While the Bible does not specifically reference masturbation, it does have much to say about sexual temptation and purity. The Scriptures certainly provide believers all of the key teachings necessary to guide us in healthy and holy living, so while you might not find a verse that explicitly says “masturbation is wrong,” the Bible does provide clear guidance that addresses the heart of this issue.
First, let’s remember that sexual desire is a good and normal longing created by God and is a part of His plan for human enjoyment. There would also be no procreation without it. Nevertheless, the Scriptures are clear that physical desires, whether for sex or even for food, must not be allowed to rule over our minds and hearts. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:5, 6 NKJV). The apostle Peter also wrote emphatically, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,” (1 Peter 2:11 NKJV).
Sex is a pleasurable way to physically express love with another person; it is not meant to be a way to solely gratify ourselves. Indeed, love is really about the giving of yourself to another person. We see in Genesis that sexuality was designed to be shared between a man and a woman within a marriage covenant. Thus, sex within the marriage is a good thing, but any other sexual activity is a distortion of God’s perfect plan. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4 NKJV).
Jesus taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8 NKJV). The physical act of masturbation is almost always associated with impure, unhealthy thoughts or fantasies about another person. But Jesus said that even looking with lustful thoughts upon a person you’re not married to is a form of adultery and is defiling to the soul (Matthew 5:28). “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man” (Matthew 15:19, 20).
The apostle Paul also wrote that we shouldn’t engage in any behavior that allows “sin [to] reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. … For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:12, 14).How can I overcome this temptation?
Contrary to what many think, sexual temptation begins above the waist—it begins in the mind. That’s why it’s so important to guard and guide our thoughts. “Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1, 2 NKJV), “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NKJV).
“I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1 NKJV). Our thoughts are greatly influenced by what we look at. It’s little wonder that the various forms of pornography are associated the act of masturbation. We must pray for the strength to choose not to look at images or websites where we might be tempted.
Another key to overcoming masturbation, or any other temptation, is not fixating on the behavior you’re trying to avoid, but changing your focus on the thing that can change your heart, mind, and body. You need to change your focus to abiding in Jesus. Avoid getting into situations that make you think about masturbation and cling to those things that lead you to a relationship with Jesus. Focusing on regular prayer, Bible study, and Christian fellowship will also help you overcome. Continuing to consume media full of sexual suggestions will make your journey that much more difficult.
No one can escape this addictive behavior on their own terms, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?” (Jeremiah 13:23). But Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The apostle John wrote something very simple and powerful about Jesus: “Whoever abides in Him does not sin” (1 John 3:6). There’s overwhelming power in Jesus’ presence!
As long as Peter kept his eyes focused on Jesus, he was able to do what would normally have been impossible—to walk on water (Matthew 14:28, 29). But when he took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink. You can overcome masturbation or any other sinful behavior, but only as you shift your focus to abiding in the One who has overcome the world (John 16:33).
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