Well this is kind of awkward.
Anytime you hear the word “masturbation” in a sermon, a small group, or just in the presence of another human, all kinds of uncomfortable things start to happen. The room goes quiet, faces get red, throats are cleared as people shift in their seats, we all avoid eye-contact, and everyone tries to act like they didn’t just hear that word.
Awkward or not, as Christians this is a topic we can’t ignore. Our churches and community circles are filled with people who silently struggle with this sin, too embarrassed to seek the help they wish they could find.
Perhaps you are someone who struggles with masturbation. Or perhaps you have no clue why this is a temptation for people but would like to be someone others can confide in and get advice from. Either way, here are five practical pointers that will help Christians overcome the sin of masturbation.
1. Realize the Bible Actually Does Condemn Masturbation
You’ve probably heard that the word “masturbation” is found nowhere in Scripture, which is absolutely true. Therefore when most people explain why masturbation is a sin, they focus on the lustful thoughts and intentions that are almost always associated with self-pleasure.
But just because the Bible does not directly condemn masturbation does not mean it has not been forbidden indirectly. Oftentimes authors in the Bible speak in categories rather than in specifics. So rather than listing every possible sexual act that could be sinful, the Bible gives us general boundaries in which we are to remain.
To the married 1 Corinthians 7:5 states, “Do not deprive each other except perhaps 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.” To the single 1 Corinthians 7:9 explains, “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
These two verses give us one sexual category for both the married and the single that encompasses all condoned sexual acts: All sexual activity must include the physical presence of your spouse.
Masturbation is indirectly condemned through what is expressly condoned. Notice Paul says that if you are married and perform a sexual act away from your spouse, you have fallen to Satan’s temptation because of your lack of self-control. If you are single and perform any sexual act (because you don’t have a spouse), here again Paul says you are showing that you cannot control yourself because you are indulging in sexual activity meant for marriage alone.
Since masturbation is done away from your spouse, the Bible categorizes it as sin. You can’t stop masturbating if you are not convinced it is sinful. Therefore, the first step in stopping this sin is to be firmly convinced that the Bible does condemn this act.
(For a deeper look at what the Bible says about masturbation, read the article, “Does the Bible Say Masturbation Is Sin?)
2. Don’t Use Weird Mental Tactics to Justify This Sin
The act of masturbation always starts in the mind. Even if you’ve never heard the biblical logic expressed in point 1, we all know subconsciously masturbation is a sin. To get around this, people often use odd arguments in their heads to justify why they are indulging in self-pleasure.
I’ve talked to single people who have learned how to masturbate while “thinking about nothing,” thus they feel they are not lusting, which in their minds makes self-pleasure okay. I’ve heard of people who justify masturbation by stating it helps them to not commit worse sexual sins like looking at porn or having premarital sex. I know married men who feel that as long as they are thinking about their wife when they masturbate, then it is alright in God’s eyes.
There are countless weird arguments we could try to use to justify masturbation. But in the eyes of God, sin is sin. Keep it simple and just obey at face-value your conscience, the Spirit’s leading, and the Bible’s instructions.
3. Look Ahead to the Reward
To overcome any temptation, we need to not only resist evil but also pursue what is good. Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
If you are single and desire to overcome masturbation, you have to firmly believe that your self-control and self-sacrifice now will result in greater pleasure in the future. You must learn to not only resist the temptation but to pursue the pleasure that stems from pleasing God. Additionally, masturbation will lessen your delight in sex once you get married. The more you resist sexual temptation now, the greater your sexual experiences with your future spouse will be later. And more than that, the more you resist sin in general, the greater your experience of God will be.
Are you more tempted to masturbate late at night? Stop staying up so late. Do R-rated movies plant seeds of sexual sin in you that feed your sinful nature? Stop watching these types of movies. Does going to the beach or the gym cause you to see the opposite sex in scanty clothing? Don’t go to these places anymore.
Identify any triggers and cut them out. Fighting masturbation is a spiritual battle, but don’t underestimate the practical stuff either.
5. Remember Who You Are in Christ
The process of sanctification is directly tied to our willingness to embrace the effects the gospel has had on us. When we become a Christian, we are made into a new creation with desires to please God (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). We must now spend the rest of our lives learning to embrace our new identify and reject our old nature.
If you want to overcome the temptation to masturbate, you must trust your Bible over your feelings. Preach the truth to yourself, “I’m a new creation in Christ. I don’t want to sin like this. I want to please God now.” The more deeply you believe that you are a new person who craves purity rather than promiscuity, the more your actions will begin to change.
If you are a Christian, you are a new creation. Now you just need to believe it and live from this truth.