For many, nothing says “relax” like a therapeutic or deep tissue massage. Decades ago, the terms masseuse or masseur implied shady red-light activities, and, in some places, “massage” is still a thin cover for solicitation or prostitution. But in recent years massage therapy has joined the array of luxury services offered at most spas and resorts. Legitimate massage therapists have undergone training and have passed state licensing requirements. But, because massage therapy involves physical caress and intimate touching, does the Bible say anything that would apply to getting a massage?
Romans 13:14 instructs us to “make no provision for the flesh and its lusts.” Making provision can vary from person to person. The implication from the apostle Paul is that we are to know our own weaknesses and restrict our choices to limit exploitation of those weaknesses. For example, a man struggling with alcohol abuse should stay away from casinos and nightclubs where the temptation to abuse alcohol may be overwhelming. A woman who is working to overcome greed and financial irresponsibility might need to decline offers to go shopping with friends until she knows she can trust herself.
Likewise, if the gentle touch of a stranger has the power to incite lust or sexual desire, then a massage may be making provision for the flesh. However, for most people a massage is a way to bring an hour of relaxation into an overly stressed world. Qualified massage therapists learn a client’s needs, sensitivities, and the level of modesty desired and adjust their routines accordingly. Professional therapists maintain that level of professionalism throughout the session, keeping the massage focused on muscle systems, specific pain areas, and relaxation techniques. Any therapist who crosses the line into flirtation or sexuality should be reported immediately to a supervisor.
Massage has joined chiropractic as an alternative to sometimes ineffective medical pain management. Those with chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia or arthritis can benefit greatly from a deep tissue massage done by a qualified therapist. Due to its intimate nature, massage may be most beneficial when performed by a therapist of the same gender as the client. And, if the person seeking treatment is married, his or her spouse should be in agreement about whether the massage should be given by a therapist of the opposite gender. Some husbands may be concerned about their wives being massaged by a male, and wives would most likely feel more comfortable with a woman as their therapist. This should be an area in which spouses submit to the desires of the other. First Corinthians 7:4 reminds the married that their bodies belong to their spouses, so showing consideration for the spouse’s sensitivities is honoring to the marriage and to the Lord.
For those who enjoy massages as a way to relax or manage painful areas of the body, the Bible has no prohibitions against it. Christians are to do everything “as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 10:31), including getting a massage. If a believer can receive a massage with a clear conscience and not be led into temptation of any sort, then he or she should feel free to enjoy it.