Tattoos can be controversial in different circles, especially in Christian circles. Some people would say, “Oh, no! You can’t do that! You are being very rebellious!” Others would say, “Hey, tattoos are just an artistic expression on my body.” Some would say, “Oh no! It’s a dangerous, satanic and cultic practice.” Others would simply say, “You know, it’s a personal expression.” The bottom line isn’t as much as what does people think, but what does God think about tattoos? What does the Bible say? And the answer is, not a whole lot! There’s one verse that speaks directly to tattoos. It’s found in Leviticus 19:28, when the Bible says:
Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:28
You could say that God is very, very clear and says, ‘You should not have tattoos,” right? Well, to understand this verse, you have to look at the text in the context of what Leviticus 19 was saying as a whole.
You see, the Israelites had just escaped from Egyptian bondage and passed through the Red Sea and God was telling them, ‘Don’t take on the Pagan practices of the Egyptians.’ When an Egyptian would die, the remaining relative, they would often cut into their body to let out what was known as the life blood. This was a pagan ritual, God said, ‘Don’t do that!’ Some would also tattoo on their bodies pictures of pagan Gods; and again, the One true God said, ‘Don’t you ever do that!’
If you want to take Leviticus 19 literally, we need to be careful, because this was the Old Testament Law, fulfilled by Christ in the New Testament. Leviticus 19 also tells us:
Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. Leviticus 19:27
It also says: Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material. Leviticus 19:19d
The above are things that we all do every day.
Leviticus 19; the bottom line, was talking about idolatry. Don’t take on the pagan practices of the Egyptians.
Some of my friends, who are believers that are very pro-tattoo, make a very good argument that a Christian tattoo can be a good witness, or a good conversation starter. They will also argue, if you want to be against tattoos, you should probably be against ear piercings, because Leviticus 19:28 says, “Don’t cut your body.”
Others make a very strong argument that even God has a tattoo! Isaiah 49:15-16 says
15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; (NIV)
If you are His child, adopted into His family by faith in Christ, God has a tattoo of you on his hand. Great verse.
If you are considering getting a tattoo, there are a few of things to think about.
First of all, you might be considered rebellious by some. If you are going in for a job interview, or meeting someone for the first time, people can be very judgmental, and they may look at the outside and make a judgment on you, so it’s something to think about.
Secondly, you need to remember that you might be making a decision that you would later regret. I heard of someone who tattooed, ‘I love Shelly’, and then he married Michelle. Also what looks good on you at 22 might look very saggy at 62! I love the joke about the guy who had a bull dog tattoo that years later looked like a char pay.
Thirdly, if you are 17 years old and living with Mom and Dad, and Mom and Dad are paying the bills, and you want a tattoo and Mom and Dad say no, there’s no tattoo for you! If my kids ask, “Daddy, can we get a tattoo?” I’m going to tell them, I don’t think so right now. When they are grown ups, if they want to get a tattoo, I’d simply say, let’s make sure it’s something you want forever, in a place you want forever, and a size you want forever. I’m not going to recommend they get it, but again, it’s like a haircut, a style; it’s the outside, what’s on the inside matters most. That’s my take on tattoos.
For more about the series, Things that Make You Go Hmm, go to www.RidgeFellowship.com