What does the Bible say about tattoos? Is it a sin to get a tattoo?Besides looking into what the Bible says about tattoos, together we'll consider the concerns surrounding tattooing today and present a self quiz to help you decide if getting a tattoo is right or wrong.
To Tattoo or Not To?This is a question many Christians struggle with. I believe tattooing falls into the category of "disputable matters" where the Bible is not clear. But wait a minute, you might be thinking. The Bible says in Leviticus 19:28, "Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord." (NLT) How much clearer can that be?
It's important, however, to look at the verse in context. This passage in Leviticus, including the surrounding text, is specifically dealing with the pagan religious rituals of the people living around the Israelites. God’s desire is to set his people apart from other cultures. The focus here is prohibiting worldly, heathen worship and witchcraft. God forbids his holy people to engage in idolatrous, pagan worship and sorcery which imitates the heathens. He does this out of protection, because he knows this will lead them away from the one true God.
It's interesting to observe verse 26, "Do not eat meat that has not been drained of its blood," and verse 27, "Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards." Well, certainly many Christians today eat non-kosher meats and get haircuts without participating in the forbidden worship of pagans. Back then these customs were associated with pagan rites and rituals. Today they are not.
So, the important question remains, is getting a tattoo a form of pagan, worldly worship still forbidden by God today? My answer is, this matter is disputable, and should be treated as a Romans 14 issue.
If you are considering the question, "To tattoo or not to?" I think the more serious questions to ask yourself are: What are my motives for wanting a tattoo? Am I seeking to glorify God or draw attention to myself? Will my tattoo be a source of contention for my loved ones? Will getting a tattoo cause me to disobey my parents? Will my tattoo cause someone who is weak in the faith to stumble?
In my article, "What to Do When the Bible is Not Clear," we discover that God has given us a means to judge our motives and weigh our decisions. Romans 14:23 states, "...everything that does not come from faith is sin." Now that's pretty clear!
Instead of asking, "Is it okay for a Christian to get a tattoo," perhaps a better question might be, "Is it okay for me to get a tattoo?"
Since tattooing is such a controversial issue today, I think it's important to examine your heart and your motives before you make the decision.
Self Exam - To Tattoo or Not To?Here is a self-exam based on the ideas put forth in Romans 14. These questions will help you decide whether or not getting a tattoo is a sin for you:
- How does my heart and my conscience convict me? Do I have freedom in Christ and a clear conscience before the Lord regarding the decision to get a tattoo?
- Am I passing judgment on a brother or sister because I don't have freedom in Christ to receive a tattoo?
- Will I still want this tattoo years from now?
- Will my parents and family approve, and/or will my future spouse want me to have this tattoo?
- Will I cause a weaker brother to stumble if I receive a tattoo?
- Is my decision based on faith and will the result be glorifying to God?
Ultimately, the decision is between you and God. Though it may not be a black and white issue, there is a right choice for each individual. Take some time to honestly answer these questions and the Lord will show you what to do.
• Consider the pros and cons of tattooing with Christian Teens Guide Kelly Mahoney.
• Take an in-depth look at Tattoos and the Bible by Pastor Chuck Gerwig.
• Examine a biblical view of the question, Is Getting a Tattoo a Sin? by Robin Schumacher.
• Consider a Jewish perspective on tattoos.
• See what some Christian music artists say about tattooing.
A Few More Things to ConsiderThere are serious health risks involved with getting a tattoo:
• Possible Tattoo Diseases & Reactions
• Tattoo Health Risks
Lastly, tattoos are permanent. Be sure to consider the possibility that you could regret your decision in the future. Although removal is possible, it is more expensive and more painful.
• Tattoo Removal - Options and Alternatives