How do you answer the question of whether or not it’s okay for widows to masturbate? Well, I got asked this very question back in August and I’ll admit, I’ve been hesitant to answer it. Here’s the comment from our Are sex toys allowed in a Christian marriage post:
I am a widow now for just a little over a year now. I am in my early 60″s and when having memories of my husband and I being intimate, arouses the want in me for his touch and desire for him, which is impossible to have. Would it be wrong to have a sex toy? I have talked to a very close friend, who also is a widow and she said, she doesn’t think it is wrong. I have mixed emotions, please help me know your thoughts on this.
In my stance against masturbation, this scenario, above all others, makes it seem harsh. After all, she’s a widow. She didn’t choose to leave her husband, she’s hurting over the loss of intimacy. She’s not thinking about another relationship. What’s the harm? But, I can’t avoid it if I want to be intellectually honest with my stance. So, here we go. Let’s tackle this. Is it okay for widows to masturbate? I’m going to stick with “no”.
1. Instructions for the church
There’s a little-known passage in 1 Timothy 5 that is directed at widows. Actually, it’s directed at the church in how to care for widows. But, in it, Paul makes some interesting comments:
Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan. – 1 Timothy 5:9-15
So, Paul is talking about what widows the church should care for, and which should go find a husband. In fact, he has an age, but I think we need to adjust some for lifespan changes since Paul was writing this. One source I found said that life expectancy in the classical Roman era was under 50 years old (assuming you didn’t die before the age of 10). So, a 60-year-old widow would be considered quite aged. These days with our life expectancy at an all-time high of near 70, and many lasting even longer, this changes the timeline a bit.
2. Paul warns us about our passions
Interestingly though is the reason Paul gives for not enrolling a widow under 60 (a woman not yet nearing the end of her life). He says:
For when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry. – 1 Timothy 5:11b
And that made me think of another verse from Paul:
But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. – 1 Corinthians 7:9
It seems to me that Paul is not giving any ground to satisfying your sexual desires. That you have two choices:
- Control them
There’s no option given to masturbate, no hint that that’s okay. Arguably, you could say the lack of any wiggle room seems to indicate masturbation would be lumped in with “sexual immorality”:
But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. – 1 Corinthians 7:2
The practical side is that you might one day decide to re-marry. It will be difficult to go from having exclusively solo sex for a time to partnered sex again. We see this as an increasing problem with younger men and women. They get married with a history of solo masturbation. Then they have troubles with true intimacy.
However, even if you choose not to re-marry, there seems to be a greater concern for Paul, and for me as well.
3. Focus on your spouse or focus on God
It seems Paul is saying the choice you have is to focus all your sexual energy and redirect it to serving God. If you cannot, then get married. Why? Because the middle ground is dangerous:
Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. – 1 Timothy 5:13
I think it’s because masturbation has a tendency to make you self-focused. It wears at your generosity, your hospitality, your desire to give to another. It is a purely self-serving activity that benefits no one except gratifying your immediate desires. The spiritual implications of living a lifestyle that is so “me” focused is devastating to your relationship with God. God seems to be willing to share your focus with a spouse. I think that’s because marriage teaches us about God. Having children teaches us about God. But, God is not willing to share himself with yourself, if that makes sense. While marriage is outward focused, self-gratification on this level is purely inward focused. Not only that but the chemical reactions in our brain are so strong and so binding that they imprint this behaviour very strongly. Solo masturbation makes us selfish.
4. Is it okay for widows to masturbate?
I’m going to say “no”. I think it will harm your relationship with God, and others. It will change your character. It will make you self-focused. Instead, focus on God. I know that sounds like a glib response, but I believe it’s the biblical one. Devote your life to Him, and I believe you will find it even more fulfilling than a lifetime of self-induced orgasms. Of course, this applies to widowers as well.
That’s my opinion anyways. You’ll have to decide your own. What do you think?
If you’re looking for other articles on the topic of masturbation:
- Is masturbation a sin?
- Why masturbation is a problem, whether you’re married or single
- Why do married men masturbate?
- Is Mutual Masturbation OK for Married Christians?
- Mutual Masturbation Survey Results
- If masturbation is sinful, what do you do if you don’t orgasm during sex?
- What Is Your Opinion Of Solo Masturbation Due To Separation?
- Is masturbation for medical reasons okay?
- What do you do if you suspect your spouse of secretly masturbating?
- My Husband Admitted To Masturbating, How Do I Get Over The Hurt?
- Why does my low-drive spouse masturbate?
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