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.