ANSWER: Just because humans have been engaged in a certain practice from antiquity does not make it right. After all, most people lie and we may be certain that lying has been going on for a very long time too, but does that make it right? Does not the Bible make it plain that all humans are sinners in God’s eyes and condemned to death because of that? That being the case, surely the mere popularity of an activity is no indicator that it meets with God’s approval.
As the Creator of humanity Jehovah has always laid claim upon how we use our reproductive powers. Jesus made it clear that in the beginning God intended for marriage to be an eternal bond and to be the sole outlet for sexual activity. The very fact that God used circumcision as a sign of his covenant, going back to Abraham, long before the nation of Israel was even formed, is proof that God claims ownership of a male’s most private place.
When God organized the 12 tribes into a nation under Moses there were many aspects of the law that he gave them that dealt with sexuality. Besides the obvious “you must not commit adultery,” God also considered certain things having to do with sexual organs to be unclean. For example, Leviticus 15:16-18 states: “‘Now in case a man has an emission of semen go out from him, he must then bathe all his flesh in water and be unclean until the evening. And any garment and any skin upon which the emission of semen gets to be must be washed with water and be unclean until the evening. As for a woman with whom a man may lie down with an emission of semen, they must bathe in water and be unclean until the evening.”
Of course, the extensive law code was done away with when Jesus gave his life. Christians are not under that kind of law, but are given greater freedom to govern themselves in God’s sight based upon certain principles. For example, the apostle Paul wrote that Colossians 3:5-7: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of those things the wrath of God is coming. In those very things you, too, once walked when you used to live in them.”
The apostle here recognized that fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, etc., were common practices, even pointing out that Christians used to live in them. But, if we are to follow the apostle’s exhortation would not that include the practice of masturbation? Do we really need to have it spelled out for us? Is it not obvious that our sexual organs, both male and female, are included as our “body members”?
Masturbation does not deaden our body members, does it? No, just the opposite. It excites one. Therefore, can we honestly say that Paul did not have in mind the age-old practice of masturbation when he counseled Christians to deaden our bodies with respect to uncleanness and sexual appetite?