Practical Singleness Lesson 5


Difficulties with Being Single

So, you’ve looked at some of the blessings which come from being single, now let’s look at some of the difficulties which come from being single. Oh, no we’re going to discuss the ‘M’ word! Well someone has to talk about it even though most people avoid the topic like the plague.

But before we get there let me ask you, what do you think the top 7 singles issues are among Christian singles in the world?

Top 7 Singles Issues

What singles seem to think or worry about most

1. Money Worries/Bills.

2. Dating Relationships.

3. Career.

4. Health.

5. Marriage.

6. Kids.

7. Sex Issues.

I was kind of shocked to see sex at number 7 and money issues as the number 1 singles issue but one interesting thing in another survey I found about these singles issues is that the percentage of single women who think or worry about money/bills (20%) is substantially higher than the number of single guys who do (13%). Perhaps not surprising is the fact that men think or worry about sex (10%) much more often than the single women respondents (4%). How interesting!

So, what are your issues today? What are you worrying about?

The cool thing is that no matter what our ‘singles issues’ are today, Jesus told us we don’t have to carry all that stuff by ourselves. He wants us to lay our burdens on Him.

‘Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you’. 1 Peter 5:7

Christian Single Men and Lust

Most Christian single men battle lust of the flesh from time to time. In fact, let’s just suggest that all men, whether they be single men or married men, Christian or non-Christian have struggled or still are struggling with lust. Men struggle with lust, and any single man who says otherwise is usually lying out of fear, manipulative motives, embarrassment or a combination of the three.

One single man friend of mine said ‘if his girlfriend ever knew his thoughts, she would never stop slapping him’ and that’s usually the reason why most men don’t admit they have this struggle, especially to their partners.

The reaction of most single women when they hear things like that about single men may vary:

a. Some may feel disgusted or discouraged that all single men lust.

b. Some may be thinking their single man is not like all the rest they’ve dated, ‘um…dream on.’

c. Some may feel so uncomfortable discussing the single men and lust topic that they prefer to ignore it by invoking the Too Much Information (TMI) rule when the subject comes up.

Unfortunately, none of the above reactions will help a single woman really understand and connect with any single man, let alone help him in any way.

The Christian and Masturbation

Now let’s talk about the ‘M’ word and Christian singles. Male masturbation. Female masturbation. Adolescent masturbation. Chronic masturbation.

Is it a sin to masturbate?

Are you feeling uncomfortable yet?

Most churches apparently are because they avoid the masturbation topic, as well as Osama bin Laden, tried to evade captivity. This is a little ironic, to say the least when survey after survey reveals a majority of single Christians of all different ages, males and females, have masturbated.

As a Christian single, just what are your feelings about masturbation? Are you a masturbator? Do you struggle with your Christian lifestyle because you feel it is morally wrong? Do you live in guilt and confusion over the whole issue?

Personally, I can’t stand it when Christian teachers are so dogmatic on the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ of masturbatory activities because it’s such a complex issue, with many different topics connected to the practice.

Masturbation Observations

1. The Bible is silent on the issue of masturbation even though the vast majority of humankind is preoccupied with it.

2. The Roman Catholic Church, some Protestant denominations and even Webster’s Dictionary have attempted to equate ‘the sin of Onan’, Genesis 38:6-10, with masturbation, but a simple exegesis of these passages rules out this possibility.

‘For his first son Er, Judah got a wife whose name was Tamar. Er’s conduct was evil, and it displeased the Lord, so the Lord killed him. Then Judah said to Er’s brother Onan, ‘Go and sleep with your brother’s widow. Fulfil your obligation to her as her husband’s brother, so that your brother may have descendants.’ But Onan knew that the children would not belong to him, so when he had intercourse with his brother’s widow, he let the semen spill on the ground, so that there would be no children for his brother. What he did displeased the Lord, and the Lord killed him also’. Genesis 38:6-10

You see, under Jewish law, a person was required to procreate with his brother’s widow.

‘If two brothers live on the same property and one of them dies, leaving no son, then his widow is not to be married to someone outside the family; it is the duty of the dead man’s brother to marry her.’ Deuteronomy 25:5

When Onan refused out of selfishness, the Lord killed him. God did not whack Onan for masturbating, but rather for ‘spilling his seed’ by ejaculating outside of his dead brother’s wife during sexual intercourse.

3. Many Christian singles and not a few Christian preachers feel masturbation to orgasm is acceptable in order to:

1. relieve unabated sexual tension, and/or

2. to avoid sexual immorality. The catch is that there should be no lustful thoughts connected to the act, mmmm!

