Sexual Arousal And Fantasy Are Not Sin

In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus said “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”  And Job said in Job 31:1 “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” 

Matthew 5:27-28 and Job 31:1 have formed the basis for a particular doctrine that has been taught by churches for centuries going back to the post apostolic church.  The church has taught that these two passages of the Bible forbid any thoughts of sex prior to marriage.  In other words, single people including young teens are sinning each and every time they have a sexual fantasy.  Young boys are sinning when they take pleasure from seeing women’s cleavage or the small of their back exposed or any other part of their bodies.  Teens and single adults are wrong for masturbating and dwelling on any sexual thoughts before marriage.  This is what the church has taught that these passages mean.

Well my friends I am here today to tell you that the church has been wrong for centuries on this doctrine.

 Now my fellow protestants would not struggle with the possibility that the church could be wrong on any doctrine it teaches because after all, the protestant reformation was all about the church’s need to reform its doctrines which were not based upon the Bible.  My catholic friends on the other hand, will have a greater struggle with this concept that some doctrines of the early church could have been faulty.

The doctrine, that any sexual thought or fantasy whatsoever before marriage is sinful is found nowhere in the Bible. Furthermore, the doctrine taught by the church that masturbation is sinful and all sexual pleasure is reserved for marriage is also found nowhere in the Bible.

Now the truth of the matter is that while the protestant reformation did much good, it did not remove all the false teachings that church had taught for centuries. 

The early church had a very negative view of sexuality in general. 

Augustine of Hippo wrote this in his treatise “On the Good of Marriage” around 400 AD:

“Further, in the very case of the more immoderate requirement of the due of the flesh, which the Apostle enjoins not on them by way of command, but allows to them by way of leave, that they have intercourse also beside the cause of begetting children; although evil habits impel them to such intercourse, yet marriage guards them from adultery or fornication. For neither is that committed because of marriage, but is pardoned because of marriage…

For intercourse of marriage for the sake of begetting has not fault; but for the satisfying of lust, but yet with husband or wife, by reason of the faith of the bed, it has venial fault: but adultery or fornication has deadly fault, and, through this, continence from all intercourse is indeed better even than the intercourse of marriage itself, which takes place for the sake of begetting.”

Augustine of Hippo, Of the Good of Marriage(401 AD), Section 6

The early church for centuries had married couples take vows of celibacy when they became Christians if they were past child bearing age.  They saw no point in sex except to fulfill the evil desires of the flesh if it was not for having children.

And this corrupt view of human sexuality permeated the church for the last two thousand years.  While the church has finally been forced to take a more positive view of sex over the past century, it still has many of its old hang ups about sex.

And it is no secret that that if the church does accept any part of sex as a good thing today, it really only accepts the feminine view of sex as good while it still greatly judges the masculine view of sex as superficial and base.

What Sin Does Matthew 5:28 & Job 31:1 Condemn?

So here is the million-dollar question that you may be asking right now. 

“If Matthew 5:28 & Job 31:1 do not condemn sexual thoughts and fantasies and by extension masturbation then what sin are these passages condemning?”

The answer is that both of these passages condemn the sin of lust. 

Now at this point your head may be spinning, especially if you have been raised in church your whole life like I was.  Because your automatic reply is based on what you were taught that the definition of lust is.  Most churches teach that lust is sexual fantasy and dwelling on sexual thoughts which then inevitably leads to masturbation and possible premarital sexual relations.

My contention with the church’s historic teachings on these two passages of the Bible is not about whether they are condemning lust or not.  For I fully agree that they are condemning lust.  My contention with the historic teachings of the church on these passages is that they have the definition of lust wrong.  And if you have your definition of lust wrong, then you will miss what the Bible is actually condemning in these passages.

The Bible uses two Greek words for desire and they are used interchangeably.   Those words are Epithumia and Epithumeo.  Both words simply mean “desire”.  It is the context of the verse that determines whether the desire is good or bad.  In Matthew 5:28 Epithumeo is translated as “lust”.  Now see below how Romans 7:7 translates it differently:

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust [Epithumia], except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet [Epithumeo].”

Here Romans 7:7 translates Epithumeo as “covet” and Epithumia as “lust” proving beyond all doubt that the Bible uses these words as synonyms for desire.  And the desire is only good or bad depending on the context.

So, what bad desire was God condemning in Matthew 5:28 and Job 31:1?   The answer is shown in the passage above from Romans 7:7. God says lust is violation of the 10th commandment.  So now let’s look at the 10th commandment to find out what lust actually is. 

In Exodus 20:17, the Bible says:

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s”. 

