Is Sexual arousal lust?

Hamburger (2)

Biblically speaking, being sexual aroused is no more lust than it is to become hungry at the site of a food commercial on TV. Sexual arousal is not a curse, but a gift from God. Too many Christians and Churches throughout the centuries have treated sexual arousal as a burden of the flesh to be overcome when it is not.

Food and Sex actually have a lot in common

Both food and sex are necessary for the continuation of the human race. If just a few of us stopped eating, then the human race would not die, but if we all stopped eating then the human race would eventually die. In the same way, while none of us would die from not having sex, the human race would go extinct if we all stopped having sex.

Another interesting parallel between sex and food is how variety affects pleasure. Let’s say your favorite food is a cheese burger from a local burger joint. If all you could eat was that burger from that restaurant, and never eat any burger from any other place, or any other food eventually you would become bored of that food. Would it sustain you? Yes. Would it give you the same pleasure it once did? No.

It is exactly the same when it comes to human sexual arousal. Having sex may give us some relief, but without variety it soon begins to lose its pleasure. That is why it is so important for Christian married couples to keep variety in their love lives. What that means for each couple will be different, but if you do things the same way every time your sex life will eventually become stale.

But let me also say something else about sexual variety. We are wired to appreciate new things, different things. Even when we are married, we will still sometimes become aroused by those of the opposite sex. We will experience pleasure from seeing certain people, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, even after marriage.

Only obsession and covetousness are sin

Sin happens when we let sexual arousal, lead to covetousness. If we allow ourselves to go from finding a woman sexually desirable(which is not sin) to actually allowing ourselves to desire to possess her then we have committed the sin of covetousness. If we start to think of how we can entice that single girl into bed (without being married to her first), or that married woman into bed (or get her to leave her husband) then we have sinned.

The only way sexual arousal can become sin, apart from actually coveting another human being, is if we become obsessed with it. If it affects our job, or our marriage or us living a normal life then it is a problem. If we spend all our time thinking about sex and living for sexual arousal and neglect other areas of our life that need attention, then it becomes sin.

But if we can honestly say that we are still intimate with our wife, and that we are doing our jobs and meeting our other responsibilities and we also allow ourselves to enjoy the gift of sexual arousal then we have not sinned.

Let me now address those who are single. There is nothing wrong with you experiencing the joy of sexual arousal while you are single, nothing at all, the Bible never forbids that. The physical act of sexual intercourse(and oral sex) is reserved for marriage. Sexual arousal is NOT reserved only for marriage, but is something single people can enjoy long before marriage. We just need to recognize the boundaries God has given us. We cannot allow our sexual arousal or the joy we receive from sexual release to lead us to covetousness.

Is it wrong for a single person to masturbate?

It is no more wrong to relieve one’s self sexually (masturbate) than it is wrong to have a bowel movement. For many people if they don’t experience some sexual relief it affects their moods and they can become cranky. It can also affect their job, and other areas of their life in a very negative way.

Still others will actually pursue marriage and a relationship with someone they are unsure of, and rush into marriage because they are simply looking for sexual relief. Masturbation can give relief to a single person, and also help them to think clearer about relationships that they are getting involved in.

It can also keep a single person from falling into premarital sex. I highly recommend that if you feel like you are being tempted to have premarital sex with the person you are dating, then masturbate before you go out on dates with them.

Is it wrong for a married person to masturbate?

My answer to that is, it is only wrong if it affects having sex in the marriage. If you are masturbating so much that it adversely affects your sex life with your spouse, where you are uninterested in sex with them, or unable to perform because of it, then what you are doing is sinful and wrong.

However in many marriages one spouse may have a much higher drive than the other, and masturbation can be a wonderful tool to equalize out that difference. It will clear unwanted thoughts that could turn into sinful thoughts.

For a more detailed discussion on passages from the Bible that address the subject of lust – check out my article entitled What does the Bible say about Lust?”

13 thoughts on “Is Sexual arousal lust?

