Believers and Tattoos
Should a Christian get a tattoo? Should we be concerned when someone gets some “ink?” To answer this, we must understand the origin of tattoos. Tattoos are nothing new and in fact we see tattoos in the Scripture.
According to a report by NPR, “Tattoos have become more common over the past couple of decades. A Harris poll in 2012 found that 1 out of every 5 adults — 21 percent — has at least one tattoo. An earlier Pew Research Center study found that the number was closer to 40 percent among those ages 18 to 29.”
With the incredible amount of people getting tattoos, you can see why there are so many of these little shops and mall counters offering tattoos. I saw one shop that sold engraved trophies for sports teams, etc. and they could also engrave your body in their tattoo parlor. How convenient is that?!
Right in the middle of God’s law recorded in Leviticus in between the prohibition for drinking blood, the prohibition for prostitution, and the ban on wizards and witches we find the following verse:
Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:28
Keep in mind the Old Testament Law was multifaceted. Some Law related to civil government (most of which we continue to follow today), some related to worshiping God, and other parts were practical (like sanitation and diet laws). The Law was given to show how deficient and sinful humans are and to demonstrate how much we need the Lord. Jesus fulfilled the Law. While we do not obey the Law to earn the favor of God, these truths can cause for a more healthy and happy life. Thank God for grace!
The verse starts by prohibiting cutting the flesh. That practice was found in pagan religions. Think of Elijah (1 Kings 18) and the prophets of Baal who were cutting themselves to try to get their false god to answer them.
Apparently, the tattoos were also part of cult religious practices. Stars, leaves, flowers, and other images were inked or burned into those being initiated into the cult. The tattoos, like today, represented something.
Very simply, tattoos were connected with “dead people” and with cult practices in ancient times. They were used as identifying marks in groups and activities that were (and are) against the Lord.
Commentator Albert Barnes adds this insight: “The prohibition against marking the skin may involve either tattooing or painting the body as part of a religious ritual. Such markings may have been designed to protect a person from the spirits of the dead or to demonstrate membership in a group. Some evidence for this has been found in the examination of human remains in Scythian tombs dating to the sixth century b.c. The Israelite law may prohibit this practice since it involves a self-imposed alteration of God’s creation, unlike circumcision, which is commanded by God.”
Think of it this way: If a person spray painted a public library, were caught and charged; they would be charged with “defacing” a public building. They would not be congratulated for decorating the building. Our bodies are the temple of God and is to be wholly dedicated to Him. Marring or defacing the body is not something we want to do. Sin has already done a good job in changing mankind and our bodies – because of original sin and its consequences.
If you already have a tattoo, then use it as an example of God’s grace. When people see it, or you talk with others, make it a point to say “This is who I was, but now I belong to Jesus.” Use the “Before and After” approach of telling others of your Savoir. The “Old Man Vs. The New Man” is a great way to demonstrate the markedly different life the Lord has made in you.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What will this tattoo identify me with?
- What kind of statement will a tattoo make?
- Will this help me look more likes Jesus in attitude, actions, or appearance?
- Does this make me appear more like the world or less like the world?
- Will this point people to Jesus or to something/someone else?
I do not believe that many readers of this article today would like to be associated with a cult or with occultist practices. Take care of your body – do not deface your body. We conclude with several verses and one key thought for your consideration.
1 Corinthians 6:8-20 says, Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient (Helpful, beneficial): all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.