Remember that context in the Bible is very important for determining the meaning of certain words as many words can be used in different ways.  So, let’s look at your neighbor’s ox.  Do we think the Bible is condemning a man for finding his neighbor’s ox desirable? Of course not.  He could find the ox desirable and even offer to purchase it and there would be no sin in this.  So, what is God saying when he tells men not to covet their neighbor’s ox? He is saying that it is a sin for a man to desire to unlawfully possess or use his neighbor’s ox.  Covetousness is not mere desire or finding something desirable. It is the desire to unlawfully take or use something.

Now let’s move next to the neighbor’s house.  And this one I think the ladies will appreciate.  Is it wrong for a person to find their neighbor’s house desirable? I think we would all agree the answer is no.  When God gave this command, do we think he had in mind that no one could ever sell their house to another person? Of course not.  There is no condemnation of a person seeing someone’s home as desirable and then offering to purchase that house for themselves.  So again, we can see when we look at the things God tells men not to covet that God is not condemning us for finding something desirable that we do not possess.

Let’s now take the house analogy a bit further.  If you were to find your neighbor’s house desirable and even imagine what it would be like to live in that house would such imaginations be a sin? The answer is no. 

So here is where your desire for your neighbor’s house becomes the kind of desire that God is condemning in the 10th commandment and it becomes a bad desire which is lust.   What if you knew where your neighbor kept the spare key for their house outside under a rock?  And you knew that your neighbor was leaving for vacation for two weeks.  So, you began to fantasize about taking the spare key and going and actually using their house for the two weeks they were gone and they would never know.

That thought my friends is a covetous and lustful thought.  That is the kind of desire that is being condemned by God in the 10th commandment.  And I would submit to you that this the same kind of desire of a man toward a woman that is being condemned by Matthew 5:28 and Job 31:1.

God is not condemning men finding women desirable anymore than he is condemning women for finding their neighbor’s house desirable.  And here is the really tough part, especially for the ladies.  God is not condemning men for imagining what it would be like to have sex with a woman, to be inside a woman, anymore than he is condemning a woman for imagining what it would be like to live in her neighbor’s house which she find’s desirable.

What God is condemning in Matthew 5:28 and Job 31:1 is men desiring to have sex with women outside of marriage.  Now again many people reading this may have their head spinning, especially the ladies. Some of the guys may get where I am going and some light bulbs are going on in their heads.

The thoughts of some at this point would be “If a man is having a sexual fantasy about a woman he is not married to, he IS desiring sex with her outside of marriage!”  But that is not true.  Can a man enjoy an image of a woman or fantasize sexually about a woman he is not married to without also thinking about enticing her into sex outside of marriage? The answer is a resounding yes!

The desire that the Bible is condemning in Matthew 5:28 and Job 31:1, the desire that we think of as lust, is the desire of a man to entice a woman into having sex outside of marriage.  Whether she is married or single, such an enticement would be sin.  The desire to entice a woman into sex outside of marriage is what precedes the actual act of a man attempting to entice a woman and then possibly fornicating with her.

What about Hebrews 13:4?

Some may say “Doesn’t Hebrew 13:4 show us that all sexual thoughts and sexual pleasure are reserved for and should be directed toward the marriage bed?” That is a great question. 

In Hebrews 13:4 the Bible states:

“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge”.

The phrase “the bed” is a euphemism for sexual relations.  It is absolutely true that God has reserved sexual relations to be between a man and woman within the covenant of marriage. 

However, we must make a very clear distinction between us having sexual relations and us experiencing and exercising our human sexuality. 

Sexuality simply refers to our desire for sex and our ability to experience sexual pleasure.  Sexual relations require two or more living beings to relate to one another sexually in some way. 

A man and woman could sexually relate without ever touching over live web cams, telephones or through texting.  A man and woman could relate without ever touching at a strip club where the woman dances for a man, yet never lays a finger on him.  And of course, a man and woman could engage in actual physical sexual relations mutual masturbation, oral sex, anal sex and of course penile vaginal intercourse.   Of course, the same thing applies to man on man sex or people having sex with animals.

All of these are forms of sexual relations.  And again, God only allows sexual relations between a man and woman within the covenant of marriage.

But it is utterly impossible for a man to have sexual relations with a thought, a picture, or a movie he watches on a tv or computer screen.  If there is no two-way interaction there is no relation.  Therefore, there is no sexual relation.

Conclusion

We have shown from the Scriptures that the historic church doctrine that all sexual fantasy and the experience of any kind of sexual pleasure before marriage are never condemned in the Bible.  Such teachings are the teachings of men, not the teachings of the Word of God.

