Well, I’ve sent off to my editor at IVP an early draft of my manuscript on pomography – 70,000 words (too many). It’s a been a bit of push trying to finish it off before we go away on holiday.

Here’s a section on masturbation. I’ve posted it as a pdf to avoid the problems I get with my blog provider screening inappropriate words. I’d be very interested to hear what you think.

I’m away now for two weeks. I’ve scheduled some posts for the coming days, but I’ll not be monitoring comments for the next two weeks. So enjoy discussing mastu rbation while I’m away! I look forward to reading what you all think when I get back.


38 thoughts on “Masturbation

  1. I totally agree with the previous comment. Great balanced piece. Masturbation is only beneficial when done mutually with your married spouse. I would also add that an addiction to it can only be overcome through surrender to God. As 12 Step people say, ask God to help you find in Him/Her what you are looking for in – in this case – lust.

  2. Hi Tim,
    I normally enjoy and agree with your articles but in this case I disagree with the previous comments as regards the article being balanced. I would agree that m. is obviously not God’s best in any situation but to limit it to a married couple who have the mindset to mutually masturbate one another is in my view without compassion and comes across a little pharisaical. I think it would be uncommon to find both partners agreeable to this and have a feeling that where it does take place it is the male who is the instigator and perhaps the woman feeling a little manipulated!

    Why do I feel your article is unbalanced? Let me explain. There are many couples who can only dream about the sex life that some prominent evangelicals appear to have and boast about ( i.e. The Driscolls, pre-scandal Ted Haggard-One might also add ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks’)Many Christian married couples often struggle with problems such as tiredness, post natal depression ,stress etc which results in a lack of sex. It is very well to argue that they should see an expert but often they do not have the finance to afford it and even if they did one of the partners, more often or not, would not be prepared to open themselves to a stranger regarding such a sensitive, private matter.

    Your article would also condemn a man or woman from m.while thinking of their partner if that partner is unable to face intercourse because a psychological problem such as depression. It would also condemn a person, who still deeply in love with their deceased partner, m. while thinking of them. Obviously that person must learn to move on but while the feelings for the deceased person are very real, to argue that it is a sin on their part I think is much too harsh and lacks the compassion of the Master.

  3. I disagree with John Smith, and think that your article speaks directly into those situations.

    Re problems in sex life. To make m. the solution is to fail to deal with the problem. It will always be an easy out, rather than work through the whole slog of self-control and relational problem solving. Sex is about pleasure through serving, not self serving.

    Re deceased partner – it makes m. look like a personal protest against God’s taking the partner away, ie saying that God got it wrong in taking them away.

    I suppose the same argument could be made for depression or other pyschological problem.

    It seems to me that the issue is one of whether we allow our sex drive to drive us, or whether we will not be mastered by anything. It also seems to me that in any of those situations the solution of ‘m’ is no solution, because the reality is that ‘m’ only exacerbates the whole sexual drive.

    Of course in the above situations it will have to be dealt with pastorallya nd with sensitivity, not simply landing in and saying it is sin.

  4. Thanks jmark for response to my comments on m. I think however, the tone is, with respect, very much too harsh and a little self righteous.
    Jesus condemns the man who looks upon a woman, to lust after her, as the sin of adultery, but in the examples I refer to, the men are married or had been married before their partner died.

    There is no therefore no Biblical warrant as far as I am aware to condemn a man or woman who m.while thinking of his wife in his heart. I readily agree that if he were to think of any other woman, or to use porn to do this, it would of course, as Jesus states, to be committing adultery in his heart!

    As regards my example of a man thinking of his deceased wife and m. being ‘like a personal protest against God’s taking the partner away, ie saying that God got it wrong in taking them away’, I don’t even know where that is coming from! If a Christian couple have loved and served God all their days and God takes one of them home, to say that, to my mind lacks the compassion our Lord would have had, and wants for even the milk of human kindness. AS Faber writes:
    ‘But we make his love too narrow
    By false limits of our own,
    And we magnify his strictness
    With a zeal He will not own ‘.

    To condemn it as being purely ‘self serving’ when the person is thinking thoughts of love is to much too harsh and in my view could be superior to having ‘normal sex’ where there can be more ‘self serving’.

    The sexual urge is God given and Satan has a big enough field day as it is, through temptation and his condemnation and guilt without Christian leaders helping him out .Origen obviously had a big problem in this area and ended up castrating himself. But perhaps if there had been a little more compassionate understanding given to him by the leaders of his day, he might not have taken such a drastic action.

  5. Tim here, commenting via my phone. Let’s not confuse ethics with the way they are applied. What makes an ethic ‘harsh’ is not it’s content, but the way it’s applied. An ethic is harsh if it’s applied in a graceless manner.