  1. I Cor 7.9 tells us that people should marry if they cannot control themselves, that this is better than to burn. the NIV adds “burn with passion,” but i believe the original intent is similar to Jesus telling us to gouge out an eye or cut off a hand rather than have our whole bodies burn in hell.
    while rushing into marriage is culturally seen as a bad thing, especially when done for misunderstood reasons, Scripture says there is no better reason than to safeguard oneself. for, if we are not pure, neither are our actions.
    God granted us the abilities of sexual arousal so that we could use them in the marriage bed. the fact that we encounter such thoughts outside the marriage bed is not evidence for God’s approval, but rather evidence for man’s–that is, the sinful nature. God ordained marriage. the flesh does not want marriage, so the flesh seeks the things meant for those who marry without having any desire to enact the covenant.

  2. Daniel,

    If you believe that “to burn” means to “burn in hell” then what you are saying is that Paul was saying that it is “better to marry than to fornicate and burn in hell”. All sin sends unbelieving men to hell, not just fornication. But there is no sin that can send a believer to hell every sin he has ever committed or will ever commit is covered by the blood of Christ.

    “However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

    “Blessed are those
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.

    Blessed is the one
    whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” – Romans 4:5-8 (NIV)

    Now sin can break our fellowship with God and make bring discipline on us for sin in our lives, but we can never as believers loose our salvation and be sent to hell – even for the sin of fornication.

    Again this not to condone fornication, but I believe if we interpret that believers can “burn in hell” for committing fornication we have gutted the blood of Christ which covers all our sins from the Gospel. We have now made our salvation dependent on our works in stead of the blood of Christ.

  3. i only mean that Paul’s words follow suit with Christ’s in Mt 5.29-30 and again in Mt 18.8-9. here, Christ is addressing sin, showing the ultimate effect of it: condemnation to hell. he is not saying anything of the sort that a believer will go to hell if he sins thus. indeed, I Jn 3.5-10 speaks of sin in a different light. Mt 12.31 also hints at this alternate sense of sin, and Eph 4.30 supports that. a believer, one with whom the Spirit dwells, cannot sin in such a way that would send him to hell. it is impossible. rather, sin is what condemns man to hell, and so in that lone passage, Jesus is simply telling us that we should avoid sin, and avoid those things which cause us to sin, and avoid those people who lead us to sin. such sin is the reason he came to die. he is not, in that passage, calling us to believe on him. he does that enough elsewhere. but i believe the greatest point of his sermon on the mount was to show people just how far they were from saving themselves. the Pharisees prided themselves on keeping the whole law, but Jesus showed there was more to the law than the letter of it. he showed man the impossibility of wholly avoiding sin and condemnation, before revealing to him the only true way to attain eternal life.

    Paul is calling out sin to rebuke the Corinthians, not to condemn them. but many among them were not Christians; they only acted as such and their deceit would be shown for what it was, yet they would also lead others away from God–not believers, but disciples. they would be as blind guides if they themselves were not corrected.
    in broader context, the preface to that passage in I Cor 7.9 speaks in I Cor 6 that some Corinthians were thinking themselves to have rights, while Paul answered that the exercise of those “rights” was not necessarily good. they were acting out of self rather than wisdom. it is true that what goes into a man is not what makes him clean (Mt 15.11); rather, a clean man will ingest clean things. we were made clean so that we could remain clean (Rom 6.2). Paul uses one instance of sexual immorality as an example (union with a prostitute), and says rather that we should be united with the LORD.
    but separately, in the start of I Cor 7, Paul writes specifically regarding abstaining from marriage (and hence sex). but since lust exists, only those who have been called to abstain should do so, while others should marry because, as i understand it, they lack the ability to control their sexual desires. indeed, I Cor 7.5 explains why abstaining from sex, even within a marriage covenant, is not good. (and though he does not explicitly lay it out, we know the reason is to avoid committing adultery.) so, those who cannot control themselves ought to marry. that is God’s gift to those people, different entirely from His gift to those who are called to unite themselves wholly to God.


