Comments/Questions from Readers

Question #13: Hi, I am on a persuit for an ongoing bible study question to be answered...

I know now from you and other sites that looking at an unmarried woman for arousal isn't a sin even if I am married. I read on another reliable bible study site where this one guy asked if looking at girlie pictures to masturbate is a sin. We know now that masturbation isn't sinful but participating in someone else's sin is a sin. Basically what the bible study guy said was "There is a big difference between looking at a picture of a woman posing nude verses viewing a graphic sex scene."

So I wanted to see what you had to say about this as well. Another thing I wanted to know is if viewing a regular woman nude is ok and masturbation is ok, then what about viewing a video of ONLY a single non betroved woman masturbating? Is that a sin?

I am only trying to find truth, thank you so much for your time.

You are correct in that your own marital status (as a man) has no bearing on the issue, since it's the same whether you happen to be married or not. The issue is whether a man looking at an unmarried woman for arousal is a sin.

Matthew 5:27-28: "You heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone looking at a wife [gune] to covet [epithumeo] for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Since you've already read the articles on our web site, you should already know that you can only covet something that belongs to another, and that adultery must, by definition, involve a married woman and a man other than her husband. So we can understand that Jesus' words here must be referring to a married woman, as opposed to just any female in general.

But the question that now remains is whether a man looking at a virgin (or any otherwise available woman) might be committing any kind of sin. One might argue that imagining the sexual act with such a woman might, for example, qualify as whoring in one's heart, even though it could not possibly be adultery.

The Scriptures do not expressly speak to this particular issue, so the best we can do is extrapolate from what the Scriptures DO say and see what conclusions, if any, we can draw from them.

Matthew 15:19: "For out of the heart come forth wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, whorings, thefts, false witnessings, slanders."

Romans 13:13-14: "Let us walk becomingly, as in the day, not in wild parties and drunkenness, not in living together and indecencies, not in fighting and envy, but put on the Master Yahushua Messiah, and make no provision for the lusts of the flesh."

1 Corinthians 6:12: "All is permitted me, but not all do profit. All is permitted me, but I shall not be under authority of any."

Galatians 5:19-21: "And the works of the flesh are well-known, which are these: adultery, whoring, uncleanness, indecency, idolatry, drug sorcery, hatred, quarrels, jealousies, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, murders, drunkenness, wild parties, and the like - of which I forewarn you, even as I also said before, that those who practice such as these shall not inherit the reign of Elohim."

Ephesians 5:3-5: "But whoring and all uncleanness, or greed of gain, let it not even be named among you, as is proper among set-apart ones neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather thanksgiving. For this you know, that no one who whores, nor unclean one, nor one greedy of gain, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the reign of Messiah and Elohim."

Colossians 3:5-6: "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: whoring, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and greed of gain, which is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of Elohim is coming upon the sons of disobedience"

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5: "For this is the desire of Elohim: your set-apartness! - that you should abstain from whoring, that each one of you should know how to possess his own vessel in set-apartness and respect, not in passion of lust, like the gentiles who do not know Elohim."

Hebrews 13:4: "Let marriage be respected by all, and the bed undefiled. But Elohim shall judge those who whore, and adulterers."

Before proceeding, I'd like to clarify that masturbation is not a sin according to Scripture. Masturbation, in and of itself, is an amoral activity (it is neither moral nor immoral). Likewise, viewing a naked body, in and of itself, is also an amoral activity. It is very much like driving a car (which is also amoral). There is no direct morality in the action, but it can be used in a moral or an immoral way.

For example, I can drive my car to take food to the homeless shelter (moral) or I can drive my car as the getaway vehicle at a bank robbery (immoral). Driving the car can be moral or immoral, depending on what I'm doing with it.

With specific regard to material that causes sexual arousal in the viewer, I believe we need to look at two separate criteria to determine if it is sinful - one objective and the other subjective.

Question: Is the content itself representing or depicting sexual activity that is clearly sinful?

