This one's about masturbation. You've been warned.

Is there a more awkward subject in all Christendom? Controversial, sure--but mostly it's just not fun to talk about. Of all the sex issues, it's the squirmiest.

And if we're talking about getting God's perspective on it, there's just not much to go on. In the past, people have tried to translate certain verses--including, notoriously, the sin of Onan in Genesis 38:6-9--to refer to masturbation, but it's quite a stretch. There's no rule to scribble on a post-it note and slap on the bathroom mirror. I dig deeper. I engage the Bible.

Jesus answers part of the question in Matthew 5:28. "I say anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." That's not necessarily referring to the actual act, but you can see how it applies. Lusting is usually the driving force behind masturbating, and we know how God feels about lusting. If my brain is fooling around, it doesn't matter what my hands are doing--it's not right.

What about when I'm just mustering some white noise? Just to release some pressure? What then?

That's when the things get a little grayer, and a hundred different Bible teachers will say a hundred different things. On the one hand, it's hard to think of a more self-serving activity than masturbating--so that's bad. On the other, it might just clear some of the sexual clutter from my head--so that's good. Some people are convinced that it's one more of Satan's tricks. Some say it's God gift to singles, to keep them pure. What's a boy to do?

Not despair, first of all. "The LORD is like a father to his children," David says in Psalm 103:13 and 14, "tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust." So, take heart! Your big worry--about whether God is sitting in heaven, shaking his head in frustration--is taken care of.

And second of all, a little bit of Joe's personal opinion: I don't know much, but I know that there's never harm in refusing what's permitted in expectation of what's good.

It ain't exactly an answer, but it's a start.

Joe