What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos?

What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos?

1. Are tattoos bad?

2. Will I go to hell for having a tattoo?

3. Can I have tattoos and still be a Christian?

4. Are there such thing as “Christian Tattoos?”

Tattoos are a widely debated topic among Christian culture. And regardless of your denominational viewpoint, I think this topic is something we all need to come together to discuss in a clear and loving manner.

Let me first start off by letting you know that I myself have a tattoo, but this does not mean my post will be biased to one side or the other. I’m going to say some things that both sides might not agree with, but that’s ok. I’m here to ask questions, dig deep, and get ourselves focused on the bigger picture.

I have three questions I want you to ask yourself…

1. Why would I get a tattoo? or Why did I get a tattoo?

2. Who will my tattoo glorify? or Who do my tattoos glorify?

3. What would my tattoo say about me? or What do my tattoos say about me?

Although these questions may seem silly, they are going to play an important role in your view on tattoos in reference to God’s word. Why? Because the answers to those questions may just be the answers you’ve been looking for.

And while I strongly believe God yearns for us to take care of our mortal bodies, I believe the motive of our hearts are more important to him in the end. See where I am going with this?

In Leviticus 19:28, you can see what most people say is a pretty clear-cut answer as to what God thinks about tattoos.

“Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the LORD.” -Leviticus 19:28 

But as clear as this text may seem, without the context and background, this text can be taken out of context in many ways. And it usually is.

This text is directed towards pagan nations who would violently cut and mark their bodies as a sign of worship to their gods. The tattoos or “markings” one would find on their body would resemble which god or gods their were worshiping.

Pretty different from the tattoos we see today, right? Yup.

And while I do believe markings or tattoos that resemble worship to anyone other than God are sinful, I believe that 99% of the tattoos we see in today’s culture are not due to idol worship, but more creative expression and artistic value. It’s not the actual tattoo or marking that is sinful, but the motives in which each tattoo or marking is obtained.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Tattoos are not for everyone. In fact, I’m not going to encourage you to get one. My only hope is that you realize the motives of your heart mean more to God than the ink on your skin. But also realize that this doesn’t mean your body is a free for all canvas to be filled with mindless and ill-thought clip art.

Your body is still a temple, and to treat your body with disrespect is to treat God the same way. Whether you are debating getting your first tattoo or your fiftieth, I pray you will seek God for wisdom, guidance, and evaluate the motives of your heart.

Remember those three questions? Well, it’s time to ask them again.

1. Why would I get a tattoo? Why did I get a tattoo?

2. Who will my tattoo glorify? Who do my tattoos glorify?

3. What would my tattoo say about me? What do my tattoos say about me?

We may not all reach the same conclusion, but that doesn’t mean we are not all loved by the same God.

- Jarrid Wilson

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What are your thoughts on Tattoos? Leave a comment below. 

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170 Comments

  • Janet June 22, 2014 at 9:00 PM

    Separate yourself from the world…..

  • JOBDANIELUC June 20, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    I feel that, for some reason, people get those for an alternative way not to use their mouths to tell the people without God that He saves, that He loves, that He cares about us… If I am not ashamed of the Gospel of God, then I shouldn’t keep my mouth closed and go to one of those places and get one of those “artworks” whatever reason. I think that the question that if it glorifies or not “this or that” it doesn’t fit in this theme. It is painful to get one and it is not to preserve my health. It may cause cancer in the skin. Then taking a cigarette isn’t sin cause Bible doesn’t tell me not to do so??? Even if it causes lung cancer??? So tell me… What about eye tattoos? If I get one of those I’ll go to hell? Or not??? God bless you! The good news is that if you repent of what you did or do with your bodies (of course, after getting one of those), and you can’t take it or take them away from your body (maybe you got no enough money or for another reason), God forgives you because He’s a lovely God. Even if you keep it in your skin. but not only for that reason are you goin to get another one! God bless you God’s people!

    • JOBDANIELUC June 20, 2014 at 11:37 PM

      Bible says keep this words in your HEART not in your skin. If I want the people to see something that testifies that I belong to God then I can take my Bible with me, or something like “Christian vocabulary”… “If it is God’s will…” “If God wants…” “God is first…” “In the name of Jesus…” “God bless you” etc…. Please make a post about “Christian vocabulary” So we all could practice them. God bless you!

  • Brian Kennedy June 20, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    “But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you in the womb and will help you:
    Do not fear, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring. They shall spring up like a green tamarisk, like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s’, another will be called by the name of Jacob, yet another will write on the hand, ‘The Lord’s’,and adopt the name of Israel.”- Isaiah 44:1-5

    In verse 5 above, when it refers to writing “the Lord’s” on one’s hand, the word translates as “to write with permanence, to mark, to brand, to tattoo.” The part that was left out of the Leviticus passage says that you are not to get tattoo marks “for the dead.” Yes, this was the common practice as it was meant as a self inflicting pain offering to the gods to bring the dead back to life. However, the passage in Isaiah commands that we mark ourselves as belonging to God.

    In Christ people have the freedom to express our faith as we see fit. Scripture is actually not clear when it comes to tattoos, but most people haven’t read or know how to properly interpret scripture. We have poor translations, and people base entire theological issues on the way one word was poorly translated. Tattoos are fine just as long as you remember that your body is a temple and you should honor God with your body. If it does those things, then you have the freedom to choose.

  • Maro June 20, 2014 at 2:57 AM

    The original post is misleading. God’s instruction is clear. TATTOOS ARE FORBIDDEN. Just the same way prostituting one’s daughter is evil. (The very next verse)

    There is no bigger context to understand. Tattoos are evil. It doesn’t matter whether it is for an idol or not. However, flesh cutting can be done as long as it is not for an idol.