This is the easier of the two criteria because it is completely objective and simple for anyone to determine. All that is required is a knowledge of what the Bible says is sexual sin. (Of course, a person may believe that Scripture identifies something as sexual sin, when in fact it says no such thing, but in such a case, the person is required to follow their conscience. If they feel the activity is a sin, regardless what God's Word says on the subject, then for them it is a sin and they should avoid the content.)

I think that it's important to add here that for something to be truly sinful, it must be sinful for every person in every circumstance; across all time, in all cultures, in every situation. Examples of actual sinful activities would include adultery, fornication, male-male sexual relations, prostitution, beastiality, or anything else specifically condemned as sin in Scripture. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about photographs, movies, interactive games, romance novels, cartoons, statues, picture books, artwork, live storytelling, anime, etc. As you noted yourself, participating in someone else's sin is a sin. If the material causes sexual arousal and represents sinful sexual activities (as defined in Scripture), then the content itself is sinful and must be avoided.

Question: Does the content evoke a sinful imagination or fantasy on the part of the viewer?

Now this is the harder of the two criteria, because nobody can answer it except for the person viewing the content. It is subjective precisely because it requires the viewer to recognize and determine if it creates a sinful image in their mind, which means the answer will vary for different believers in different situations. But if the viewer can honestly answer this question as "no" before God, then the material cannot be sin for them.

As an example, suppose a man was looking at pictures in a "girlie" magazine where a woman was naked, alone, and posing in several provocative poses. With regards to the objective criteria, the material is not depicting sexual activity that is sinful in itself. Lying naked is not a sin. Posing seductively is not a sin. Even if she were masturbating herself in the pictures, it would not be a sin.

I would like to clarify here that it is possible that the actress herself MIGHT be committing a sin independent of whether the material depicts a sinful sexual activity. For example, she may be married and exposing herself for the camera (or the cameraman) is against her husband's wishes. She may be engaging in activities that she feels is sinful, which then for her would be sin, because she is acting outside of faith (see Romans 14:22-23). But the issue at hand is whether the content represents sexual activity that is sinful.

Now we come to the second criteria, which is subjective. Since the content in our example does not depict sexual sin (unless you can find Scripture to the contrary), now the man must determine for himself if viewing this woman causes him to fantasize in a manner that is sinful. In other words, if it causes him to fantasize about things that would be sinful in the real world, then for him it would be sin. Of course, this would be true whether he happened to be looking at any image or not.

Philippians 4:8: "For the rest, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is righteous, whatever is clean, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report, if there is any uprightness and if there is any praise think on these."

Now, you would be hard pressed to find a "graphic sex scene" that was completely devoid of depicting sexual sin. Hypothetically, an actual husband and wife might take pictures or make a video of themselves engaged in sexual activity for their own personal viewing, but in a practical sense, I don't see some kind of "Christian Porn" market being very lucrative. Most "girlie magazines" or "adult videos" are generally going to depict some form of sexual sin, except maybe for some kind of "tasteful" soft-porn (is that an oxymoron?) containing nothing but females in various stages of undress, etc.

Regarding your question about watching a video with an unmarried woman masturbating, I wasn't sure if your question was asking whether the woman could be masturbating, or if you were asking if it would be okay to masturbate while viewing such a video, but the answer is the same in both cases. You probably have no way to know whether the woman is unmarried or not (unless it was someone you knew), but the criteria I mentioned previously would apply here as well.

The content is not presenting a clear, sinful sexual activity, so the objective test is that the material itself is not sinful. The question now becomes subjective, so that only the viewer would know if the imagery causes them to fantasize about sinning sexually or not. I cannot judge another's heart because that is a matter between them and God. All I can do is give you the method of analysis for defining sin, to help you make the best decisions for yourself.

One last thing and I'll close. It's important that we do not judge our brother or sister in regards to the second (subjective) criteria. Sinful sexual activities (as defined in Scripture) are quite clear and we should certainly point them out when sexually explicit material contains such activity, but when the material does not represent a clear sexual sin, we must be careful not to impose our own man-made laws on others by calling them "sin." Only God gets to define sin.




"...In essentials we maintain unity, in opinions liberty, and in all things love..."

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