  6. Hi Tim, hope things are well on your journeying. Regarding my comments, when I used the word harsh etc (I did not want to be dogmatic and say it was wrong!), I am using it because in my view, limiting m. exclusively to couples who m. one another is a ‘man made’ imposition and not a clear teaching from Scripture. If on the other hand you had said that witchcraft, gossiping, homosexuality, murder and backbiting were wrong I would not have said this was harsh because Scripture clearly teaches us not to do it! The Pharisees laid burdens on the people which were harsh even though they believed their conclusions were based on the Scripture, and of which, Jesus rightly declared that they neither knew the Scripture, nor the power of God.

    To condemn those people in the cases I cited as committing a sinful act I believe is wrong, as your argument(I believe) is against both the letter (there being no clear teaching against it), and the Spirit of Scripture as it lacks the compassion that we find in Christ. I think it can become very dangerous when we come to conclusions and make ‘rulings’ that will be hard on others and may have little effect, if any, on ourselves.

    I don’t think that m. will, in these cases, of necessity, fuel the drive either and need not necessarily become addictive or an obsession for the person, with it being only a temporary measure.

  7. Thanks Tim. Very useful. A good combination of balance, sensitivity and biblical wisdom.

    I’ve been asked to give a sperm sample, and thinking through if/how to do this in a godly way. While, I did not find a direct answer, it was good to have a succinct statement of principle.

    On another note, I’m just reading “You can change”, which is proving to be very practical and nourishing in Christ.

    Every blessing and happy holidays!

  8. Hi John Smith,

    you rightly point out the need for pastoral sensitivity when considering the application of principles; particularly so in this area. Legalism can kill, and a lack of guidance can be equally destructive.

    You felt that the article would “condemn a man or woman from m.while thinking of their partner if that partner is unable to face intercourse because a psychological problem such as depression” and in another case “[a person] who still deeply in love with their deceased partner, m. while thinking of them” .

    As I read it, Tim provides some reflection on principles and then provides 4 questions to be used to help make a wise decision in a given case.

    Are you sure that the article condemns the scenarios that concern you?

    After writing of “the mutual masturbation case” Tim writes, “I doubt there are **many** other circumstances it which it is pure, helpful, marriage‐strengthening and God‐glorifying” (highlight with ** is mine). Theoretically, the questions are there to help us find those cases where masturbation may be beneficial.

    Perhaps, when thinking of the scenarios you mention we should reflect on them in the context of Tim’s questions:

    • Does my masturbation involve inappropriate sexual fantasies?
    • Am I in control of my masturbation or am I mastered by my masturbation?
    • Is my masturbation beneficial? Does it strengthen or weaken my marriage (or
    future marriage)?
    • Is my masturbation something I can do to the glory of God?

    This may help in finding the balance that the article seemed to lack before.

    It seems to me that Tim’s article would not **necessarily** rule out the cases you mention, esp. in the context of Qs 1 and 2. Are you?

    In His grip, H

  9. Hi HughG,

    I really appreciate your comments and do see how the article could possibly allow m. in the cases I cited- though I don’t know whether Tim would agree that they are valid ( I hope he would!).

    To be honest I took the article in a negative way especially as Tim allowed for only a couple of instances where it would not be sinful and his doubts ‘that there are many other circumstances in which it is pure, helpful,marriage‐strengthening and God‐glorifying”. Because no others were quoted I therefore thought the article was therefore not balanced as it ‘appeared’ to condemn those who m. in the examples I gave.

    If mutual m. may be done to the glory of God, it could also clearly be done for God’s honour, mixed with prayer for the beloved, and worship of God.

    Wishing you well.

  10. In the last paragraph of my last comment I didn’t really express myself properly so I will repeat it.
    If mutual m. may be done to the glory of God ( as Tim states), it could also clearly be done in the cases I have cited, that is being done for God’s honour, mixed with prayer for the beloved, and worship of God.

    How then could it be done in a pure, helpful, marriage‐strengthening and God‐glorifying”?

    Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:4-6
    4The 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. 5Do 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. 6I say this as a concession, not as a command.

    In this example Paul speaks of a normal marital relationship where the couple by mutual consent refrain from sex in order devote themselves to prayer. What I want to look at is Paul’s recommendation to ‘come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.’ Now if in the case of a wife or husband who because of illness etc can not face sex with their partner, it will according to Paul put the partner in a position of temptation (presumably from an illicit source). Rather than be tempted to have sex outside marriage where the marriage could be destroyed and God’s name dishonoured it would I believe be legitimate for the to m. with his loved one the focus of his attention, mixed with prayer for them. It is also interesting that even Paul recognises our natural weakness of lack of self control in this area.

    Obviously this would hopefully be only a temporary situation until the ill partner recovers and in the case of the widow or widower they will be able to overcome the loss of their beloved and be able to move on.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts.

  11. Hey John Smith,

    thanks for taking the trouble to more fully unpack your thoughts around your case and reflecting on this in the light of scripture. Good idea!