    Jesus even talked about flesh cutting. It is OK to remove bad parts to prevent the good parts from going bad. It is okay as long as it is not for an idol. But with tattoos, there are no exceptions. God says it is bad so it is bad. Intentions are irrelevant with tattooing, adultery, stealing, etc

    • Butterfly tattoo = 2 Cor 5:17 June 22, 2014 at 3:21 PM

      The verse before says not to cut your hair or trim your beard…

    • Dale Davidson June 25, 2014 at 7:58 AM

      Yes, people of all faiths pick and chose what aspects of their faith they follow. If someone thinks tattoos are coming between them selves and God, then they will chose not to do it. For others it’s drinking alcohol. My point is, each of us has, if we chose, an individual relationship with God. How we express that relationship is up to each person individually. I believe that being critical of other people’s choices distracts me from coming closer in my relationship with God. I also believe we are saved by the grace of God, and no matter how great or small my works are I am still only saved by God’s grace. I see all people make choices that I would not make. The rightness or wrongness of them, unless it physically harms me or those I care for, is not something I chose to spend time on. I am not perfect. I am sure no one else is either. That is what grace is for.

  • Jeff June 19, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    Well written and intriguing. I do think you could have gone even deeper though. Before I get into that, a little background on myself: I have no tattoos and don’t think I would ever be likely to get one. I come from a family ‘against’ tattoos, and much of my extended family was freaking out when my younger brother got a tattoo right before getting married.

    That said, I’d like to expound a little on the scripture you referenced in Leviticus. You already pointed out that this regulation was included for the Israelites due to the pagan cultures around them. I think it is also significant to note that the Israelites were also commanded to never attempt to make a physical representation (idol) of God, and that this verse would therefore not ONLY be applying to not having tattoos/markings to represent/worship pagan deities, but also would have applied to not having tattoos/markings in representation/worship of God.

    Now, that obviously was the regulation laid down in scripture by God, for the Israelites, at that specific time. The Israelites were also commanded to never eat unclean foods, eat with Gentiles, work on the Sabbath, etc. Many of those regulations were explicitly taken away in the book of Acts and some of the Epistles. Others were referenced in less explicit ways, [1 Cor 8 paraphrase] “If you know there is one God and idols are meaningless then eating food sacrificed to them is not a sin for you.” We also see Jesus referencing hand washing regulations before he is even crucified “It is not what goes into a man…”

    I realize I have said a lot but not much all at the same time here. My personal view and response to someone asking me the question, “Can a person have/get a tattoo and still be a Christian?” is a little more straightforward. Romans 10:9-10 says “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Therefore I do not feel that I have the grounds to tell someone that they are doomed to hell simply because they have or want a tattoo. I could very well be wrong here, but (while I will never get one myself) I do not see the scriptural grounds for condemning (or even confronting) a brother/sister who has a tattoo like I do for other sins (marital infidelity, homosexuality, etc.).

  • Matt Smith June 19, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    Tatts are awesome and why worry about what anybody else is doing god is really good at being god

  • Ward June 19, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    I’m tired of seeing people relating getting tattoos with painting graffiti on a house of worship. In many cases, tattoos are an expression of art that can relate to one’s personal life and to represent their core beliefs. If we are going to compare our bodies to a house of worship in the sense that our bodies are temples of Christ, than why should we discriminate? Many churches are decorated with portraits and lavish things. If we ‘have no right’ to represent our love for Christ in tattoo artwork, than why should any temple of God be wondrous in its’ accessories? If you don’t think it’s right, than don’t get any tattoos. But I am certain that He is not ashamed of my artwork. Feel free to disagree based on ‘your view’ of what the Bible says, whether that be right or wrong.

  • Sean June 14, 2014 at 9:40 PM

    Many Christians are still in the flesh about getting tattoos. God is against thiswe do not own ourselves. Its like you vandalizing God’s temple like graffiti to a wall its illegal. Stop being confuse with this
    Tattoos are horrible. Stop disrespecting God

    • Maro June 20, 2014 at 2:42 AM

      Very true. Tattoos are horrible period.

      The original post is very misleading. Whether tattoos are for idols or not, they are not allowed. That is God’s direct instruction.

    • Steve June 20, 2014 at 6:38 AM

      So my tattoo says “All for Jesus”, it’s a constant reminder of who my king is, what my purpose is, and who I serve, will God that and condem me?

  • Erica Jones June 11, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    I have 6 tattoos 4 were to mark the birth of each of my children, the fifth, the word honesty above my heart… And the last one, initials and birthdates of all 5 of my children including the baby that is now in the arms of Jesus. I don’t consider them sinful, but as an artist and a writer, I feel like a tattoo is something you should feel so strongly about before having it forever put on your skin- without a meaning, a tattoo has no real value.

  • kyle June 10, 2014 at 6:13 PM

    Your premise seems to be that we can disobey God if we have good motives. Rather I think there is an argument that God may not be commanding us to obstain from tattoos. You seemed to go in this way but turned away.

    I think that the larger discussion here includes these huge topics; New covenant vs old covenant. Does Grace cover tattoos? Should a Christian get a tattoo even if it isn’t sinful? What does a Tattoo say about identity?

  • Suze LaLanne Bazile June 2, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    Some

    • Elizabeth June 15, 2014 at 11:00 PM

      I have been a christian since I was seven and grew up in church. And as soon as I turn 18 I’ll be getting a tattoo. And I’ve talked to my mom about it and we came to the conclusion that the real reason deep down for me wanting them is because like Paul I want to be all things to all men. All the ones I want have meaning and are all religious(even though I Christianity shouldn’t be a “religion” but a relationship.) And every day of my life I will stand up for my Lord and proclaim my love and faith in Him.

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