Is sex a need?

Oh my, we’re getting touchy! Perhaps even asking that question feels like sandpaper in the most sensitive parts of you. You’d like to scream, “You’re messing in my business. Of course I need sex!” But let’s pause and look at this from a Biblical worldview. Not a post-modern worldview, not a Victorian worldview, but a Biblical worldview. Is sex a need?

Recently I was enjoying an evening with a few close friends. We were talking about delayed gratification, and what that looks like for Christian believers. I rhetorically asked, “You can go twelve hours without eating. Can you go 24? Can you go three days? You can perhaps go a day without sex. Can you go without it for a week? For a month?” Partially in jest one of the husbands present practically shouted, “NO!” The struggle is clear; we want what we want when we want it.

This post is not about a Biblical view of marriage, or why God’s view of sex is the best one. It’s specifically asking the question, is viewing sex as a need the way God views it? Is a need for sex part of the way we are made? The implications of that question are significant.

Contemporary View of Sex

Contemporary culture views sex as a biological need, practically a human right. And look at the results both in and out of the church of looking at sex that way:

  • Spouses (most often husbands) use 1 Corinthians 7 as a scriptural club trying to manipulate or brow-beat their spouse into having sex.
  • Unmarried people go after sex with anyone they want regardless of relationship, gender, commitment, or the attendant risks.
  • Singles and married people justify pornography, cybersex, prostitution, or sexual violence because they “need” it.
  • Public education and the media give even very young children the message that sexual desires have no moral implications, and are to be explored, cultivated, and acted on.

Listening to our culture, you would assume that sex with practically anyone (or anything) any time for any reason is a good thing. And when you do, it’s society’s job to eradicate any of the negative consequences; STDs, unwanted pregnancy, sexual violence, etc. If sex is a need in the same sense that air, food, and water are needs, this view makes sense.

I’ve spoken with women who feel overwhelmingly guilty when they don’t “give in” to every sexual desire of their husbands. I’ve spoken with a divorcee now sexually hooking up again because of the “urge.” I’ve spoken with men who justify pornography use because ejaculation is supposedly good for their prostate. And you could probably name many other expressions of seeing sex as a need.

Enough of the brief negative view. Does the Bible have anything to say?

The Biblical Worldview on Sex as a Need

There is no single proof text that answers this question. But look at the following few examples.

  • Jeremiah did not marry. God told him, “You shall not take a wife for yourself nor have sons or daughters in this place.” (Jeremiah 16:2)
  • There is debate about whether Paul was married or not. But during his extended missionary journeys it’s clear he was alone as far as sex is concerned. (See 1 Corinthians 9:5)
  • Jesus, the most fully alive human being to ever walk this planet, did not have sex.
  • For centuries a portion of the Christian church has embraced and mandated celibacy for clergy, both males and females.

Not all celibate clergy have maintained their vows; that’s not the point. The point is that the Old and New Testaments, and the witness of the church for 2000 years, makes it clear that men and women can be fully alive, fully human, without resorting to paying for sex, forcing sex, having sex outside of God’s design, or any of the various contemporary versions thereof.

And before you say, “That was fine for Jeremiah and Paul, but that’s not my gift,” focus on Jesus. He experienced every temptation you face, but consistently demonstrated what it meant to turn everything including sex drives over to His Father.

Is it easy? Not at all. Remember St. Augustine who said, “Lord, give me chastity – but not yet!”

And yes, I know what I’m talking about. I lived single for decades before marrying my husband. Our marriage was happy and successful including sexually. Now since his death I’m living single again. Do I have it all together? Not at all. But I do know what it feels like to live as I’m talking about over the long haul.

So here’s the bottom line;

God created sex as a good thing, to be enjoyed between husband and wife. Sexual drives are God-given. But sex is not necessary for a happy, fulfilled, godly, meaningful, satisfying life.  Tweet that. 

Does that sound too far-fetched? A few suggestions.

  1. Evaluate if you are looking to sex to give you life.

Just as with food, entertainment, money, exercise, work, success, or any of God’s other good gifts, going to sex for life becomes distorted and destructive. We so easily look to any of God’s gifts to give us real life instead of looking to God Himself. And in doing so, we become disillusioned and desperate, which easily leads to addiction.

  1. Get your soul filled up.

One of the maxims of AA is H.A.L.T. – don’t let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired; that will leave you vulnerable. It’s the same here. Intentionally seek out healthy godly ways of getting your soul filled up; godly relationships, unselfish service, creative pursuits, physical activity, time in nature, time consuming uplifting inspiring media, time with God.

  1. Pursue intimacy in your context.

If you’re married, pursue intimacy with your spouse – consistently, unselfishly, understandingly, comprehensively, wholistically. Don’t focus on going for the sex; search for the barriers to whole-person intimacy, and work to overcome them.

If you’re not married, seek out a few close godly relationships with those who can stimulate you, support you, help hold you accountable, and do life with you.

  1. Pursue intimacy with God.

This is not some mystical state only available for 90-year-old widows or the old desert fathers living as hermits. Sex and marriage in all its dimensions are a picture of the intimacy God wants with YOU. Study what that’s about. Seek it. Talk to God about it.

And along the way, verbally and intentionally turn your sex life over to God every day, whether you’re single or married. Consecrate that part of you to Him daily. That’s what Jesus did. And you can too.

Your Turn: This article may seem provocative. Do you agree with this perspective? What does this mean for you in the stage of life where you are now? Leave a comment below.

Tweetables: Is sex a need? Contemporary culture would say Yes, but looking at this from a Biblical (not a Victorian) worldview gives interesting conclusions. Here are some suggestions of how to live accordingly.  Tweet that.

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