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Wednesday, November 11, 2015


One morality question I've heard repeatedly is about sex. We're all pretty clear that sex outside of marriage is biblically regarded as sin. No question there. But what about masturbation? Lots of people ask about it and lots of people have answers. I've personally become convinced that the question belies a misunderstanding of God's intention for human sexual behavior.

Of course, we're all clear that one clear purpose for sexual relations between humans is reproduction. Or, you'd think we'd all be clear. The homosexual side of the question is not. Many in the standard, normal, heterosexual, even Christian side are not. But there can be no doubt, even if you're looking from a purely natural point of view. The first purpose of sexual relations is procreation.

"Fine. That's not the question. The question is about masturbation." Yes, I'm getting there. But not too fast. If one clear purpose of sexual relations is reproduction, how does masturbation work into that? It doesn't. But, clearly, that's not the only purpose for sex for humans. If you look for the biblical sexual ethic, you'll find it most clearly in Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth.
The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Cor 7:3-4)
"That's a sexual ethic?" Yes, it is. If read in the light of other Scriptures, it makes perfect sense that way. For instance, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Phil 2:3-4) Do you see it there? The biblical sexual ethic is not "What pleases me", but "What am I giving?" It is precisely reflected in Jesus's words, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)

Consider, also, the premise of marriage (you know, the only biblically moral place that sex takes place). It is the relationship where two shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-5; 1 Cor 6:16; Eph 5:31-32). Paul says, "This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the Church." (Eph 5:32) Thus, the sexual relationship between a man and a woman is a depiction of the relationship with Christ and the Church.

There is, of course, one underlying principle that should also be considered in the question. It's the very simple, straightforward, all-encompassing command, "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor 10:31)

Okay, so now we have the structure of God's ideas on the topic of sexual relations. It is for 1) reproduction, 2) giving to your spouse, 3) union of husband and wife (especially as an illustration of Christ's relationship to the Church), and 4) for glorifying God. So, given this purpose statement of sex, in what possible sense would masturbation make sense? Indeed, it would seem to be diametrically opposed to everything God designed sex for.

It's an easy error, really. Our world has assured us that life is about our own desires and sex is about our own pleasure. In their more generous moments, it's about getting and giving pleasure. On occasion, it might even be about procreation. Maybe. And that's all that it is ... in our world. The Bible disagrees. It is for God's glory as an illustration of the union of God's Son with His Bride as shown in the union of husband and wife in procreation and the mutual giving of oneself to the other. When you think of it that way, "Is masturbation a sin?" becomes almost a silly question. I mean, is anything we are doing these days in our sexual relationship aimed at what God intended? I think we've been misled. And perhaps, in more cases than we realize, "Is this wrong?" is not the right question; "Is this right?" would be a better one.

1 comment:

Marshall Art said...

Yes, of course, but since Scripture doesn't speak specifically about...because Jesus never said anything about...

How dare you use logic and reason and worse, Scripture itself of all things, to say anything is wrong, un-Christian or in any way contrary to the Will of God?