Last updated on August 25, 2020
I was reading some things on masturbation in your site. I know you said that it is not sinful, or that at least it is not clear whether it is sinful or not. I read some articles where some people asked you if masturbation was sinful if it was accompanied by legal sexual thoughts. For example, I know it is a sin if you picture sexual immorality or if you accompany it with pornography. But what if you accompany it with a legal sexual thought; for example, if you masturbate while thinking you are having sex inside marriage or something? Is that sinful?
Is it also a sin if you daydream about being with someone or what marriage would be like? Or is having sexual thoughts about someone pretending that you are married?
People have a tendency to think that if something is pleasurable then there must be something wrong. In part, it is because Satan uses pleasures to distract people into doing sinful things. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). When faced with something that gives us pleasure, we ought to be on alert to make sure there are no hidden traps. However, it is a mistake to assume the sources of pleasure are the cause of sin.
As an example, we laughingly state that some rich dessert is “sinfully good.” By that, we mean that it tastes wonderful but you probably want to be wary of eating too much of it since it packs a lot of calories. Still underlying it all is a feeling of guilt in experiencing pleasure.
What we have to realize is that pleasure, while pleasant, is temporary. “I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, this also was vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2:1). All that you get from pleasant things is the pleasure itself. “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor” (Ecclesiastes 2:10).
It isn’t that God is against you enjoying life, quite the opposite actually. “So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 8:15). But it does become a problem when pleasure becomes the focus of your life. To focus on pleasure is to focus on things of this world. It is keeping your eye on temporary things and missing eternal things. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Without a doubt masturbation is pleasurable and without a doubt, Satan has fooled many men to combine masturbation with thoughts of sinful actions. In regards to masturbation what I’ve attempted to show is that the Bible indirectly acknowledges that it exists, but it does not label this action as either sinful or righteous. Just as eating or drinking is not necessarily right or wrong, I’ve concluded that masturbation falls into a similar category. It is what accompanies these things which can turn something into a sin.
So, is thinking about eating a hamburger later today wrong? Probably not, but if I’m thinking about stealing a hamburger to get the pleasure of eating it, then it becomes another matter. If I spend much of my time thinking about the hamburger, to the point of being distracted from what I need to be doing, then again it becomes another matter.
Is it wrong to think about the fact that one day I’ll marry and enjoy the pleasures of sex with my wife? Probably not. But if it becomes a consuming thought that distracts me from everything else, then it is another matter. If I start imagining a particular woman as being my wife, then I’m assuming something that probably will not happen and I’m lusting after that particular woman’s body, which isn’t right because we’re not married.
It is the thoughts that you must learn to control. It doesn’t matter whether you’re daydreaming, trying to reach a decision about whether to ask a woman to marry you, or pulling on your penis — you need to learn to keep your thoughts under control. Because as you think, that is the way you are likely to act when you don’t have the time to think things through. “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23).
One day you will be married and your wedding night won’t be the best time to start thinking about how to have sex with your wife. Very likely she won’t enjoy it and you’ll be disappointed. There are passages in the Bible that talk about sex. It is during the years leading up to marriage that you should learn them and consider how you are going to behave with your wife. In ancient Israel there was a very interesting command, “When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken” (Deuteronomy 24:5). During the first year of marriage, a man could not be sent away from home for war or an extended business trip. His “job” was to make his wife sexually happy.
Likely that means you have a lot to learn because most young men focus completely on what makes them sexually happy. In this regard, masturbation doesn’t help because most men focus on their own bodies and what pleases them. It is lousy training for the real thing.