What does the Bible say about tattoos?
“So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” - Romans 14:22
I walked into the tattoo parlor nervous, yet excited. I had a general idea as to what tattoo I wanted, but didn’t know the details.
After some insight from the artist, he started the process. It was both moderately painful and highly expensive. So, after a swipe of the debit card and an hour or so of feeling like I was being repeatedly stabbed by a lead pencil - it was done. My favorite verse, James 1:12, was now permanently written on my body.
In the days to follow, I couldn’t help but wonder: is it okay, as a Christian, to get a tattoo? Probably should have thought about that before hand.
But, today I answer this question for you, so you can put in more forethought than I did!
To start off, Lev. 19:28 seems to speak clearly on not getting any cuts or “tattoo markings” on your body. So, case closed - right? Tattoos are sinful! Well, not exactly.
That verse is more referring to a specific pagan act of worship... which involved tattoos. Just like with all verses in the Bible, this one is written to a specific people, in a specific time and for a specific purpose. And its purpose was not necessarily aimed at tattoos as we know them today.
So, Knowing that Lev. 19 doesn’t directly speak to tattoos and the rest of the Bible doesn’t speak to them either. That makes tattoos a “gray area.” Which is an aspect of life the individual believer can seek God and decide for themselves if it’s right or wrong for them.
In short, tattoos are not a sin... in of themselves at least. It is actually the motive behind your specific ink that matters most.
Having the wrong motive behind a tattoo, or any gray area, automatically turns the action into a sin. Here’s some questions to ask to guard yourself from malicious motives:
If you are a minor, are you respecting your parents? Children are called to obey and respect their parents (Eph. 6). So, if they don’t give the green light, no tattoo for you.
Is getting a tattoo all about outward appearance for you? If so, you might want to reflect on the importance of developing your inner self vs. your outer appearance (1 Peter 3).
Does the meaning of the tattoo give honor to God? Is the meaning of your ink righteous or selfish? If it’s something that glorifies worldy things or is just straight up inappropriate - probably best to hold off. As we are called to glorify God in everything we do, which includes tattoo choices (1 Cor. 10:31).
Do you feel convicted at the thought of getting a tattoo? A big part of navigating gray areas is being sensitive to conviction. If you feel it is wrong in your heart, yet still go through with it, it’s a sin (Romans 14:23).
Ask yourself these questions before moving forward and always remember that your body was bought at a price (1 Cor. 6:19).
That price? The life of Jesus Christ. You are not your own, you are God’s handiwork. So, be careful with His canvas and don’t do anything to detract from His amazing work in making you.