What Does the Bible Say About Masturbation?

The Bible Describes Healthy and Unhealthy Sexual Behavior

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Does the Bible talk about masturbation? Is it a sin? Where can we find Scriptures to know if masturbation is right or wrong?

While Christians debate the topic of masturbation, there is no passage in Scripture that directly mentions the act. Some believers refer to specific Bible verses that describe healthy and unhealthy sexual behavior to determine whether or not masturbation is a sin.

Masturbation and Lust in the Bible

One of the major sexual issues discussed throughout Scripture is lust. Jesus condemned lust in the heart as adultery in the book of Matthew.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who has looked at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28, NIV)

While advertisers, television shows, movies, and magazines promote lust, the New Testament describes it as a sin. Many Christians see masturbation as a form of lust.

Masturbation and Sex in the Bible

Sex is not bad. God created sex to be something beautiful, right, and pure. It is meant to be pleasurable. Christians generally believe that sex is to be enjoyed in marriage between a man and a woman. Many believe that sex between a married couple is the only acceptable sexual act, and masturbation takes away from its holiness.

For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24, NIV)

Rejoice in the wife of your youth! A loving doe, a graceful deer – may her breasts satisfy you at all times, may you ever be captivated by her love. (Proverbs 5:18-19, NIV)

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5, NIV)

Masturbation and Self-Centeredness

Another argument against masturbation is that it is a self-centered, self-indulgent activity rather than a God-centered, God-pleasing one. By contrast, some believers hold that an orgasm brings a person closer to God.

More commonly, Christians believe that “pleasuring oneself” through masturbation is about self-gratification and not about pleasing God. Most believers see their faith as having a God-focus, and that every act should be a way to glorify God. Thus, if masturbation is not helping to develop a relationship with God, it is a sin.

Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. (Psalm 119:35-37, NIV)


Onan’s name is often used synonymously with masturbation. In the Bible, Onan was supposed to sleep dutifully with his late brother’s wife to produce offspring for his brother. However, Onan decided that he did not want to produce a child that would not be his, so he ejaculated on the ground.

A great debate surrounds the topic of masturbation in the Bible, because Onan, in fact, did not masturbate. He did have sex with his brother’s wife. The act he committed is called "coitus interruptus." Christians who use this Scripture refer to the self-pollution of Onan as an argument against the act of masturbation.

Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Lie with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother’s wife he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so he put him to death also. (Genesis 38:8-10, NIV)

Be Your Own Master

A key to the issue of masturbation is the Bible's mandate for us to be the master of our own behavior. If we do not master our behavior, then the behavior becomes our master, and this is sin. Even a good thing can become sinful without the right heart. Even if you don’t believe masturbation is a sin, if it is controlling you then it is a sin.

“Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12, NIV)

Even though these passages are used in the argument against masturbation, they do not necessarily make masturbation a clear cut sin. It is important to look at the reasons for masturbation to see if the desire behind the act is a sin.

Some Christians argue that because masturbation does not hurt others, it is not a sin. However, others say to look deeper within to see if masturbation is building your relationship with God or taking away from it.