by Bill Brinkworth
The Word “Tattoo” Is Not In The Bible.
However, there are many principles about taking care of the body taught in the Bible that pertain to what some today call “body art.”
An outer layer of skin, the epidermis is always renewing itself. Inner cells of this layer work to the outside within 14 days as outer cells die off. To keep a permanent marking, tattooists inject dye into a lower dermis that will permanently stay marked on the body.
A tattoo of “I love Hilda” is going to be there long after you’re married to Martha. There are ways to remove them. Laser and pulsed light techniques can break up the ink. The painful five to ten treatments can cost as much as $250 to $850 each treatment.
Some chemical lightening processes claim to fade them by as much as 93.7%. But, six percent of a skull and crossbones may not be too impressive to your boss when you are a 40 year-old short-sleeved executive. The flesh markings will remain as long as you live. They will last even after the skin has lost its elasticity, places sag and the pigment has lost its clearness and no one is really sure what your tattoo says.
Many claim “Tattoo” is a modern word derived from the Tahitian word “tautau.” Captain Cook brought the word back with him on his visits to the islands in the mid 1700’s. The Polynesians were often marked.
No longer is tattooing only the practice of drunken sailors or faraway heathens. It is everywhere – among our children and young adults especially. The 1999 Butterfly Art Barbie helped get young children introduced to body marking with a doll that had a butterfly tattoo on her stomach. Even Christians today permanently change their appearance with these inkings.
Marking Of The Body Has A Long History.
Danish museums display tattoo needles from 500-2000 B.C. Remains of an Egyptian priestess, who may have lived between 2160 and 1994 BC, had tattoos on her arms, legs and other places. Mayan mummies reveal it was done in their culture. A frozen, 5,000 year old body of a Siberian man had over 57 tattoos. Many past cultures marked their bodies. Originally, tattooing was identified with ungodly practices.
Moses had to deal with marking of the bodies when he had to deal with other heathen practices his people apparently committed. Leviticus 19:28 commands, “ Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”
God required His people to “…be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy (Lev. 19:2).” As a child of God, we are on the winning side. We have the promise of victory. Why should we even want to appear like the loosing side or keep up with what they do? They should be trying to look like us, not the other way around.
A Christian Is One Who Is “Christ-like.”
To be Christ-like is to be separated from the world as II Corinthians 6:17 states: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” Many are robbed of the power of God because they touch, wear, drink, think and live an unclean life. Certainly, unrighteousness is not restricted to pigmenting one’s body.
It also seems whatever God desires us to do, Satan encourages us to do the opposite. God said, “I made you in my image.” Satan wants to change that image. God wants us to be proud of being a male. Satan wants to confuse it so all sexes look alike, work alike, have same responsibilities and thus confuse their sexuality. God wants us to serve Him only, and the enemy wants us to serve our things, others, or ourselves.
God Wants Us To Live A Clean And Holy Life.
The opposition makes it freely available to live a debased, immoral life. On and on the battle rages to get us to do the opposite of what God wants us to do. God desires us to remember we are created in His image and to treat His creation with respect and appreciation. Satan wants us to do what does not please God.
It certainly is not popular in today’s world, but when we are not happy with what He created and think we can change it for the better, we are showing God that we know better — be it piercing a face to beautify it, decorating heavily with jewelry or even tattooing. I believe it is not the time or money spent in making the “improvement” that is as much wrong as the “heart” behind making the change. God knows the heart and the reasons for what we do.
A European man was not happy in being what he was; so he completely tattooed his body to give himself the appearance of a leopard and lived on an island alone like a leopard. He certainly altered what God had given him and was sending a clear message to his creator.
The Bible tells us, if we are saved, that the body He gave us is a holy temple where He indwells. Satan wants to change or destroy that temple any way he can.
God Says Take Care Of Our Body.
All through history Satan influenced many to destroy their tabernacle. Early Aztecs and other ancient peoples committed human sacrifices. Worshippers of Molech sacrificed their children in his fiery orifice. Many have taken their own life or mutilated and altered it. Satan really doesn’t have that much imagination. You can see his trail of intervention, as many people through the past and present have wanted to harm their bodies.
The devil-possessed man of Gadarenes wanted to destroy the creation God gave him. The devils controlling him led him to cut himself and to hurt his body. When Jesus cast over 1,000 demons out of him, they quickly left and led over 1000 swine to hogicide. Destruction was their intent, and it didn’t matter whom they hurt.
Satan even tried to get Jesus to harm himself when He tempted Christ to jump from the high pinnacle of the temple. Destruction of one’s body is one of Satan’s evil plans.
If he cannot directly get you to damage the temple, Satan has subtle devices, including many to change the body you’re not happy with. Discontentment can quickly lead to Satan’s ultimate desire that we destroy our body so there is no hope of getting saved. If we are saved, he desires that we leave such a terrible testimony of Christ that others will not want to get saved.
Tattooing Is Something That A Christian Should Not Have Any Part In Doing.
It can identify us with the world, which we are to separate from and also ruin our testimony for Christ. This practice also alters, harms our bodies and desensitizes our respect for the perfect creation God gave us. It is one more thing the world is offering from which we should be separate.
by Bill Brinkwork
The flaw with this argument is that virtually no one who gets tattooed is doing because they are unhappy with their body. Most people get inked either for self expression, because they want to memorialize a signicant event or person from their life, or simply because they like tatoos.
