimes I feel guilty because of it. However, your explanation that it is natural for the male body to need to release semen regularly makes sense to me, and I can certainly testify that I always feel that way when I am horny.

Your repeatedly asserted point that masturbation can be acceptable outside of marriage - if lustful thoughts are removed - is an interesting notion. I can't say I entirely understand it, and a big part of me is concerned of whether it is really true. However, if it is true, it does give me hope that I could use that as a way to help curb my sexual appetite and guard myself against lustful thoughts. My main concern is: if I were to die today practicing masturbation without lustful thoughts, and professing to be a Christian, would I go to hell for it being a sin that I did not realize is a sin? I wish I could clearly know if it is wrong! One group in my life tells me it is, while you and my parents condone it (when done without lust), and the Bible is considerably ambiguous on it being a sin or not. It is frustrating trying to discern the answer.

I am now single and, having been turned away from my former addiction to porn by God (I still stay on the alert, and thus far I have not visited a single porn site or gone towards pornographic images since), I still experience an extreme craving for sex every day. I wish every day that I had a wife to be with so I could enjoy and experience sex the way God meant for it to be. I am a virgin. I have never even kissed a girl, though I have had a girlfriend before. The girl I mentioned earlier is my ex-girlfriend. It drove her nuts that I wouldn't kiss her; I told her I was waiting for marriage. But I do strongly desire a godly Christian wife, one who can help meet my needs, and I can help meet hers. That is not the only reason I want a wife, believe me - but it is the main reason right now.

So, all that said, I have several questions for you:

(1) When my church leaders and gotquestions.org affirm that masturbation is biblically a sin, how would you answer that?

(2) Is it wrong for me to desire marriage, so that I can have sex? It is not the only reason I want to get married (I want to have a partner to live life with, and be able to cuddle with and emotionally bond with and to grow in Christ with), though right now it is the most pressing reason.

(3) What would you say to someone like me who has a strong urge to masturbate frequently, but is concerned about sinning against God and potentially going to hell for it as an unrepentant sin?

(4) What would you say to help encourage and comfort me in the painful state of being unmarried and single? I do not want to be celibate; I hate being single, and I pray God may have a wife for me in the close future. Many of my Christian friends tell me to run after Christ exclusively for now, but I want a wife as well! Is that wrong?

(5) How can I find victory over lust and bodily fetishes in my life without simultaneously killing these natural sexual urges that one day I hope to enjoy with a wife in marriage?

(6) I want to get to meet more girls my age who are Christians, as in my church there are very few (it's mostly old couples and small kids, barely any college age or high school girls). What would you recommend that I do or not do?

I appreciate all the advice you could offer. I imagine this is probably one of the longest messages you have ever gotten on this ministry, but I wanted to be detailed so you could better know who I am and what I am like and how I feel.


Answer

I don't mind at all that you want to check out the things that I wrote; in fact, I would encourage it. The Bereans checked out what Paul taught them: "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). I would expect people to do the same with me. It is one reason I try to cite the verses I use and detail the reasoning behind it.

Normally I don't review other people's work because they didn't ask for a review and they can't reply. However, since it is central to many of your questions, I will lay out where we agree and disagree.