    In 1 Cor 7:4-6 quoted, the husband and wife belong to each other. This view issues in the idea that sexual intimacy is something they should enjoy together and not withhold. In the case Paul mentions he does not want the partners to refrain from intimacy to the degree that they put their marriage in danger through lack of self control. So, the assumption is that sex is to be used to build their marriage and express their relationship, not primarily for the purpose of individual sexual enjoyment. To put it personally, I am to use sex not for primarily for myself, but to serve and pleasure my wife. She is to do the same for me.

    This changes how we apply the passage to the area of m. If in 1 Cor 7:4-6 we could see Paul developing an idea of sex as to be used to primarily provide a release valve for husband and wife’s sexual drives, then the application to m. would be straightforward. However, we see him developing a theology of sex to build the marriage. Would the use of m. in the case of a partner being ill, and where an explicit decision by one partner to withold sex is **not** in view, build the marriage? Could it be that a more godly path would be for the husband or wife to use their sexual energies to serve and bless their unwell partner? Could it be that putting m. or even asking about it in this context does not really fit the question the passage is answering?

    This discussion is going beyond the article, and thanks to you, we are now dealing with Scripture directly. I’m not wanting to say m. could not be used in the case, or is point blank forbidden. However, do you think that sometimes we can view individual sexual fulfillment as a right, in a way that certainly 1 Cor 7:4-6 does not endorse? If sex is about what I give to my partner, more than what I recieve from them, then perhaps when my partner is ill, I will be thinking more of how I can positively serve them as Christ has served me. What do you think?

    I don’t know how this sounds to you. I hope not doctrinaire. I want to submit to God’s teaching in Scripture, so jump in!

    In the case, where a grieving partner uses m., I think care is needed. I find these two questions very searching from Tim’s article:
    • Does my masturbation involve inappropriate sexual fantasies?
    • Am I in control of my masturbation or am I mastered by my masturbation?

    Speaking personally, I’m not sure I’d want to use m. in this case. and given what I’ve already written, m. contradicts what I normally get to give and how I get to serve ‘sexually’ in my marriage. Simply speaking, using m. would not help: it’d be like trying to eat chocolate to meet a desire to talk with friends.

    OK, I think I’ve gone on quite enough.

    Every blessing to you in your reflections,

  12. Once again HughG I do thank you for your reflections and in the manner in which you share them. I do agree that in the passage quoted, Paul, when speaking about the couple coming together again after devoting themselves to prayer, is concerned primarily with the building up of the marital relationship and not for the individual’s sexual enjoyment. Nevertheless Paul knows the power of the God given sexual drive, along with the enemies the Christian faces from the world, the flesh and the devil seeking to exploit this natural desire. One is even shocked by his statement ‘it is better to marry than burn with lust’! From this statement alone I think Paul recognises that the sexual experience is not merely ‘self giving’, but is also important to satisfy the God given sexual desire.

    In the cases cited the person is married (at least in the case of the man who is depressed), he loves his wife, he prays for his wife, he worships God and desires to be pure before Him. God has given him this sexual desire, he is married and wants no other woman –I can not see how God would condemn a man in this situation. I believe that Satan’s temptation for him in this situation would be to get him to lust after another woman and even separate himself from his wife to find someone who could satisfy his desire. To argue that he sins if he m. with his focus on his wife, in my view and I believe Scripture’s, is to make God out to be some sort of tyrant!

    Jesus condemns a man for looking at a woman to lust after her as adultery, but in this case it need not be lusting and as it is the person’s partner it could not be regarded as adultery. Both Jesus and Paul recognize the problems of sexual temptation as well as the frailty of human nature, even though it may be a redeemed one-did not Paul, as a redeemed child of God cry out ‘wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death’! Though he went on to speak of victory in Christ over temptation he recognised Satan’s power. I therefore believe in the instances I give the man (or woman) is not committing a sin.

    We may also be in danger becoming like the ‘experts of the law’ to which Christ said:‘ you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them(LK. 11). He is the one who is gentle and lowly of heart, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light’- Satan does not want us to know this- he wants Christ to appear as a tyrant and as quoted in a previous comment:

    ‘But we make his love too narrow
    By false limits of our own,
    And we magnify his strictness
    With a zeal He will not own ‘.

  13. In the first paragraph I meant to write ‘Paul recognises that the sexual experience is not merely just ‘pleasure through serving’ but is also important to satisfy the God given sexual desire.Paul was a realist as was Jesus.

    I had written ‘self serving’ instead of ‘pleasure through serving’.


  14. Just a passing question in following this discussion:

    I hear all thats been said, appreciate the difficulties of the man in the above situation, but where does the work of the Spirit in developing self control in the life of the believer come in?

    When you say “I believe that Satan’s temptation for him in this situation would be to get him to lust after another woman and even separate himself from his wife to find someone who could satisfy his desire”–that may be so, but that does not prove that m is the only solution. Scripture is more or less silent on the subject of m, but it is not silent on the subject of self-control and mastering our appetites.

