Do these passages teach that masturbation is sinful?

Last updated on August 28, 2020


I was thinking about masturbation and I thought about two passages in the Bible that make me wonder:

I Corinthians 7:8-9 “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Isn’t this “burn with passion” masturbation? Or can it be masturbation with the wrong motivation?

The other is:

Matthew 5:27-30 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” When he says right eye and right hand isn’t he talking about masturbation? And he speaks about the eye, and then the hand. Is he speaking about the motivation for masturbating? If the motivation is wrong, is there forgiveness for the one who made a mistake? Or will this person go directly to hell?

(Oh yeah, I stopped with pornography!)


In I Corinthians 7:8-9, Paul is concerned that if people who desire to marry put it off too long they will be tempted to have sex before they get married. The “burn with passion” is talking about having a strong desire to have sex when they should not. It is not talking about masturbation.

In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus is talking about men who look at women with the thoughts and desires to have sex with them. It isn’t proper to have sex with anyone but your wife, so imagining such is just as wrong. Again, he isn’t talking about masturbation, though many guys who masturbate do so while imagining having sex with someone to whom they are not married. It is the thoughts that are wrong.

The discussion about the eye and the hand is a form of figurative speech called “hyperbole.” Hyperbole is when you state something in the extreme to make a point. Jesus is not advocating the physical removal of a hand or an eye. What he is saying is that we must understand the danger of sin and be willing to take extreme measures to remove temptation from our lives. Often people keep sin in their lives because they “have to have” the cause of their failings. So for instance, if you constantly looked at porn on your smartphone, which would be better: doing without the phone, or continuing to sin?

Why did Jesus pick the eye and the hand? Just before he mentioned a sin that came from looking at women lustfully. Sins originate in our minds and often come from what we look at. The hands because when we dwell on sin for long periods, we end up doing those sins.

As I have often pointed out, the Bible doesn’t say masturbation, by itself, is sinful. What is sinful is when people look at pornography or think lustful thoughts to get themselves aroused enough to masturbate. It might seem like a small difference, but it is an important one. If we don’t recognize where the sin lies, we will end up fighting the wrong thing.

What is great is that you’ve taken steps to stop polluting your mind with sinful images.