What I Had Always Thought…
Sometime last year, a dear friend of mine reluctantly approached me and told me that she was struggling with masturbation.
She said she did it because she was “angry at God” for certain things which she thought she should have but didn’t. She also mentioned the fact that the “habit” was reinforced by certain “brethren” demanding such things as “phone sex.”
She wanted to stop but didn’t know how.
I assured her that she was not alone in this “struggle” especially since I had, had my fair share of struggle with masturbation (even as a married man). I told her the following:
1. Admit it is a sin you need to repent from
2. Find a person you can confide in to share your struggle with.
3. Realize that, because you are born again, you are under no obligation to yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness.
4. Resolve to overcome Masturbation.
5. Pray to God to strengthen your resolve.
Masturbation Isn’t Sin?
Imagine my consternation this week when I heard that Pastor Chris Oyakhilome said masturbation is not sin. I had to listen for myself and I offer you that opportunity to hear it for yourself; see link below
The points he put forward for saying masturbation isn’t sin are:
1. The bible doesn’t it call it sin
2. masturbation is between you and your body,
3. It is only when it becomes a thing of the mind that it offends God.
While the points he raises are very debatable, that is not the goal of this write up. Pastor Chris got me thinking about something much more important than masturbation, and that thing is, “What is sin?”
It is “easy” to call something sin and not even know why it is sin especially if it is not expressly stated in the scriptures (except for the fact that it makes us “feel” uneasy, it is not “societally” acceptable, it hurts others, it is “unfilthy” etc.)
Take masturbation for instance;
1. It is not stated expressly in Scriptures as sin.
2. We can’t go the bad habit route since “picking one’s nose in public is a bad habit”
3. What about “Your body is the temple of God and it ‘destroys’ your body?”. Well, that would make eating chocolates sin.
4. What about lust? Lust is “old english for desire” and was used in the Authorized Version do describe an action of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:17 KJV). However we connotatively use it for “lusts of the flesh” (which is sin). Nevertheless, saying masturbation always involves lust is very tenuous since you would have had to question every human being (dead, alive and yet to be born) who has ever masturbated or will ever masturbate; about whether they pictured a person of the opposite sex in their mind before they masturbate. What about the man that has the “image of his wife” on his mind?
5. What about just “feeling its bad”. Ah! You have now become the standard for measuring what is right or wrong. The problem with that is, even if you hit the bullseye on masturbation (that is, your feeling is right) what about other vices you “feel” are okay? Remember Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart of man is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things, who can know it?”
What Then Is Sin?
So, what then is sin or better put, what then can be deemed sinful (especially if the Bible does not state it categorically as sin)?
To understand sin, one has to be clear on who God is, and what he demands from his creatures.
Without going into a theological treatise, I would like to state a few things about God in relation to his creation as I believe it would help us understand the subject of sin better.
1. God made everything for His own pleasure – Rev. 4:11
2. God made man for his glory to declare his praise, to give him thanks- Isaiah 43:7, 21; Romans 1:21
3. God created the heavens and the earth with laws of design and regularity (Genesis 1:1-31 ; 8:22 Ecclesiastes 1:2-7; 3:1-8; Psalm 89:34) [God created creation to function in a particular way]
4. God has also allowed man to “improve his lot” within the context of the laws of design that he has set in place. Man has creative ability – (Gen. 2:15; Isaiah 28:23-28)
5. However, man is not allowed to:
a. Alter or disregard the laws of God- (see Gen. 1:28, then Gen. 11:1-8; Deuteronomy 12:28; Ezekiel 20:19; 36:27)
b. Worship as God what God made- (Exodus 20:4-5: Romans 1:22-25)
c. Worship as God what man has made- (Jeremiah 2:13, 26-28)
The caveats in 5 above basically capture the essence of what sin is
“Altering or disregarding God’s law”
“Worshiping anything apart from God as God”
Sin Is Also “Not Glorifying God”
1Corinthians 10:31 says “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Hmmm… I have asked many people to tell me what it means to “glorify God”. The answers I get include:
1. “Ahn! Ahn! To glorify God na!”
2. “Glorify God? Haba! It means to honor God na!”
(Ok? So how do I ‘honor’ God?)
3. “To glorify God is to do things not to please myself”
(Really? So God is glorified when you are displeased abi?)
Let’s face it, most of us don’t know what it means to “give God glory” or “glorify God”. We think we know but when we are asked to explain it, we realize how we have never thought about it.
Let me try to help us:
Glory comes for the Hebrew word “kabod” (pronounced “kaw-bode”) which means “weight”. It also refers to splendor or copiousness. Copiousness is quite apt when one thinks about God saying, “All the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord”- Numbers 14:21
It gives you the idea that there’s just no “getting away from God” everything has to be examined in relation to him; “Trying to ignore God as if other things mattered more than him” is precisely why man is in such a bind.
To “glorify God” is therefore to examine everything we do and everything we are in relation to God and his demands on us (remember the 3 caveats in point 5?)
This would likely seem like “nitpicking”; but when we take a closer look at it, we would see it as it really is “liberating.”
As we would see that “glorifying God” is “using” things as God created them to be used, and “being in relation to” all of creation and the created order in the way that God determined.
So, we eat food only when we are hungry and not to “feel good about ourselves”
We drink wine with “friends and family” to celebrate life, not to get drunk so that we can “forget our sorrows”
We engage in recreational activities like watching football for relaxation and entertainment, not to drool over stars or clubs.
We go to the gym to “keep fit” not to “get our self-esteem back”
We work to “earn an income”, not to “define our lives by it”
We were given sex to “enjoy with our spouse” not “to satisfy private lusts and build egos”
The list goes on and on…
So, How Does This Affect Masturbation?
The first test to put masturbation to is,
Can one masturbate “to the glory of God”?
I doubt if anyone would say yes to that.
Masturbation is defined as the manual stimulation of the genital organs for sexual pleasure.
Immediately one sees the problem with masturbation because it fails the “God’s design for sex” test.
So, it obviously cannot rank as God glorifying and is thus sin.
On A Final Note:
Why did I have to go this route?
Well, for one, we are prone to using the broad brush stroke of “it is sin” to label anything we are not “comfortable” with and this opens us up to arbitrariness or even the danger of endorsing the “sins” we are comfortable with.
We must be ready with an answer for those who would want to sway us in our convictions by examining on what basis those convictions are founded.
If anyone is caught in this sinful habit, I pray that God shows you a way out.
You are loved. Not condemned.