Masturbation: A commentary by Pastor Ed Martin of mychainsaregone.org.

Reprinted by permission. Original HTML reformatted for improved readability.


Why is it that we think that since God "forgot" to tell us that masturbation is sin, that we can just write it into the margin of our Bibles and call it "inspired?"

The primary error of the Pharisees was not that they secretly didn't want to avoid sin, it was that they created a whole list of man-made rules by which they could ensure for themselves that they were not in sin...and at the same time, measure (and judge!) everyone else on whether they were in sin or not. This is precisely the error that so many make on the issue of masturbation. They correctly understand that lust is against God's moral law. They observe that masturbation often accompanies lust. They conclude that the way to know if you're lusting or not is to ask if someone is masturbating or not. The problem is that God didn't establish that measure...man did.

Is it possible that masturbation simply did not exist when Scripture was written, so that would explain why God "failed" to forbid it? I don't think so. Some point to the story of Onan who "spilled his semen on the ground" as God's hatred of masturbation. It doesn't work. Let's take a look at why:

Genesis 38:8-10 (NASB) "Then Judah said to Onan, "Go in to your brother's wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother." Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord; so He took his life also."

The text itself tells us what he did and why:

But why did God consider it a "wicked" thing that he did? Was it the "what" or the "why?" Well, since we know that God values obedience above sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22), it is easy to check whether there was an issue of disobedience or not.

Deuteronomy 25:5 (NASB) "When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her."

Admittedly, this law is given after the events happened in Genesis 38, but clearly the social custom was already established before God wrote it into Scripture—and—it demonstrates pretty clearly why God considered what Onan did to be "wicked." Here's the funny thing about trying to condemn masturbation...there's no Scripture that clearly condemns it, so instead, passages like this one are bastardized in the attempt to find any Scripture to support the predetermined conclusion. In the frenzied effort to find a Scripture verse that condemns masturbation, we have completely passed over the one passage that (I believe) clearly does speak about masturbation! In my opinion, it gets passed over for the simple reason that it does not condemn it (therefore it must not be talking about masturbation, 'cuz we know it's wrong!).

Here's where the Bible describes masturbation:

Leviticus 15:16-19 (NASB) "16Now if a man has a seminal emission, he shall bathe all his body in water and be unclean until evening. 17As for any garment or any leather on which there is seminal emission, it shall be washed with water and be unclean until evening. 18If a man lies with a woman so that there is a seminal emission, they shall both bathe in water and be unclean until evening. 19When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening."

There it is...verse 16.

Of course, some say that this is just a "nocturnal emission" or "wet dreams" while a man is asleep. Indeed, that situation is addressed in Deuteronomy 23:10 (NASB) ("nocturnal emission" is actually translated from words that literally mean "nighttime occurrence"):

"If there is among you any man who is unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he must go outside the camp; he may not reenter the camp."

But that's not what we have here—this is how I know. I've quoted four verses, and in them there are three situations mentioned that will make someone ceremonially unclean:

  1. The emission of semen alone.
  2. The emission of semen with a woman.
  3. The blood flow of a woman's menstrual cycle.

Starting with no. 3, clearly, there is no sin in a woman having a monthly cycle—God designed her that way. But, still, it made her ceremonially unclean. That was not punishment, nor was it an indication that her condition was sinful nor that the reason she was now unclean was sinful.

Moving on to no. 2, there is no sin in a man having sexual relations with his wife. Obviously, the emission of semen was inside the woman, because there is no concern about the bedding getting soiled with the semen. Again, no sin, but still the consequence was that they both be ceremonially unclean for the day. And, for the record...the man was awake when it happened.

Finally, we look again at no. 1. Is this only a "nocturnal emission?" Well, was the guy asleep? There's no basis to claim so...no more than the man and woman were in the next verse. But even so, it doesn't matter because even if it applies while the man is asleep, it must also apply if the man is awake. Therefore, this verse must also cover seminal emission by masturbation. So...what is the "penalty?" Where is the condemnation? The "consequences" are exactly the same as for sex with one's wife, or the "sin" of menstruating. In other words, masturbation is not condemned. Well, there is one more thing the masturbating man is told that he must do...clean up your mess! But even the soiled bedding is not forever ruined.

The Scriptures do not have a word for "masturbation." But, the concept is right there in Leviticus 15. We do not need to find out God's perspective on it any further than that. Scripturally, masturbation is as much a natural part of the human condition as menstruation and marital intimacy.

But...you can't masturbate without lust! You can't? Says who? The Bible? (well, no...). Those who say they can't masturbate without lust are only admitting that they cannot masturbate without lust. Well...they shouldn't masturbate (because lust is forbidden by God). But they have no business creating man-made rules to use to assess righteousness before God.

Colossians 2:20-23 (NASB) says this:

"If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence."

We must reject man-made rules...no matter how much they seem to "make sense!" But there's something more here...we are also told here that the man-made rules are of absolutely no value against sin! Actually, when we invent man-made rules of righteousness which God has not declared, we actually serve the enemy instead.

Man-made rules for righteousness never help in the life of righteousness. They always serve to thwart it. This post is not a promotion of masturbation...it is an absolute rejection of a man-made rule that has been elevated to be equal with God's Word. God said, "don't lust." He didn't say, "don't masturbate." It is we who have made them inextricably linked. And it is a mistake.