    Surely this says far more about a man’s love for his wife, when he is prepared to subjugate his appetite for sexual pleasure and exercise self control, rather than go off and self pleasure, no matter whether he is thinking about his wife or not. Does it not say to his wife, “I will wait for you, because sexual pleasure is no real pleasure without you.” Pastorally, how does it make a depressed wife feel when she finds that her husband is making do without her? Surely it only exacerbates the situation.

    Whilst understanding your argument re God as tyrant, and recognising that it is a good rule in grey areas, I dont think the place of self-control has been sufficiently explored to justify using it just yet.



  15. Mark I do appreciate what you are saying about self control and it is true that a Christian must grow continually in this area. However a married man in the situation cited I am sure will have been exercising quite a lot of self control- he is resisting the use of porn be it internet, television or magazine ( which according to the survey is quite common even among Christian leaders!) nor is he seeking a sexual relationship with someone else- he also loves his wife. His wife also loves him and though she would love to have sex with him is unable because of her depression. She also recognises that he has sexual needs and is happy that he m. without adultery in his heart. He also believes that what he does is not sin because he focuses on his wife.

    Some other scriptures not directly related to m. may be of help here. First of all, as stated before, m is neither condemned or condoned in Scripture. Howerver the ‘weaker brother’ passage in Romans though speaking about food I believe is helpful in the discussion.

    4Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
    5One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
    9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11It is written:
    ” ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
    ‘every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will confess to God.’ “[a] 12So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

    In the cases cited the poor men are earnestly seeking God’s will, they love Him and also love their spouses -neither does their conscience condemn them as they believe they are not committing adultery in their heart. How can we judge and condemn such a brother or sister. Do we have a right to legislate against such a man –I don’t think so.

  16. Hi John

    For mature Christians I wouldnt let them class resisting porn or adultery as self-control. They are simply not options for the Christian. I dont think I am doing well when I dont murder someone who annoys me, or assault them, or scratch up their car. Those are simply not options.

    On the other hand, when I have been offended, and I refuse to express my (understandable) anger, and instead seek to show Christ-like love. Thats what I would clssify as self control.

    It isnt self control to refrain from doing what is utterly off limits.

    That doesnt mean I am naive about what Christians get up to as per this survey. I think it is a disgrace to the name of Christ, that needs to be dealt with both strongly and compassionately.

    A young Christian who is coming from a background of porn and m, I will give more time and space to, but the goal posts dont shift.

    I dont agree with the implication that seems to come from your earlier comment – ‘Paul recognises that the sexual experience is not merely just ‘pleasure through serving’ but is also important to satisfy the God given sexual desire’ – I dont think Paul envisages this ever being outside of mutual intercourse, thats the whole point of the passage! ‘Pleasure through serving’ is where ‘satisfying the God-given sexual desire’ takes place.

    And since we live in a fallen whole, it isnt going to be the way it is in the movies, but thats where we have to practice all the Christians virtues of giving, serving, and self control etc.

    I think Tim’s comment re sorting out the ethics of an issue and how we deal pastorally with it is worth contemplating. This medium of commenting doesnt allow you to hear how I’d deal with a man in that situation. It certainly wouldnt be to go in and ‘condemn’ – as you rightly say that would be wrong. But rather I would be to seek to get alongside and move him to a more helpful place.

    In Christ


  17. I haven’t yet read Tim’s article (though I intend to) because I got wrapped up in the comments! So, I’m not sure what Tim says (and if I’m repeating, then sorry!).

    I think we have to ask ourselves why God created sex? On a simple level, I would say it’s an act that unifies us to our spouse in pleasure and procreation and ultimately points to the fullness of joy that will exist between Christ and his people in the new creation.

    I think that though we have sexual urges that doesn’t mean we have needs that MUST be met. When I hear that language I immediately think idol. Sex isn’t like food – something essential to our life. Therefore, I believe that unless a married couple is physically involved together (not just in the imagination) m would be wrong.

    I’ve heard all the arguments before and anything else seems (to me, at least) selfish at best, idolatrous at worst. Just my 2 cents, or tuppence I guess for those on the other side of the pond ;-)


  18. I read the article and most of the subsequent posts. I usually err on the side of caution and honoring God with my freedom – meaning I abstain from certain activities though I have the freedom to do them. My problem is that my wife just had our second daughter several weeks ago and we can’t have sex for another 4 weeks or so. We haven’t had sex for about three months anyway. Also, no one is mentioning the sexless or near-sexless Christian marriage. Therin lies the problem for me. My wife and I are both physically attractive and young, and I desire her; however, she is very inhibited and has some trust issues we are dealing with. Also, I have been wrong to have unfair expectations of her based on past struggles with porn. Thank the Lord that I’m not there anymore, but the simple truth is that every few days I begin to burn with desire. I do not masturbate, rely on God;s grace to abstain from sexual immorality in my mind, and I do not look at suggestive images. My wife and I share extremely little physical connectedness (something that we are working on), and in my desparation I often have to go work out, take a cold shower, and be diligent not to resent my wife. When we do make love, sometimes I am disappointed and that truly hurts my wife. Also, she often lies there and waits for me to finish.

