Is masturbation a selfish activity for a Christian? Does it violate the Biblical concept of putting God first, others second and ourselves last?
As believers in Christ, one of the first Biblical principles we learned growing up is that true joy comes from putting God and others first. We were taught this simple acronym:
Jesus first: Jesus Christ, his will, and his glory should be the first concern we have as make our daily decisions and plans for life. In fact Jesus said if we loved others more than him, even our family more than him, we were not worthy of him.
Others second: The second group is others. This would be your wife and children, parents and then all others. In other words you take care of your family before you take care of yourself, and then you take care of brothers and sisters in Christ before yourself, and then strangers before yourself.
Yourself last: What I always found interesting in church is, when they got to the “You” part of joy, they rarely said much and moved on, it was simply a place holder, to remind us we always come last before Christ and others.
The JOY acronym is a very Biblical and Christian concept that we find all throughout the Old and New Testaments, here are just a few passages from the Gospel of Matthew which illustrate these important truths:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
There is absolutely no question that God calls on us a believers to put him first, others second and ourselves last.
In fact in Matthew 10:37, we are called to “deny” ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ.
Doesn’t putting yourself last and denying yourself make masturbation wrong?
In light of the Scriptures I have just presented, many Christians throughout the centuries and still even today have believed that Christians must deny themselves all forms of pleasure, whether it be having sex with our spouses, eating foods we enjoy or participating in sporting or leisure activities.
Masturbation has been has been seen by many Church leaders and Christians as the antithesis of the “self-denial” that we are called to in the Scriptures.
But before I answer these weighty charges against masturbation from a Biblical JOY perspective, let’s look at some other Biblical passages:
“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.”
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
I Corinthians 10:31(NIV)
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
While there are many passages in the Bible that illustrate the JOY principle, there are also many passages that address us taking care of our bodies, as the care of our bodies is indeed important to God. Throughout the Old Testament we see the God is interested in the health and cleanliness of our physical bodies.
God did not rest on the 7th day because he needed to, he rested to provide an example for us, as physical beings to give our bodies the refreshment, and nourishment they need. While we are no longer under the Sabbath law, I believe the principle of the Sabbath still remains, that we are to give our bodies the proper rest and refreshment they need.
God does not say it is wrong to love or care for or meet the needs of our body. Where we sin is when we abuse our bodies with drugs, alcohol or unbiblical Christian activities amongst other things.
In fact when I deny my body the rest it needs, by constantly working 7 days a week, and months on end with no rest, I am dishonoring God by neglecting the needs of my body.
It is one thing to fast and pray for a short time, and fasting can actually cleanse the body. But fasting for too long can cause great harm and damage to the body. So even fasting, when abused, can become a sinful and dishonoring activity to God.
The body needs a sexual release, and when it does not get one sinful thoughts can begin to creep in. I wrote an entire post on the subject of how Masturbation can actually help to keep you sexually pure. When we neglect our bodies the need for sexual release, even through masturbation, we dishonor our body, and we dishonor God.
Let me ask you something, if you purposefully withheld having bowel movements, or urinating, for days or weeks on end, and thus hurting your body, would you think this somehow honors God?
Anything that is not sinful, that our body needs to perform, whether it is eating, drinking, bowel movements, urinating, passing gas, having sex with our spouse and yes even masturbation by ourselves brings honor to God. Why? Because we are using are bodies as they were designed to be used, we are caring for our bodies and meeting the needs of our bodies, in ways that are not sinful.
Now even the natural needs of the body can abused, when we do things out of place or in the wrong way.
Passing gas with just family or friends might be amusing, but passing gas in front of strangers or in the middle of a church service would not be honoring to God.
Having sex with our spouse honors God, but if I start sticking my tongue down my wife’s throat in front of her parents, that may not be so honoring because of the time and place.
For masturbation it is the same, in the privacy of my home it is one thing. To just jump out in front of visitors or others and start masturbating would be wrong, again it would be the wrong time and place.
An illustration from massage
Many Christians will say that the only legitimate God honoring way to relieve sexual tension, or sexual hunger is through intercourse with our spouse when we are married, they say to masturbate is the just pure selfishness.
Imagine if we applied this same principle to those who have neck and shoulder tension. That would be like saying we can only get relief by having our spouse rub our neck or shoulders, and it would be wrong to use some massage device on ourselves, or get a massaging chair and have that work out the tension for us.
Many Christians simply refuse to look at masturbation as a legitimate means by which God gave man the ability to relieve sexual as well as other stresses that we may face in life.
It is absolutely true that God calls us to put him first, others second and ourselves last. But this principle does not make masturbation anymore wrong than us eating or having bowel movements is wrong.
It is not wrong to take care of the needs of our body, whether it getting proper rest, eating, having bowel movements, having sex with our spouses, and yes even masturbating when we need sexual relief, in fact I would say that we are honoring God when we take care of these various needs of our physical body.
When I get proper rest each day – I am honoring God because I am caring for the body he has given me.
When I take a day, or even two days off (when I don’t work Saturday) – I am honoring God by giving my body the refreshment and rest it needs.
When I eat my favorite foods, I am honoring God by caring for the body he gave me. (Obviously if I eat too much of my favorite foods then this same activity can become the sin of gluttony).
When I have sex with my wife, I am honoring God by giving her my body, as well as the sexual release that both our bodies need.
When I have a bowel movement, I am honoring God, by relieving my body of the waste that it needs to.
And yes, even when I masturbate, if it is done in a correct way, and under the right circumstances, I am honoring God by relieving the sexual tension that has built up in my body.
Not only are things like eating, sex with our spouses and masturbation needs of our bodies, but God has also given us these things for our joy and pleasure.
God calls to put him first, and to deny our SINFUL desires, he does not call us to deny the legitimate needs and desires of our bodies, we have only to keep them in balance, and do things in the proper time and place.
Masturbation is not a selfish activity anymore than eating food is selfish, it is all how much, when, where and under what circumstances it is done.