4. The vast majority of single Christians feel that compulsive masturbation, simply for the purpose of self-gratification, is always wrong. Most would also agree that habitual masturbation while single will make it harder for any future spouse to please them sexually.

Notwithstanding the above points, let the following paraphrased verses guide you as you pray and seek the Lord over whether masturbating should have any room in your life as a single person:

a. Looking lustily at a woman, or a man if you’re a woman, means you are committing adultery in your heart. Matthew 5:28.

b. All things are lawful for you, but not all things are profitable. 1 Corinthians 6:12.

c. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and so you should glorify God with it. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

d. You should learn to control your body in a holy and honourable way, not in passionate lust like the heathens. 1 Thessalonians 4:4-5.

e. You are a slave to whatever has mastered you. 2 Peter 2:19.

f. If you know you should do something, but fail to do it, it’s sin. James 4:17.

Now before you make your mind up and believe it’s always wrong to masturbate, let me share with you some important thoughts. Below is an article from Jim McGuiggan’s website on the subject which I believe is useful but very thought-provoking. It’s a little lengthy but worth the read.

A reader wonders how the Bible views masturbation. Some readers will move on as soon as they read the word. I can understand why and wish they can believe that I think this question needs to be addressed, or I wouldn’t do it. Others are more capable than I might take it up to help us. It’s one of those issues, isn’t it?

Big John Wayne wouldn’t have done it and nice ladies don’t discuss such things. There’s an aura of sleaze and shame that hangs around the practice even among people who say they’re completely ‘liberated’ in sexual matters. You can hear it in the derisive terms they call each other when they want to insult each other.

Many preachers don’t like to be asked such questions because they don’t really know what to think about it (maybe we should do some prayerful and serious homework and then call it as we see it while remaining open for correction).

Many preachers don’t like to be asked such questions because we’re afraid of other preachers. We’re afraid of coming off as too ‘liberal’ and ‘soft on sin’ (maybe even justifying our own sexual weakness, horrors!) so mostly we take a robust line against the widespread practice.

And the people who have never been bothered with a desire to engage in it and those who have a happy and full sexual experience with their husbands or wives often have little or no understanding of the dynamics involved. This can move us to some impatience when we’re confronted with the question.

Since it’s difficult to find a biblical text that deals with the issue (it’s more than difficult!) we usually talk in ‘principles,’ but even making a case against masturbation on ‘principles’ is a bit of a job.

By a ‘principle’ we usually mean an underlying and basic law but basic ‘principles’ are notoriously difficult to apply. (Why do you think we have law courts and lawyers?) And, besides, the question covers a lot of ground and a host of different circumstances.

Before saying any more, I need to say that all acts of masturbation are not the same. To engage in dishonourable mental projections is sinful. For example, a soldier away from home for long and stressful periods who sexually stimulates himself while imagining his wife or himself in some adulterous activity (not to mention a bestial activity) is NOT doing the same thing as when he is imagining himself making love to her.

By masturbation perhaps we should mean something uncomplicated like, ‘sexually stimulating oneself in order to please oneself.’ We’re hungry for food so we cook something we can enjoy. Nutrition matters but we want pleasure as well. We want music so we put on a CD and enjoy it. We want to watch a movie, so we put on a DVD or video. No one bats an eye at any of this. We touch our tongue, our ears and our eyes with food, music and visual stimuli but we mustn’t touch anything sexual to satisfy our sexual hunger.

‘Yes, but all sexual pleasure must be restricted to husbands and wives!’ Oh really? Should kissing, hugging and holding hands be outlawed before marriage? Only the very strict believers would take such a view. The rest of us smile and think that bothering to debate the issue isn’t worth our time or energy. But these very strict people can make a fair case on ‘principle’.

If hugging is acceptable though it is sexually stimulating, then what’s wrong with kissing? And if kissing is okay what’s wrong with caressing? If lips can meet why can’t other body parts? If people are permitted to sexually stimulate one another by kissing and hugging why not by fondling and other such things that fall short of a full sexual experience?

But haven’t we left the more immediate subject? Yes, but only to return to it. Yes, but only to deal with the claim that all sexual pleasure must be restricted to married couples. It’s clear that for whatever the reasons, the bulk of modern believers don’t think all sexual pleasure must be confined to married people. The very strict among us can make reasonable arguments but the rest of us, whether or not we can adequately address those arguments, sense that their position goes way too far.

