Self-Gratification- Gift or Sin?

This issue has been a long time in coming to the blog. I undertake it with some fear and trepidation because of the sensitivity of the topic in such a public forum. However, because this topic holds such power over so many women I will enter into this arena for your benefit and for the glory of God.

A few things for you to know: Self-gratification (masturbation, self-stimulation, self-sex) has become a literal epidemic among women, including Christian women.  I have counseled many, many women who are struggling with this issue and they have no idea where to turn for information or help.  They believe it is sinful and are burdened with guilt and shame.  These women are fearful of being discovered and their secret being uncovered. They are afraid of being judged.

As with every topic we look at on this blog, we have to go to the Scriptures to see what God's Word says about the issue. What we will quickly learn is there is no direct reference or prohibition to masturbation in Scripture. There are certainly direct commands to avoid types of sexual behavior such as adultery (Ex. 20:14), bestiality (Lev. 18:23 , homosexuality (1 Cor. 6:9), fornication (Eph. 5:3), orgies (Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21) and the like, but nothing that directly tells a person not to participate in self-gratifying sexual conduct. There is nothing telling a person to do it either.

Now before you think there is a green light to go forward with the behavior, let me clearly state I am not saying that. My task is to present what the Word of God says about this topic and I must be true to the text. I cannot say the Bible says something that it does not say. What is required is that we look further at what Scripture says about sexual immorality to determine if despite masturbation not being specifically mentioned, it is included in some other aspect of that group of sins.

Most people who engage in this practice achieve a state of arousal by viewing or reading pornography, either hard-core or suggestive enough to bring arousal to the forefront of the mind. Because the mind is so effective at storing information, many times a person can recall something they viewed or read previously to meditate or play over in their thoughts at any time. If you want to engage in self-gratification you find this helpful, those who want to overcome this behavior find it a curse.

I think we all would agree that the consumption of pornography of any kind is sinful. It is at the least voyeurism and at the most adultery. Pornography both creates and feeds sinful lusts in the flesh, something Scripture commands us to abandon.

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 1 Peter 4:3 (NIV)

Debauchery (extreme indulgence in immorality) will be the inevitable result of pornography. While many claim to be able to "moderate" with pornography, statistically people gravitate toward more and more forbidden behaviors as they view it. This in my opinion is one evidence that our flesh grows more corrupt (Eph. 4:22) the more it is fed.

Secondly, Scripture is also clear on our obligation to put to death the desires of the flesh.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality (pornea- unlawful lust), impurity (physical or moral uncleanliness), lust (suffering a passionate lust), evil desires (a longing for forbidden desire) and greed (covetous practices), which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5 (NIV)

The question before us then is, is masturbation a form of sexual immorality? Based on the above Scripture, I would say it is. Self-sexual stimulation stirs up an unlawful lust and leads to forbidden desires and passions that cannot be righteously satisfied.

It becomes idolatry when satisfying those desires is more important than glorifying God.

A common complaint from women is with respect to what to do with "illegitimate" arousal. This is arousal that is a result of prior sexual contact and having that person or practice removed from your life. This can take place in the life of a widow, a divorced woman, one who is no longer living with a man, or someone who wants to break free from the old habits of self-gratification. Those desires are still there and are used to being satisfied. In the case of a widow or divorcee sexual satisfaction was a part of normal life, and is now history.

I believe the admonition to put to death the desires of the flesh applies to all forms of desire that cannot be righteously satisfied within the bounds of a marital relationship. Widows are encouraged to remarry rather than burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7:8-9). I believe that women who are divorced having been abandoned or who have been given clearance by their churches to remarry in the Lord would also fall into that category. As for the rest, Scripture commands them to put to death the desires of the flesh.

If we are commanded to put something to death, that sounds very final to me. To put it to death means to snuff the life out of it, to kill it off, to cut off the flow of its life blood. In the case of sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires that would mean to stop doing anything that keeps those things alive. Those who struggle with any kind of sexual immorality have to evaluate their daily activities to determine what must be put to death to keep them from entering into sexual immorality.

For each person the trap is different, so I won't list them. The origin of it all is the same for this sin as for any other- the heart. (You can check out both of these links

More tomorrow on this important topic!