Many Christians have moved away from seeing procreation as the only legitimate purpose for sexual expression. Sex is also considered a gift of God for the purpose of deepening the bond of love and intimacy in marriage. Still, many are hesitant to accept pleasure as part of a pure purpose for our sexual expressions, and not just a byproduct.
This is one of the problems the church has with masturbation; it is to be avoided because (1) it does not lead to procreation, and (2) does not enhance marital intimacy.
Would our judgment on masturbation be different if we were okay with enjoying God’s gift of pleasure, to relish in His gift, with thanksgiving, like a child on Christmas morning?
This may also speak to our culture’s addiction to efficiency. Things have a legitimate purpose if they are efficient in meeting some end. For example, many would find it difficult to simply sit on the porch and enjoy the evening breeze. They might feel anxious for wasting time. We have a hard time just being and enjoying things for their own sake without the compulsion to have to do something or meet some goal.
Because masturbation is not meeting the goal of procreation or marital intimacy, it is often deemed to be a selfish and sinful act. Would we be okay with masturbation if our theology allowed for more enjoyment of pleasure for its own sake?
Without taking away from the importance of the other purposes, and within God-honoring boundaries, can one proverbially sit on the front porch and simply “waste time” glorifying and thanking God for His gift of pleasure?
As such, the pleasure is then not an end in itself, but rather a doorway to gratitude and spiritual intimacy with God. This seems like a legitimate purpose in and of itself, which is certainly on par with, if not surpassing, the purposes of mere procreation and marital intimacy in their most limited forms – having children and martial intimacy do not necessitate gratitude and intimacy with God.
Maybe pleasure is God’s way of reminding us that our sexuality is a gift from him, which is not dependent on us striving to accomplishing something. Pleasure is simply a gift to be received with much gratitude.