The idea that people can only hold hands, hug one another and kiss after they’ve become husband and wife simply makes no sense to us in the light of the nature of people as God has made us. But if we grant that all sexual pleasure and stimulation must be restricted to married couples then, as I see it, the very strict believers must surely be in the right.

Of course, it means we’d end up debating issues like, ‘what’s hugging?’ or ‘what kind of kiss are we talking about?’ or ‘what kind of a look (glance) is acceptable?’ for even warm and longing glances sexually stimulate people.

I don’t think we should accept the premise that all sexual pleasure and stimulus should be restricted to married couples. It’s clear that those that have covenanted to one another to be married or have already entered a covenant of marriage should keep their hands and eyes and minds for the loved one they’ve covenanted with.

Not all of us have done that and many of us find it a battle to unwaveringly do it but there’s no doubt about the rightness of complete fidelity. Even if and when we fail we know we have failed and we should take measures to see it doesn’t occur again. I think that’s beyond debate, but it doesn’t begin to deal with the specific issue before us.

If we judge, it acceptable for unmarried people to engage with each other in some degree of sexual stimulation and pleasure why would we think it unacceptable for an individual to engage with him/herself in some degree of sexual stimulation and pleasure?

‘Because all sexual pleasure is meant to be expressed and enjoyed only by couples.’ Hmmm. But is it?

Other drives aren’t seen that way. It’s a fine thing for solitary people to enjoy food or a soak in a hot sudsy bath or a marvellous massage (from a professional and in an honourable way) and such things but people aren’t permitted to privately engage in the release found in sexual pleasure?

‘Yes, but if we have husbands and wives we can turn to each other.’

True, but what if we’re one of the many millions that don’t have a husband or wife? What if we’re unmarried but will not engage in non-marital sexual intercourse because we believe it displeases God, even though we are hungry for the pleasure of full sexual engagement?

Those of us that have a full and wonderful sexual experience with our spouses can have some difficulty getting the full power of Paul’s 1 Corinthians 7:9, ‘If they can’t control themselves, it’s better to marry than to burn with passion.’

This section is Paul defending the right of a person to remain unmarried, which he thinks is a more advantageous situation provided that a person can live in honourable celibacy. But given the human situation, he speaks of the possibility of people not being able to ‘control themselves’ as a perfectly normal condition. Let them marry to keep from burning. (Only a silly person thinks that this is Paul’s whole philosophy about marriage.)

People that go around filled with a hunger that isn’t satisfied are pathetic and enslaved creatures (even if the hunger is a wicked one, maybe, especially if it is a wicked one) because they’re always obsessed with the hunger. Paul would teach that we should “ease our pain” and live a full productive life.

(Not many sermons can be as glib as one on the advantages of singleness preached by a married man who (thankfully) enjoys a full sexual experience with the wife he adores and who adores him.)

Here’s a girl or a fellow who will not engage in a premarital full sexual experience. Furthermore, she/he won’t marry a person that isn’t in Christ or at least shows a real interest in him. She/he hungers greatly for sexual pleasure, in the way she/he hungers for food, drink, friendship or whatever. She/he is taught that all such hunger is God-given and that she mustn’t be ashamed of them or apologize for them, but she’s forbidden to satisfy one of them, the sexual appetite.

She is told there is no way in which she is allowed to cater to that hunger unless she gets married. Others can caress their tongues with chocolates, their ears with music, their eyes with (honourable) books or movies, all to feed underlying hunger but she is forbidden to caress ‘sexual’ parts of her.

She knows perfectly well that the sexual experience is not an absolute that stands without guidelines for honourable engagement, there’s too much in Scripture for her to believe that ‘anything goes’. She simply doesn’t understand why it’s okay for unmarried men and women to kiss and hold one another (and in doing it they sexually stimulate one another as well as satisfy their own hunger) while she’s forbidden to stimulate herself while alone.

If she’s hungry she eats, thirsty and she drinks, so that these hunger are fed and kept in control without guilt and, in addition, she doesn’t go around a lot of the time longing for these things.

But her sexual hunger is never to be satisfied; under any circumstances?

Even Paul the honourable and cheerful celibate could easily see that ‘burning’ would be a good word to cover such an ongoing experience.

You understand that I’ve been speaking about sexual activity as if it were a simple and an undifferentiated drive when it manifestly is not!

It’s a complex reality that, for a healthy person, connects with other needs and desires. It’s true that sexual activity has a solid contact with our ‘animal’ nature but we aren’t brute beasts. We want to give as well as receive, we want to love and devotion, and we want to express deep feelings and experience intimacy. All this you know and don’t need to be told.