  • The article starts by admitting that the Bible does not explicitly mentions masturbation; that is, there is no passage that directly mentions masturbation. However, I would like to point out that there are two passages where masturbation would be covered by a law: Leviticus 15:16-18 and Leviticus 22:4.
  • He mentions that the sin of Onan was not Onan ejaculating on the ground (Genesis 38:6-10). He is correct. Onan's sin was at its root covetousness. By giving his brother an heir, Onan stood to lose a lot of money. Besides, Onan was not engaged in masturbating. He has sex with Tamar but was trying to use a form of contraception called "withdrawal" to prevent getting her pregnant.
  • He mentions Matthew 5:28-30. He doesn't make a firm statement about what Jesus is teaching here. He almost implies that Matthew 5:30 might be about masturbation, but it isn't. Matthew 5:28 condemns lust, stating that imagining yourself committing adultery and strongly desiring it is just as much a sin as actually doing the act. Matthew 5:29-30 are hyperbole. They are not meant to be taken literally. Jesus' point is that when we are dealing with sin, we should be willing to take extreme steps to avoid sin. Too often people want to get as close to sin as they can without sinning, which never works. About the only way this relates to masturbation is that it is proof that imagining yourself having unmarried sex while masturbating would be a sin. It also means that if you have a strong urge to ejaculate and you have trouble staying away from porn, a solution such as putting away all electronic devices until you an ejaculation may sound radical but is a better solution than giving into viewing pornography.
  • He states that there are actions that lead to masturbation which are sinful, and I would agree. For example, viewing pornography is sinful and that often leads to masturbation. However, he states without evidence: "Masturbation is nearly always the result of lustful thoughts, sexual stimulation, and/or pornographic images." I would agree it is common, but it is not "nearly always." He ignores the physical process that leads to the need to ejaculate. It doesn't explain how just about every male has masturbated, but I would not conclude that every male has gotten involved in pornography or even lustful thoughts. Nor does it explain how many young males accidentally discover masturbation without ever seeing pornography or dealt with lustful thoughts.
  • He claims that if lust and pornography were removed that masturbation would become a non-issue. I believe that to be a false statement. There is a physical element that drives guys to masturbate, especially if they have difficulties having wet dreams. I would agree, though I don't think the author intended it this way, that if you removed the sins of lust and pornography then masturbation would no long be an issue of sin because the act by itself is neither right nor wrong. We do agree that it is the sins that lead up to masturbation that are the issue and not masturbation itself.
  • "But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks" (Ephesians 5:3-4). He asserts that masturbation would not past this test, but he doesn't explain why. Paul is saying that Christians are not to be involved in fornication, impure actions (such as "making out"), or greed to the extent that it should not be connected with us by our speech. What a person does privately by himself isn't covered by these rules. That doesn't mean it is right for a guy to tell sexual jokes when no one is around, or to be greedy in his thoughts, but this would not be the appropriate verse to prove those points. At the root, the author can't imagine masturbation being separate from lust and pornography, so he condemns the action with the sins without proving that they are inseparable.
  • "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31). He claims that masturbating doesn't give glory to God. I can understand it to an extent. Does using the toilet give glory to God? Yet, both the elimination of waste and the elimination of excess semen are processes that God designed into the male body. We do these things in privacy to cause no offense to anyone. However, his line of reasoning would condemn too much.
  • "But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). I agree that there is no requirement to masturbate. If a person doesn't want to masturbate and his body is able to get rid of excess semen through wet dreams, then that is perfectly fine. However, there are guys who are unable to have wet dreams because they wake up before ejaculating. There are also Christians who are really disturbed by the nature of the dreams they have and prefer not to have them. If they are confident that masturbating without lust or pornography is nothing more than taking care of a bodily need, then it is between them and the Lord. "But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us shall give account of himself to God" (Romans 14:10-12). Notice that this verse is from the same context as the verse he cited.
  • "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Corinthians 6:19-20). The "or" at the beginning is a hint that this is a continuation of an argument. Paul is discussing fornication. "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body" (I Corinthians 6:18). Fornication dishonors the body. The author did not prove that masturbation as an independent act dishonors the body.

The author concludes that masturbation is a sin, but from my view he has not actually proven his point. He has touched on the fact that lust and pornography are sins, which we both agree, but that does not prove that masturbation is a sin.

Now, for some of the other issues you raised:

A fetish is not just an attraction. It is a strongly held belief that a person, in this case, cannot ejaculate without the object of his desire. Thus, he places the object in control of his body. What you describe is not a fetish.

You are correct that we cannot erase our memories. One of the problems of pornography is that it places sinful thoughts in our memories. These will fade over time and become more vague if you don't refresh the ideas by continuing to view pornography or by dwelling on inappropriate thoughts.

The strong desire to ejaculate is simply the way God made the male body. You also have a strong desire to drink and a strong desire to eat, but you don't notice them as much because you've learned to deal with them in a controlled way since you were very small. The desire for sex is new and it takes time to learn to manage that desire in a controlled fashion.

As mentioned before, if you don't want to masturbate and you are able to have wet dreams, then that is perfectly fine. What isn't an option is not ejaculating at all. Your body will end up rebelling at some point and you'll lose control over yourself until you ejaculate. If you are comfortable with masturbating or aren't able to have a wet dream, then take care of business instead of forcing yourself to go nutty. One thing to keep in mind is that it is only God who defines what is right or wrong. Your parents, myself, your preacher, nor anyone else can make something wrong or right. Since God doesn't say the physical act of masturbation is wrong, I will not put words in His mouth. "Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar" (Proverbs 30:6). I know of no proof that it is a sin and no proof that it is righteous; rather, it is one of those things that are neutral. It certainly can be used wrongfully, just as eating can be used wrongfully, but the act itself doesn't tell you whether sin is taking place or not.

It is normal that the desire for sex to be one of the motivations to get married. "Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband" (I Corinthians 7:2). "But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (I Corinthians 7:8-9). There is nothing wrong with looking for a companion. Just don't compromise your principles just because you want to jump into bed with some woman. "But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned" (I Corinthians 7:28).

If you want to meet a woman who holds similar values as you do, then you need to go places where people like you go. Visit other congregations. When there are youth gatherings, make a point to go. Join groups of people who have hobbies like your own. In other words, do just wait for a woman to show up at your doorstep.