A lot of Christian believers probably ask themselves or others if it is a sin to get a tattoo. Well, this depends on who they ask. There are some Christians that believe it is a sin. One verse in the Bible which confirms that is Leviticus 19:28, which says: ”You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.” So, why is this verse in our Bible?
The desire of God is for His people to be set apart from some other religious practices, such as pagan worship and sorcery. Looking at the verse in context, we can see that it is specifically dealing with some pagan religious rituals.
However, does this verse have any relevance for people today? It absolutely has. Anyone that gets a tattoo really has to ask himself or herself why they get the tattoo and what is the meaning of that tattoo. They should also think whether the tattoo is an expression of witchcraft, pagan symbolism or idolatry.
- What does the Bible say about tattoos?
Tattoos are very popular in the world, now more than ever. The number of people with tattoos increased dramatically in the last several years. Tattoos are not only for delinquents or rebels anymore. The edginess of rebellion which is historically connected with tattoos starts wearing off.
The New Testament does not just say anything about whether or not a believer in Jesus Christ can get a tattoo or not. Hence, we cannot say that getting a tattoo is a sin. Because of the silence of Scripture, getting inked falls under the category of a ‘gray area’ and the believers have to follow their convictions in the matter, respecting the ones that actually have different convictions.
A lot of Christians struggle with the question of whether tattoos are allowed or not. Many of them believe that tattoos fall into the category of ‘disputable matters’ where the Bible is not clear.
The passage in Leviticus, including some surrounding texts, is particularly dealing with pagan religious rituals of those people that live around Israelites. The desire of God, just like we said before, is to set his people apart from other cultures. The focus here prohibits worldly and heathen worship, as well as witchcraft. God forbids his holy people to engage in idolatrous, and pagan worship and sorcery which imitate the heathens. Also, he does this out of protection, as he knows that this is going to lead them away from the one true God.
However, it is said that the belief that it is not forbidding all expressions of tattoos. Culturally, as well as specifically, the US tattoos, over the last 20 years, have become more socially acceptable.
Moreover, in some churches, seeing people with tattoos is quite normal. Not everyone has them, and there is no judgment of one another, tattoo or not. There is a belief that God is much more concerned with people’s hearts than he is with the outside appearance of a person.
After all the Bible says in the Revelation 19:16 that Jesus has a tattoo on His thigh, and He has one His robe and on His thing, a name written, saying KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Here are several biblical principles which people may apply to get a tattoo:
- Children have to honor and obey their parents. For a minor to get a tattoo in violation of the wishes of his or her parents is biblically unsupportable. Tattoos born on rebellion are definitely sinful.
- Outward adornment is not that important as the development of the inner self, and they should not be the focus of a Christian. A person who wants a tattoo to garner attention or draw admiration has a sinful and vain focus on.
- God only sees our hearts, and our motivation for anything we do has to be to glorify God. Motivations for getting a tattoo like to fit in, or stand out, fall short of the glory of God. The tattoo itself may not be a sin, but the motivation can make it become.
- Our bodies and souls were redeemed and belong to our Lord. The body of a believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit. How much modification of that temple would be appropriate? Is there a line which is not supposed to be crossed? Is there a point at which the proliferation of tattoos on one body ceases to be art and start becoming sinful mutilation? This has to be a matter of individual reflection and honest prayer.
So, one important question is still there: Is getting a tattoo a form of pagan, worldly worship still forbidden by God today? The answer can be yes and no, because some consider it as a sin, while others believe that it has nothing to do with the religion. It all comes down to personal conviction, and we have never to try to push our convictions on other people. Ultimately, the decision is going to be between God and us.