It doesn’t matter that many have no other interest than to get the rush, the loss is theirs. And it doesn’t matter that our Western society is so preoccupied with raw sex, there’s still no shame in a sexual appetite (how did the Song of Solomon get into a Bible that thinks ‘sex’ is a dirty word?) but to worship it, or any other drive, is idolatry.

It’s easy for happily married people whose sexual drive is real but modest and is satisfied by someone they adore and enjoy being with sexually, it’s easy for them to dismiss masturbation as a simple lack of control. The truth is, some of these people may be controlling more than the happily married people have ever had to contend with.

‘But it’s, dirty and cheap!’

Yes, many of us think that, but is it though? I don’t think we can establish that. Like everything else, masturbation (presuming it is viewed as a Christian liberty) and married sexual behaviour and kissing etc. between the unmarried, food consumption and the rest, can become wrong. The matter of fantasies would come into the discussion. Eating can lead to gluttony and recreation can lead to work-laziness.

Much of the wrong in what is wrong is the unbridled nature of what we’re engaged in or the set of the mind when we engage in it. So, presuming that sexual self-satisfaction is a Christian liberty and presuming there is no fantasizing that is cherishing something wicked, I know no reason why we should speak against it and make people feel guilt-ridden about it.

I recognize that the full story about our sexual activity will be about living out our lives before God and that it will express itself most fully in a devoted husband and wife relationship. And there’s absolutely no doubt that the theological richness of our sexual relationships comes to its fullness in marriage.

But none of that gives us grounds for forbidding what has not reached that fullness. Husbands are called to love their wives even as Christ loved the church but we’re not to deny the reality and acceptability of the love they have, though they haven’t yet attained this ideal, which they affirm and strive for.

I suppose there’s a strong feeling that our sexual gift is ‘wasted’ if it isn’t experienced with another person. I would certainly insist that our sexual gift is most fully experienced within a marriage covenant, but I don’t think that to take sexual pleasure alone is a waste or a sin.

Let me conclude this piece. I think we’re in a sex-soaked, sex-drenched Western culture and the sexual experience has not only been cheapened and perverted but has also become an obsession. I don’t think masturbation is inevitable (any more than I believe non-marital sex is inevitable) nor do I think it should be promoted (any more than I think sexual experience should be promoted). But I don’t think it should be condemned in principle.

I think the moral right or wrong of masturbation depends on how it functions within the life of any individual. I believe what is obvious; there is more than one reason that people engage in sexual self-pleasing and I believe that in some cases there are underlying factors that need to be treated.

There are some avenues of sexual release that I think the Scriptures clearly forbid but I don’t think masturbation is one of them. There are some lawful avenues of sexual release that I believe can be engaged in, in a dishonourable way, and I think masturbation is one of them. Jim McGuiggan.

There you have it, another view on masturbation, but if you are a Christian who is really beating yourself up over the issue of masturbation, or are struggling with sexual impurity, remember that Jesus offers forgiveness, 1 John 1:9, for you and He loves you where you are, if you feel it’s a real issue in your life, then after speaking to God about it, speak to a mature Christian about it.

Your First Thoughts

Please write down your own thoughts on this part of the lesson whilst they are fresh in your mind.

Evaluation Questions

These questions are designed to help you think through the topic discussed so that you may have a true view of yourself.

1. Write down ALL of the things which worry YOU about entering a relationship with someone?

2. Write down the DANGERS of lust?

3. What are YOUR thoughts on masturbation?

4. If YOU struggle with masturbation, (in the wrong way) in what way can you get help?

5. Write down the name of someone YOU can talk to about sexual impurity?

Next Class

Can I Have Sex If I’m A Single Christian?

We will discuss: We will try to understand God’s perspective on sex and we will see that to have sex before marriage is foolish. We will also look at sexual purity and abstinence where I will provide some sexual purity tips. We shall look at the dangers of Christian singles’ sexual sins and the isolation it may cause and recognise that many men may need some help.

Next Class Preparation

Please read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 / Proverbs 7:18 / Proverbs 5:22 / Proverbs 5:15-17 / Proverbs 5:20 / Proverbs 5:9-11 / 1 Corinthians 6:18 / Ephesians 5:3 / Hebrews 13:4 / 1 Corinthians 10:8 / 1 Thessalonians 4:3 / 1 Thessalonians 4 / 1 Corinthians 10:13 / Galatians 6:1-2 / 1 John 1:9.

Go To Practical Singleness Lesson 6


"For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city."