Satan, who also goes by the alias “the tempter”, has been using the same old trick since the beginning of time. Literally. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve knew right from wrong–God had personally gone over His rules with them–and yet the slimy serpent paved the way for temptation’s free reign in their hearts by throwing one simple question into the mix:
“Did God really say you couldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?”
Fast forward to today…
“Is Masturbation Really a Sin?”
Sound familiar? This was the question I asked myself regularly for about ten years, whenever temptation would arise, and I would look for ways to get around the conviction I was feeling in my heart.
The question of whether or not masturbation is a sin really serves the same purpose as the question that the serpent posed to Eve. It throws just enough doubt in our minds to allow us to engage in it without feeling guilt… that is until the deed is done. In all the years that I struggled with masturbation, and through all of the stories I’ve heard from other Christian women who struggled with it, the guilt comes like a flood as soon as the pleasure subsides. Every time. Even people who have little to no relationship with Jesus confess that something inside of them makes them feel like what they’re doing is wrong. Why do we feel so much guilt if there’s nothing wrong with it?
Before I give my two cents on “the great masturbation debate,” I must acknowledge that I would not lump children that come upon masturbation through self-exploration into either of the subsequent categories, nor would I claim that victims of sexual abuse are at fault for the psychological and sexual effects their abuse has caused. These categories are directed towards those who regularly allow their sexual urges to govern their actions.
Committing Idolatry with Others
The most common way I find masturbation to be classified as sin is when it’s tied to lust. Jesus plainly lays it out in the Sermon on the Mount that looking upon someone with lust in your eyes is tantamount to adultery, which is listed in the Ten Commandments as a big “no-no” (Matthew 5:28, Exodus 20:14). To lust after someone simply means to want him very badly. Usually, the desire to masturbate is triggered by lust. If Jesus says that merely looking at someone with lustful intentions is bad, I imagine that acting on your lust by masturbating or fornicating only serves to compound the problem.
If your desires were constantly weighed on a scale throughout the day, with God on one side and other desires on the other side, God would theoretically always be the weightier object because He is to be your one pure and holy passion. If at any time you begin to lust for something, the scale begins to tip in the opposite direction. This is idolatry. Whenever your affections are set on anything other than God, it is considered idolatry.
Committing Idolatry with Yourself
Now don’t think that just because it’s possible to masturbate without feeling lust for anyone that you’ve found a loophole. There is still an issue of idolatry, but this time the weight on the other side of the scale is you. If pleasuring yourself is your utmost goal, and doing the will of God takes a back seat to it, that’s idolatry. I know people who automatically turn to masturbation the moment they wake up simply because they’ve established a routine of gratifying their flesh first thing in the morning. If your flesh is the first thing you’re feeding when you wake up in the morning, you better believe that its demands will not be easy to silence later in the day!
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. – Colossians 3:5
Ask the Right Questions
Instead of asking whether masturbation is right or wrong, ask yourself if you’re asking the question as an excuse to keep sinning. Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and reveal any hidden thing or any worthless affection that you need to be rid of. Idolatry and adultery are one in the same to God, so remind yourself that you are His Bride, and He desires… no, He lusts (in the purest and truest sense of the word) for your love and affection. Refuse to let the enemy’s tired old tactics prevail. Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.