This is a question we get quite frequently here at Talk to a Pastor, so we decided to provide a scripted answer to some questions we get about masturbation and pornography.
No. There is no scripture in the bible that says masturbation is a sin.
Occasional masturbation, in and of itself, is not a sin. It is preferable to fornication. Masturbation, like many other things, may not be a sin, but they can lead to sin. Masturbation often comes with fantasy and that can turn into lust, which is not a good thing. The problem with masturbation is it can become a habit, and any habit that can not be controlled is not a good thing either. If you have a masturbation problem that you can not control, it could be an indication of possible demonic oppression that you can be set free from. Jesus came to set the captives free and destroy the works of the demonic spirits.
The other issue you have to watch for is, the more you sexually stimulate yourself, the more struggle with lust you are likely to have in the real world. While occasional masturbation might provide relief from natural sexual tensions, frequent masturbation can also feed them, especially in younger teens, who have yet to experience sexual activity with others.
Pornography is a sin, but it is not the unpardonable sin. It is also a sin a large part of the church (men and women) struggle with because we have a sex-saturated society. You see lustful images everywhere. The movies and TV shows all portray women as ready to hop into bed with any guy that comes along. On the other side of the fence are the women in society who have come from a broken relationship. Often they are looking to get married again so they don’t have to raise kids alone. It is a well-known fact that men think about sex a lot and many men look at women in sexual terms. All of these conditions and more make for a world that continually promotes sex. Many people turn to pornography thinking it is harmless.
The problem with porn is that it is highly addictive. It releases chemicals in our brains that incite pleasure. A person can get addicted to that “high” just like any other drug. The other issue is saturation-or the law of diminishing returns. Looking at photos is great for a while, but then gets boring, so a person goes to video. Soft porn becomes boring so they start looking for harder and harder porn and even perversions to get the same stimulation. After a while, impersonal videos give way to live webcam sex chat rooms. Finally, people turn from the internet to look for real sex with real people. Like any addiction, it may take a little time, but once started it always escalates unless you stop it.
Porn can be a significant cause of divorce. as one or both partners get addicted, causing emotional betrayal. It often leads to affairs. Remember the law of diminishing returns. At some point people or going to be tempted to try the stuff they see in porn, leading to adultery or worse.
The way to overcome the temptation to watch pornography is to take steps to limit it. The first thing is to stop it before it grabs ahold of you. Practice distraction. You see a sexy girl on the internet and the thought comes to look at porn. Distract yourself immediately. Play a game, or get up and walk away while the temptation is still low. A second step is to set up a content filter on your computer. Use it to block porn and other unwanted content so you have a way to stop accidental access. Of course, you can override it with a few clicks, but it gives you a second or third STOP option to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you. A third safety net is an accountability partner(s). A small, trusted, close-knit group that agrees to hold each other accountable without judgment.
One scripture that is important here is Galatians 5:16-17 “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
The church often teaches that if we quit sinning we will become spiritual. Actually, Paul says the exact opposite. If you become spiritual you will quit sinning. Is it any wonder why so many Christians struggle? Paul’s advice was not to always focus on overcoming sin in an effort to be spiritual. He said build your spiritual life with good spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer, worship, Christian music, fellowship, and service for God. Your spirit will be strengthened and the temptations will not be nearly as alluring.
I trust this helps you with some practical ideas to walk with God. if you still want or need to talk to a pastor, please click here to get the conversation started.
(Side Note: Where did the church get the idea that masturbation was a sin? There are two places this started. The Roman Catholic church taught that any sex that was not between a husband and wife was a misuse of sexuality. They really did not have any scripture to back this up though. Second, some have used a story in Genesis 38 about God killing a man for “spilling his seed on the ground” (ejaculating on the ground instead of in a woman). This story has nothing to do with masturbation though. The law of the Israelites was if a man died and left no children, his brother was to take the widow and have children with her that would be considered the dead brother children. The man in the story did not want to have a child that would be counted as his brother’s son so, instead of impregnating the sister-in-law, he had sex with her and ejaculated his semen on the ground instead of inside her where she would get pregnant. God was angry and killed that man, not because he spilled his seed on the ground, but rather because he rebelled against a clear command of God to keep the lineage and heritage alive.)