    This is the backdrop. This morning I saw my wife naked com,ing out of the shower and she looked completely gorgeous to me. I was immediately extremely desirous of her. One thing that I have learned is that abstaining from masturbation in the conext of marriage is an incredible means to keep passion, desire, and libido for one’s spouse very alive. Masturbation leaves nothing for her, or at least it leaves very little left.

    What do I do today, though? I went into the bathroom after her, and as I stood there alone I longed for my wife (I really did – i wasn’t thinking oif anyone else for once!) but we aren’t having sex. She does not do anything for me, and I am often lonely. I usually feel very guilty about masturbating, but this morning I felt none specifically because all I could think of were the very recent images of my beautiful naked wife. I fought the temptaption masturbate all day today, but I’m wondering if it’s OK considering I am not lusting after anyone else and that we rarely have sex (and we won’t for a long while).

    Sorry for the long post, but I’m sure you men understand the importance and power of sex in a Christain marriage and in a man’s life.

  19. Phil,
    I appreciate the honesty of the comment. Others might disagree, but the problem I still have with m. by married men is that it seems 1) to make sexual fulfillment an idol and 2) our wives nothing more than an object.

    We don’t HAVE to have sex. It’s a great blessing from God, but if it begins to have control over us, then we have to deal with that.

    Secondly, It’s right to want your wife, but I think it’s possible to do so in a sinful that sees her as a sex machine to meet your needs. Porn creates unrealistic expectations and the reality married life means having kids and laying off sex for a while.

    If there are problems with your relationship, that has to be the first priority. As CJ Mahaney has said, ‘we have to touch our wife’s heart before we should try to touch her body.’ I think there is much wisdom in that.

    I say all of this experiencing the same struggles as you do. Having wrestled through these things, this is where I am. Again, some might disagree with me. Either way, I will be praying for you.

  20. I have to admit that I already had it somewhat settled in my heart that it was still wrong to practice masturbation even if I was thinking of my wife. In my depravity I was looking for someone to give me permission. We are very familiar with CJ Mahaney and his wife, and we are definitely working on the relationship as the priority. Even as I write I know my wife knows i love her very very much, and I know she feels very loved by me (She’s told me and thanked me), it’s just difficult to live through cycles of instense lust only to have your close Christian friends (male) explain that the Lord gave us a solution to that in our wives. I usually get the sudden urge to hang up on them and throw my phone accross the room.

    I agree that we don’t NEED sex to live. I truly believe that obedience to the Lord leads to great joy and fulfillment (gospel of John). I am so thankful to even be saved from hell, myself, and fear. I try to live in the truth that soon enough I will be on my deathbed grateful to have honored the Lord.

    We listened to a teaching by Carolyn Mahaney not too long ago, and in it she explained how a godly Christian wife should be in the area of sex. It was an MP3 on my computer, and almost the entire time I had to fight off feelings of hurt because of how far my wife is from that and how unwilling she even seems at times to even grow in that area. I then feel guilt for even going there because, frankly, I don’t have a right to complain about anything considering I don’t DESERVE anything whatsoever.

    My modus operandi is to love my wife as Christ loved the church – selflessly, wthout condition or expectation, completely and with abiding relationship with god as the foundation. That sounds nice, I’m sure, but I think the Lord has put me here in this situation because it keeps me perpetually humbled and desparate for Him. I’m not doing it perfectly, but for the past few months I have taken great strides. I admit that I have a hope that the Lord will honor that with giving me my wife’s affection. I know she loves me very much; I just wish she was even a little affectionate.

    As far as masturbation, I’m sorry that I even went there. I don’t think I had to. I was flirting with the idea all day yesterday because of my struggle with lust, and, praise God, I chose by His grace to abstain.

    Since this is a context of great anonymity, I find it easy to be even more honest: in my depravity I’ve thought of slipping my wife viagara or some other agent to increase her libido. I never have or will, but in my dark thoughts I’ve considered it. Also, I’ve considered having an affair – again, I won’t, but the thought crossed my mind more than once.

    I also happen to know that my closest friends at church have had similar thoughts or in some cases much worse. I am not ashamed then that I am alone and a freak; instead, I’m ashamed of the sins I’ve committed.

    I am encouraged in my spirit after writing all these things. I don’t mean to vent, as proverbs warns against. I guess it just helps to put all one’s thoughts int a logical organized format in order to deal with them better.

  21. Phil,
    Iam convinced that it is OK to m as long as your focus is on your wife. It can sometimes take a wife a long time to be ready for sex after depression etc. I have a close friend who had to go without sex for over 15 years before his wife was ready to have sex after their second child.

    He could have been bitter against his wife, he could have had an affair but he decided that there was no scriptural warrant against him m, if he was thinking of his wife. I know another man whose wife refused him sex for years because of some problem. He now is bitter wants a divorce and is prepared to marry a non Christian.

