Is masturbation sinful or not?

Last updated on July 24, 2020


First of all, I would like to say that I really found your site a wealth of information on all subjects biblical — which I hold very dearly.

I want to love God and obey his commands, but I have a problem with the subject of masturbation. It’s not that I want to lust or anything, but my sexual needs and those of my wife are miles apart. I need sexual release two or three times a week while my wife needs the same but in a month! 

When I hold back and do not self-release then I later on fall into looking at pornography, which I know is wrong (sinful) and that makes me feel guilty.

Your answer on the web site does not conclude whether this is a sin or not. If it is done without thinking about “other” women, but thinking only about own wife is that sinful? If it is, what does one do?

I know that Jesus said that if your eye offends you, it is better to pluck it out rather than fall into sin.

I want to know the biblical answer. Not an opinion, as I have heard so many contradictory opinions that I do not care for any man’s opinion, but I wish to know what God says (in principle) as the subject is not even mentioned in the Bible.

I know that there are many Christians out there that do not admit to this problem, but it’s a big issue even amongst us married guys — and I thought the problem would go away with marriage!


Oh, I understand very well that the issue of masturbation is something that bothers many Christian men. The answer to “Is masturbation unacceptable?” addresses the boundaries to the question. The Bible does imply that it takes place through the Old Testament laws regarding ejaculation and uncleanness, but to give a precise “yes” or “no” based on this is not possible. God warns us many times not to add or subtract from His laws (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Galatians 1:6-10; Revelation 22:18-19). Thus, based on the laws of uncleanness, it is not possible to answer the question. If we say it is a sin, when God didn’t, then we have added a law that God did not give. If we say it is not a sin, then we might be allowing something that God did not allow. I know it is frustrating in this particular issue, but as a preacher, I must stay within the bounds of God’s law (I Peter 4:11).

Since it isn’t approved or condemned as an action, I conclude the act itself is neither good nor bad. But then we must consider whether it is the motives behind the act that determines whether masturbation is right or wrong. There I found much more material.

I showed that using pornography or getting yourself sexually aroused by thinking about forbidden situations would be sinful. In a follow-up question, “Is masturbation a sin when it is not accompanied by pornography or sinful thoughts?” I covered in more detail that masturbation alone cannot be labeled as sinful and that it is the things accompanying the act that must be examined. Recently I tried to explain the issue more plainly to a teenager. One aspect that I think is being ignored by most who attempt to address the issue is wet dreams or nocturnal emissions. Those who condemn all masturbation end up also condemning this involuntary act, and it causes no end of guilty feelings in many teenage boys.

There is no reason you should avoid having strong desires for your wife. That is where your passions ought to be. Ideally, your wife ought to consider your needs ahead of her own, just as you ought to consider her needs ahead of your own. “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (I Corinthians 7:3-5). Unfortunately, the ideal is not always reached in a marriage.

One problem is that the husband doesn’t spend nearly enough time making sure his wife enjoys sex. I always found interesting the Old Testament 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). The concept of “happiness” in this verse implies sexual enjoyment. A newly Israelite man was released from all requirements to be away from his wife for the first year of their marriage so that he could focus on giving his wife sexual pleasure. Most marriages could stand more of this.

Because there is so much time between ejaculations, I suspect that you end up fulfilling your needs long before your wife’s needs are reached. Learning how to be a better sexual partner, such as learning what turns on your wife and gives her the greatest sexual pleasure would go a long way to ultimately satisfying your own needs. But it will take time to establish new habits.

And there are always going to be periods during a marriage where one or the other partner is not available for the sexual needs of the other, even if they are doing all they can (for example, illness, business traveling, and childbirth can interrupt regular sexual activity). In these cases, a man can allow wet dreams to handle his excess semen, or since you are struggling with temptation, using masturbation to take the edge off your sexual desire until sex is available again. The one thing you must do, however, is to not give in to the temptation to use pornography or thoughts of sinful situations to get yourself sexually aroused.

Some men wonder how that is possible, but that is because they have built a habit of using sinful thoughts to stimulate their desire, never realizing it isn’t necessary. All a man has to do is wait several days and the physical desire is strong enough that you don’t need to think about anything in particular and you will still ejaculate.


Thanks very much for your sound advice: I must say that in all my years searching, reading, and asking this seems to be the best that I have been given; that is, it does not appear to be contradictory to God’s word. I pray that our Great God will give you all wisdom to help others like this.