A man committing adultery with a woman in his heart is not him finding her sexually desirable, taking pleasure from seeing her body or even him having a sexual fantasy about her and masturbating to that fantasy.  But rather, a man committing adultery with a woman in his heart is him entertaining thoughts or desires of enticing a woman into having sexual relations outside of marriage.  This is the teaching of the Scriptures when we understand what covetousness and lust truly are.

God has reserved human sexual relations, not human sexuality itself, for marriage between a man and a woman.  A person engaging in sexual relations with another living being is only one way we can experience and exercise our human sexuality.  There are other ways each day that we can and do experience our human sexuality without ever engaging in sexual relations with another living being.  Such experiences and exercises of our sexuality are not condemned by God.

Never in the Scriptures does God tell us we must suppress our sexuality before marriage and that we may only experience sexual thoughts or sexual pleasure within the context of sexual relations in marriage. 

Now a few more closing thoughts.

Here is a question that I think many women reading this are asking.   Do these same principles apply to women? Can women engage in sexual fantasy and masturbation as long as they do not entertain thoughts of enticing men into sex outside of marriage?  The answer is yes. These same principles about sexual fantasy and masturbation apply to women as well.

Am I saying that all sexual fantasies are ok as long as we do not entertain thoughts of enticing someone into sex outside of marriage?  No.  When we have a sexual fantasy, we must ask ourselves, is this sexual fantasy in line with God’s design of sex?

Let put this another way.  Yes, we know God has reserved sexual relations to only occur in marriage.  But what I am talking about is the actual act of sex itself.  God has designed a man and woman to be able to sexually relate to one another in many ways. To give each other sexual pleasure in many ways.

So, the question is, does your sexual fantasy fit within God’s design of the physical acts of sex between a man and woman?  In other words, would such a sexual act be allowable under any context?

If it is within God’s design of sex then your sexual fantasy is righteous before God.  If it does not fit within God’s design then it is a sinful fantasy and should not be entertained.  Let me give you an example to illustrate. 

If a man goes to the bank, and a beautiful female teller assists him and then he goes home and sexually fantasizes about her and even masturbates to that fantasy – is his fantasy of sex with her outside of God’s design? The answer is no.  He as a man was designed by God to take pleasure from the thought of sex with a beautiful woman.

Now if this same man entertained a sexual fantasy about having sex with a handsome male bank teller that assisted him, such a fantasy is sin in and of itself. Even if it does not involve enticement.  Even if he never intends to act on such thoughts.  Why? Because it is outside of God’s design for sex.

I know what I have shared with you here is radical and revolutionary and it very much goes against what 99 percent of church leaders teach today.  But we need to remember that there have been many times throughout history that the 1 percent have been right and the 99 percent have been wrong.  Being in the majority view does not make you automatically right, neither does opposing that majority view make you automatically wrong.

Let me just add that since I first introduced these teachings 6 years ago on my original blog, Biblicalgenderroles.com, I have actually been contacted by many Christian pastors and missionaries that agree with what I have shown you here from the Word of God.  Some of them are very highly placed within large Christian organizations.  But they cannot reveal their identities or their beliefs on these matters because to do so would mean they would immediately lose their ministry positions.

And for men reading this.  The truth is we as men are far more sexual beings than women are.  Our masculine sexual nature is a core part of what makes us men.  It is a driving force in our lives.  We are visual and physical beings.    And it saddens me to know there are millions of Christian men around the world that go through the cycle of condemnation each day regarding their male sexuality.  If something is sinful then we should feel bad and repent.  But I hope you will come to the realization that the mere exercise and experience of your male sexuality is NOT sin.  It can become sin if you entertain thoughts of enticing or otherwise engaging in sex with women outside of marriage.  And it can become sin if you actually do engage in sexual relations of any kind with women outside of marriage.

But the mere thought of a woman’s breasts, or her buttocks or what it would be like to have sex with her or even masturbating to such images and thoughts is not sin.  It is merely an exercise of your God given male sexuality.  And it is that God given male sex drive that drives you to marriage and also drives you in your career.  It is all connected.

You will find that as man, once you realize that you are not at war with your male sexuality and only with the corruption of it by your sin nature – it will transform your life.  You will have a confidence you have never know before as you feel this weight lifted off your shoulders.

And all of this leads us to another important question that you might be thinking right now. If it is not a sin for a man to imagine a woman naked or for him to construct fantasies of various sexual acts with her in his head, then what does that say about porn use?

Well the answer to that question raises so many other questions that I have built a separate site dedicated to answering it. And you can find those answers here.

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