    I think therefore for the sake of the relationship m. is not sin provided porn or it is done while thinking of another woman. THen through prayer and lovig patience, in due time your wife will be ready. It would also stop you becoming bitter.It need not however become an addiction but can be easily controlled while the use of porn etc would be. another matter.

  22. This is not a backwards way of making a point. I’m genuinely interested to know what people think – especially those who have argued that husbands can m. if thinking of their wives. Is it okay for a single person to m. if thinking of their future spouse. I guess this breaks down into two scenarios. First, their fiance if they are engaged? Second, a spouse in the abstract (i.e. not a real person, but an imagined person who in their imagination is their spouse) if they are not engaged? Any thoughts?

  23. Paul tells us that God gives us different gifts – to some singleness and to others marriage. 2 years ago, I had the gift of singleness, now I have the gift of marriage. One day, I might outlive my husband and have the gift of singleness once more. Paul tells us to be content in all situations – whether single, or married, whether in plenty (s ex) or in want.

    S ex (beyond just penetration, and so including manual stimulation) is given for marriage. If your wife is unable or unwilling to serve you sexually, you should pray for that – as John Smith & Phil have been doing. And just as I’m sure many wives have prayed that their husbands would lead more selflessly, consider their opinions and serve practically more in the home. In both cases, as we pray, we are to uphold s ex as a selfless, giving act of love and to be content with our situation – to entrust ourselves to God & obey him ruthlessly…not looking for exceptions.

    As a wife, I have to agree that a husband ‘m-ing’ apart from his wife serves to break down her confidence – in her physical appearance and her ability to serve her husband sexually and makes her doubt that she is loved & accepted as she is. Though the said wife in John Smith’s comment above is not excused from withholding sex from her husband (which is condemned in 1 Cor 7) for so long after having a child, I’m not surprised that, after he resolved to ‘m’ apart from her, she was not forthcoming with s ex and it went on for as long as ‘years’.

    Wives are to be sexually responsive and available to their husbands, except for short times of abstinence for prayer (1 Cor 7) as must a husband, so there is much a wife can and should do. However, how her husband conducts himself sexually is his responsiblity – so husbands are not to point fingers, but rather to read ‘no sex / reluctance’ as a flashing light on the dashboard of his marriage (as Wayne Mack puts it in ‘Strengthening your Marriage’) and look deeper for the real issue.

    No money is needed to go for counselling about your sex life, rather, much time is needed in prayer, being perceptive with regards to your wife and her needs, talking openly about your relationship with God (your joys & struggles) and your relationship with each other (your joys and struggles). Be open and ask her to be your biggest supporter in this and every area – and pray she will take up the challenge.

    This underlines the importance of talking openly about s ex, as well as any history and current struggles with ‘m’ from the minute you’re married. So that even before kids arrive, the channels of communication on this sensitive subject are open.

    Secondly, it underlines the importance of marriage being a ‘community project’. Marriage is to be done with the support, prayer, truth, encouragement and rebuke of the gospel community. That means it’s not private the way we think of private. It means, we have mentors who are married, who raise these kinds of issues (like sex after kids) with us before we get there, so that we have their advice, wisdom and accountability to be godly through it.

    Blogs are great, but what worries me is that we seem to need anonymity to be honest about things as crucial as marriage and sex. Phil, you and all husbands need godly male friends who live in your town with whom you can confess your sins and speak the truth and stand firm in God’s grace in Jesus Christ. I pray for that for my husband and hope he prays similar things for me.


  24. Is it okay for a single person to m. if thinking of their future spouse. I guess this breaks down into two scenarios. First, their fiance if they are engaged? Second, a spouse in the abstract (i.e. not a real person, but an imagined person who in their imagination is their spouse) if they are not engaged? Any thoughts

    Hi Tim,

    Good question (or perhaps, I’m sure not, a trick question)
    The short answer is that I do not find any Biblical warrant to m. in the scenerios given as in both cases the person is not married. This perhaps also brings up another question of ‘wet dreams’ -they sinful?


  25. Hi ‘Wife’,

    In the situation I cited, the wife was suffering from serious depression so I do not feel she could be ‘condemned’ for that -I’m sure even Paul would have made an exception for that in 1 Corinthians. The husband waited patiently and now they have a good sex life . If he had felt it to be a sin to m. with his wife in view he probably would have killed himself- or mutilated himself like Origen. I don’t believe in such a case the Lord would forbid it.

    If in the case were a partner has previously been abused sexually it may also result in problems withinin a couple’s sex life. I don’t believe the Lord would get the ‘big stick’ out either on the husband or the wife or in a mulitude of similar situations

  26. John Smith,

    I agree that there are times when there are extenuating circumstances, and yes, it does not
    ‘condemn’ people – but that does not mean we are to be pragmatic. The fact that your friend might have ‘killed himself’ or castrated himself if deprived of the ‘right’ to ‘m’, suggests that he is mastered by sexual desire & ‘m’. People do lose the ability to have sex with their spouses for short times (post-natal) and permanently – either through physical disability, mental illness and death. That’s why we say ‘for better (sex) or for worse (or no sex) in our vows.

