If you (or “this friend you know”) want to know the answer to this question, let me first take a moment to encourage you (and your friend).
The fact you are even asking this question shows you have a personal concern for the holiness of God or a desire to live rightly. Don’t miss the significance of this. This is an anything-goes, follow-your-feelings, day and age. There are millions of people, Christians and non-Christians, men and women, who are unashamedly looking at porn and masturbating without considering whether or not it’s sin.
Here is the lie that many of these individuals believe, “I’m not hurting anyone. It’s just me alone with my computer.” However, this is actually not the case. There are many people who are hurt by porn and masturbation: sex-trafficked slaves who are not there by choice, your spouse (present or future) who you will be physically having sex with while being tempted to lust after someone else from your fantasies, and yourself. Yes, you are hurting yourself. Porn hobbies easily turn into big problems and serious addictions. Combining the chemical high of an orgasm with the lie of a fantasy can drastically hinder your ability manage real human interactions in a healthy way (it can even leave men impotent, unable to be aroused by real human interaction). And all that doesn’t even take into consideration the greatest hurt: the sin that hinders your fellowship with God.
Some may respond, “But I don’t look at porn anymore. I don’t even lust when I masturbate. I just do it because I can’t sleep or because it relieves stress. My mind is just in neutral.”
However, you consider your behavior acceptable, let’s look at God’s Word. God says in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Let’s replace the “everything” of this verse with some more specific activities to help with personal application:
“Eat cupcakes in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God.” Can you do that? Sure! Eating cupcakes is completely compatible with a live lived faithfully for Jesus. However, does this change if you eat eight cupcakes in one sitting? We start to see that this behavior could slip into sin.
What about, “Have sex in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God.” If you are married, then this can also be done to the glory of God. But what about having sex outside of marriage? Here the Bible reminds us that God provides instruction for the context of His gift of sex (Hebrews 13:4).
Perhaps “Married and masturbating in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Is that okay? Well, when you got married you became one with your spouse. In fact, 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 says that your body is actually not your own and that spouses are not to deprive each other except by mutual consent. So, if that is true, it means you’ll need to ask your spouse if he/she doesn’t mind you masturbating. Otherwise, you would be depriving them of the oneness God intended sex to be. How do you think that conversation would go?
Let’s go back the original question, “Is it okay to masturbate if I’m not lusting?” We should consider this in light of Colossians 3:17: “Masturbate in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” When we are really honest with ourselves and with the Lord in prayer, we know that masturbation is not compatible with honoring Jesus and giving thanks to the Father.
Some may argue, “Colossians 3:17 is no proof text for not masturbating.” True, but it is a proof text for every aspect of our lives. Because everything we do, say, or enjoy should honor God, others, and our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18-20, and 1 Corinthians 10:31, and 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 and Ephesians 5:3 and more…).
Lastly, remember that sexual desires are not needs. I know of no one who has died because they abstained from sexual release. So, rather than masturbate, ask that God would give you the strength to go do something in the name of Jesus while giving thanks to the Father. He will provide everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). If you are stuck in a pattern of sin and addiction, understand that Jesus still loves you and desires to see you well.
For more about how to prayerfully combat masturbation in your life, look into our Masturbation resources.