    I’m a catholic, and this is a link to one catholic teacher who explains why masturbation is wrong. However your article/s have really spoken to me; and I feel really conflicted as I don’t want to go against the teachings of my own church, but you have provided a so much more scriptual ground for all your arguments, while our church has developed a worst-case-scenario that tries to prevent even the slightly lust or self-indulgence in fear of a mortal sin.
    If you have any time, would you be able to read through that article, and argue your points our point out where you ‘believe’ this teacher has gone astray?
    I’m honestly really curious and trying to find the truth God has for the sexuality in my life. I’m feeling more than just what our church teaches, but don’t want to go against my church’s beliefs.


  5. Matt,

    I would be happy to do a review on it. But before I do you have said you don’t want to go against your church’s beliefs. I can tell you that Catholic teaching is clearly against masturbation. So if I make arguments it will be from a Biblical perspective showing why your church’s belief’s are wrong in this area? Are you willing to consider the Catholic church can be wrong in some of its doctrines? If not there is no point if you feeling Catholic dogma is equal to the Bible.

  6. I really appreciate that you respected that, instead of lashing out at me. I’m not necessarily asking you to change my mind, but I do feel conflicted in this area, and having being fed so many different ideologies – I’ve never found something as rooted in scripture as your posts.
    Again, I’m not asking you to chance my belief, but I’m seeking to broaden my overall understanding of the whole issue as it appears in the bible, and would appreciate just seeing your personal comparison of the article.

    Thankyou again for your consideration

  7. As much as I believe that my church is being guided by God to be one of truth and divine purpose, I also have to acknowledge that NO-ONE, except God, is infallible. That’s my main motivation. And I continue to pray that I will be led to the truth.

  8. Isn’t there something in scripture about either God or Christ teaching that our bodies were not for our own pleasure? Only a wife could bring pleasure to her husband and vice verse? Not sure where in scripture this is. Any response will be appreciated. Thanks. Mike.

  9. Michael,

    No there are not any passages of Scripture that say we cannot experience our sexuality(and the pleasure that comes from it) – whether it be in pleasure from viewing beautiful people of the opposite sex, sexual fantasies or masturbation apart from our spouse. God reserves sexual RELATIONS to be between a man and a woman in marriage, he does not place this same restriction on sexual PLEASURE that we can experience on our own. Sexual relations require at least two living beings(whether they be a man and woman, man and man, woman and woman, or man and beast). You cannot have sexual relations by yourself, but you can experience sexual pleasure by yourself.

    Now we should not live for pleasure for to do so is the very definition of sensuality or what the KJV calls lasciviousness. But if we experience the pleasures of this world whether it be eating food we like to eat, going to a baseball game or yes enjoying the thought of a beautiful woman or even masturbating there is no sin in this. It is only when our entire life’s focus is on pleasure to the neglect of other areas of our life.

  10. Hi again. Michael here. I found the verse I was referring to. It is 1 Corinthians 7-4. I was wondering if you had a comment on this in relationship to masterbation as I have seen definitions by others saying this verse in particular says it is not acceptable for married couples. I’m not sure how it would relate to a single individual. The language and interpreted text seem to be rather vague. Thanks for your help. Mike.

  11. I love your articles on lust I read them a lot. I was afraid for a while that I was doing something wrong, but I realize now that it’s something that comes naturally. Those articles are a blessing

  12. Thank you for this teaching. I have long been annoyed that it’s taken for granted by almost all Christians that sexual attraction=lust (found nowhere in the BIble), rather than covetousness=lust (as is expressly equated in Romans). My wife and I masturbate from time to time (but never instead of having sex together, unless mutually agreed upon), and we are happily married. I was hindered by false guilt for a long time when I was single. I made it to marriage at age 30 without having had sex with anyone, and I think masturbation (sometimes, but not usually, accompanied by videos of bikini contests, burlesques, etc.) helped get me through. Incidentally, if my wife had practiced INTERNAL masturbation before we had gotten married, she wouldn’t have been physically closed up on our honeymoon. It’s probably a good idea for women to do that starting a couple weeks before their wedding. Furthermore (while I never had any inclination toward homosexuality), I’ve often wondered if teenage boys who think they’re inclined to be gay should actually look frequently at images/videos of the female body, as therapy. I wonder if some people turn homosexual when they squelch their God-given feelings of healthy sexuality.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.