    God is in control of those events too – and Hebrews 12:1 – 17 tells us not to take God’s discipline & training lightly, but to acknowledge struggles (even as a result of no particular sin of our own) as the mark of true sonship and God’s love. That passage goes on to tell us that the fruit God desires to bring about us is holiness ..not always happiness…or sexual fulfilment for that matter.

    Someone once told me that If you want to identify someone’s idol, take it away from them. God’s done that to me and used the experience to expose my idol and teach me to worship him and not things – it’s a lesson I need to learn regularly. Sex is likewise a gift, but the giver is still the only one worthy of our worship, not the gift.

    It does require great restraint and selflessness, but God gives grace to us to obey him wholeheartedly and radically – even at great cost to ourselves…is that not what it means when Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must take up his cross, deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Likewise, we are told to “flee sexual immorality” rather than flirt with it. Would what you’re talking about (even in the context of marriage) constitute ‘fleeing’?
    …so we daily die to ourselves, deny ourselves, put others interests’ ahead of our own, humble ourselves to obedience to God.

    Strength as you seek to do that.

  27. Hi ‘Wife’. thank you for your response. Regarding being mastered by m. I think all ‘saints’ have their weaknesses, though Paul says he does not want to be mastered by anything, at times he did really struggle with sin as seen in Romans 7 ‘wretched man that I am who will deliver me’ . I sometimes wonder whether he was thinking of sexual temptation here, though it would of course cover all sin.

    Regarding ‘fleeing sexual immorality’ I totally agree.However within marriage a married man who has a regular s. life with his wife most certainly will STILL have to flee temptation from impure thoughts, looking at p orn etc. I believe that is the real temptation. For a married man in a sexless relationship this temptation is even greater, but to forbid him thinking thoughts of having sex with the love of his life for whom he prays for, I think is a legalism that Christ would not condone.

    ‘so we daily die to ourselves, deny ourselves, put others interests’ ahead of our own, humble ourselves to obedience to God.’

    I think he does die to himself even if he m.. He is being pulled everyway, but he still encourages himself in God. He could become bitter as his wife is unresponsive, but he doesn’t- he waits patiently for his wife, though some would say to him that he could justify getting a divorce. He of course would prefer to have proper sex but the option at that time is not open to him-whether he is weak or not I can not say but I certainly would not condemn him for it or say he was living in sin.

    Is it idolatory-I don’t think so at all and neither is it adultary.

  28. I think he does die to himself even if he m.. He is being pulled everyway, but he still encourages himself in God. He could become bitter as his wife is unresponsive, but he doesn’t- he waits patiently for his wife,

    No, he’s NOT waiting patiently. He’s allowing his desire for sexual satisfaction to dominate him. If he really valued his wife, he wouldn’t turn her into mere shadow of herself for the sake of his sexual fantasy.

    No one says such a situation wouldn’t be hard. Of course it would! But that doesn’t mean that it makes m a legitimate option. Sex is meant to be the union of souls through physical intimacy according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 6. M doesn’t accomplish this; it’s completely self-serving.

    I keep hearing, “I don’t think Christ would hold it against him.” That’s great but I’m more concerned with the Bible says. If we begin with a biblical definition of sex, then I don’t see how m is ever a valid option in or out of marriage. M simply becomes a means of achieving sexual release. If we seek that beyond the way in which God says is appropriate (i.e. lovingly with a spouse in marriage), then yes it does become idolatry.

  29. Hi John,
    Thanks for your comments- I refer you back to my comments and the passage I quoted on Aug 19.

    Also, I’m sure the man in question is glad he didn’t have you as his spiritual guide and Pastor! For a start the Bible does not mention m. Jesus forbids a man looking at a woman to lust after her as adultery- If a man looks at his wife and desires to have sex with her, is it adultery? Of course not.

    Would you also condemn a missionary who had gone overseas to serve God for many months, and at the same time had to leave his wife back at home ,( which often happened in a previous generation) who m. while thinking of his wife? From what you are saying you probably would. I do not-and if a man does it in faith, believing that his heart is becoming more at one with his wife’s how can I condemn him. I think there is grace there. I think he would believe he is doing wrong if he was rude to a shop keeper or to a child but not imagining he is making love to his beloved wife.

    I’m afraid we will have to agree to differ. I wish you well.

  30. Tim in his article writes

    Does my masturbation involve inappropriate sexual fantasies?
    • Am I in control of my masturbation or am I mastered by my masturbation?
    • Is my masturbation beneficial? Does it strengthen or weaken my marriage (or
    future marriage)?
    • Is my masturbation something I can do to the glory of God?

    I think in the cases cited by myself in earlier comments m. could be done with all the positives in the above group of questions.

  31. For a start the Bible does not mention m

    Neither does it mention abortion, but it seems pretty obvious to me based on the larger teachings about human life.

    If a man looks at his wife and desires to have sex with her, is it adultery? Of course not.

    Agreed. But we’re talking about m, not actual intercourse with a spouse. There’s a big difference.

    Is my masturbation something I can do to the glory of God?

    Somehow, “I’m jacking off to the glory of God” doesn’t seem to fly.

    I’m afraid we will have to agree to differ. I wish you well.

    That’s fine, but I’m not sure what we disagree about. You’ve not actually made a biblical argument as far as I can tell, only told sob stories about how mean and legalistic it would be to deprive men a good time in the shower when they’ve gone without sex for a while.

    To this I would say what John Piper has said:

    “I hear so many Christians, murmuring about their imperfections, and their failures, and their addiction, and their shortcomings. And I see so little war! Murmur, murmur, murmur. Why am I this way? Make War!”

    I’m not trying to be rude, just making a point – we try to make excuses for sin. If you are firmly convinced from the BIBLE m is okay, then fare thee well. I disagree, and my concern is that we too easily make light of sin because of our deceitful hearts.

    Blessings, brother

  32. John

    Is my masturbation something I can do to the glory of God?

    Somehow, “I’m jacking off to the glory of God” doesn’t seem to fly.

    Apart from your comments coming across as not a little sef righteous and vulgar I don’t think the above should be too hard for Reformed Christians , bearing in mind John Calvin, the most reformed of the Reformers and theologian of the glory of God, who while he was in Geneva was to commit the most cruel actions to God’s glory!

    Apart from judgements such as sending people to prison who laughed during a sermon, most savagely of all were punished any offenders whose behaviour challenged Calvin’s political and spiritual infallibility. A man who publicly protested against the reformer’s doctrine of predestination was mercilessly flogged at all the crossways of the city and then expelled. A bookprinter who, in his columns , had railed at Calvin was sentenced to have his tongue perforated with a red-hot iron before being expelled from the city. Jacques Gruet was racked and then executed merely for having called Calvin a hypocrite. Each offence, even the most paltry, was carefully entered in the records of the Consistory so that the private life of every citizen could unfailingly be held up against him in evidence.

    Perhaps the most famous or imfamous acts that he did for God’s glory was to burn at the stake a man called Servetus for holding a false doctrine.

    John Smith argues the case of a man who is ‘one flesh’ with his wife and that the action is not ‘sin’ which makes Piper’s comment irrelevant (Being neither sin not complaining of a weakness or failure).

    The danger of some Calvinistic or Reformed mindsets is that it is very good at pointing the finger but not very good at seeing one’s own sins. To quote the Master ‘you strain out a gnat and swallow a camel’.

  33. James, you’re off on two marks. First, I’m not Calvin. Therefore most of what you said is completely irrelevant to the conversation, especially the ‘pointing fingers at others but my own sin’ comment.

    Second, my whole point is that m is a defilement of the one-flesh union that has taken place. So marriage cannot be an excuse for it.

    My comment was meant to be a *little* vulgar, because I believe the act itself is vulgar. And as one who has struggled with m in the past, I am all too aware of this.


  34. James,
    As I thought about your Calvin comment some more, I think I understand it a little better. Is the assumption that because I think the reformed reading of the Bible is essentially the correct one, then I must admire Calvin? And because I admire Calvin, I must think what he did was ok?

    The truth is, just because I like much of what Calvin did and said, doesn’t mean I think he was a sinless saint to be admired in all things.

    Likewise, with John Smith here in the comments (who by the way shares the same name as my favorite, fictional doctor), if I knew him in real life, there might be much we agree on and that I would even admire about him. That doesn’t mean we can’t disagree on some issue and remain friends.

    Bare words without inflection, tone, body language, etc can sometimes convey a meaning that isn’t there. Understand that I bear no malice against someone who would think differently than me about m (or any other issue). I do however remain unconvinced it’s not sinful. But that doesn’t mean we break fellowship over it.

  35. Hi everyone

    I’m going to close the comments on this post tomorrow. Thank you all for your contributions. I’m going to read through them carefully all together. In the meantime, you have until tomorrow to add any final thoughts.


  36. What I basically was saying was 1. A Calvinist or Reformed mindset when it gets in authority (e.g. Calvin in Geneva) can become very prescriptive as regards sin and judgement where it really has no business to do so- it can see itself as God or at least the voice of God rather than sticking to ‘the word of God’.
    2.Paul’s admonition to do everything to the glory of God has produced some actions by certain Christians that some other Christians may seem questionable -even vulgar.

    These include- Oral sex, eating black pudding ( forbidden in Acts, allowed in Mark’s gospel), Religious wars, eating food offered to idols, putting to death those you consider heretics to name but a few. Hence the case of the married man who m. while imagining his wife and doing it to the glory of God would seem quite simple compared with those others mentioned.

    By the way Tim ,thanks for the opportunity to share.

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