Also, when Paul said the your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit he was not referring to each person’s individual body. He was telling the church in Corinth that the church body as a whole is the temple of the Holy Spirit. That verse is very often taken taken out of context. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take care of our individual bodies, but if you are going to use a verse to make your argument, get the context of the verse right.
The entire basis of the author’s argument against tattoos falls apart under scrutiny.
Chris- Actually, the body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit in Corinthians applies both corporately and individually. It appears in both chapter 3 and 6, and in light of it being linked to sexual immorality, it can hardly be understood only corporately, but individually as well–but honestly, that whole “body is the temple” argument doesn’t apply to tattoos anyway… It’s a non-sequitur slight of hand of the author of this article.
Very good article! Thanks for writing. It has much biblical support. I read many comments along the lines of “that won’t keep me out of heaven” or “Don’t judge me” that sort of comment. And I am well aware my comment could generate more of that variety. First, I would say, you are right, it doesn’t keep you out of heaven, or else salvation would become works based. Second, to those who say ” don’t judge” they mean, don’t set yourself above me. It is not a matter of that as much as it is a matter of evaluating and being discerning, which is biblical as well as different than judging. We should never judge and say we are better, because we are all sinners who do wrong. But the christian who wants to please God should be willing to look at association ( who is the major promoter) and in this case, it happens to be the world. Second, a matter of stewardship, not just of finances, but also physical. There are adverse affects to the bodies of those who get tattoos. It is actually a health risk when you inject a foreign substance such as ink into your body. When all is said and done, it is not a wise move for the christian, and when it comes down to it, I personally know people who got them before they were saved, but are now ashamed. Because they know what is represented, and it is not godliness. So they cover it up as best they can. Ultimately, they have evaluated it in light of God’s Holiness. That in itself demands a separation with things that have a worldy association. I don’t write this to sound mean or hateful, but rather, hopefully add to be a HELP to someone!
I had a choral director that used to complain when his conducting students got really worked up over something that didn’t matter all that much…even if they were right. He always told us “keep the main thing the main thing.”
Who really cares about Tattoos?? I don’t even think it is on God’s radar. He said “Love me, and love each other.” How about some articles about loving our neighbors with a Godly love that doesn’t keep a record of rights and wrongs!!
Jason …I’m not judging …and far be it from me to give you anything else but just my opinion on this subject …the Leviticus verse quoted in the article is their for a reason ..your director said ‘keep the main thing the main thing’ ..agree …but God doesn’t ‘wink’ at sin …and its clear that he doesn’t want his children rationalizing worldly practices and behavior ..unwillingness to separate from the world, as we are commanded to be, has reached critical mass IMO and as an example …I refer to your post ..the main thing is to win others to the Christ that saved us …and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world ..the more you put forth that effort to accommodate the Lord, the closer you will find yourself to Him ..and even the smallest of sins is enough to condemn a man to hell ..does having or getting a tattoo make you unsaved? ..of course not ..but we will never be all that we can be for the Lord this side of heaven until we adopt Godly, Biblical standards to govern our personal lives ..and being Christlike …IS the main thing ..
Okay so a man or a woman gets a tattoo and then by the grace of God gets saved. Sounds like one must do more than just believe John 3:16; based on your comments we cannot be saved unless we are perfect and perfect before we are saved as well.
in context .. belief causes a change of heart in regards to an individuals approach to Gods will for our lives …rationalizing a behavior or practice …in clear contrast to Gods word ..is wrong …and don’t think God ‘winks’ at it ..and says …”oh ..it’s okay …do it anyway” ..he that cometh to God must believe that he is …and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him ..Heb 11:6 …quit playing games and serve with a whole heart …not a half
Again you are telling us that we must be perfect before we can come to Christ. Sure hope I am there when you arrive, if nothing else but to say you are not perfect…of course neither am I or anyone else that comes to the Lord.
Bruce …you are purposely mishandling my response …honestly …same thing happens in the political arena as well ..no where am I implying we must be perfect ..but striving for that is not a sin …further ..you seem to want to rationalize behavior that is clearly defined by scripture as error ..good luck with that ..quit making excuses ..
“When we understand the holiness and character of God, we fear failing Him more than anything else.” Pastor Paul Chappell
Christians are to be Christ-like and separated “from” the world. We should not act nor live like the world. For the lost of the world, if they see us going into Tattoo parlors and adding tattoos, or drinking alcohol, dressing immodestly, et al, then our testimony is weak (if not non-existent) and the “lost” will say “why do I need to be saved if “christians” live just like I do?
The one verse that people use to say that tattoos are sinful is taken grossly out of context. The entire chapter is a list of rules written to the Israelites. If these rules apply to us, then we must also refrain from mixing certain fabrics with one another.
As to the verse itself, it’s obviously talking about ritualistic markings on behalf of dead people. This entire article is simply an opinion unsupported by scripture.
Lest anyone think otherwise, I have no tattoos, and I have no plans to get any. I would just caution against making a doctrine out of a personal preference. If you prefer not to get a tattoo, that is great, and I respect that stance.
For me, it comes down to a simple question: can God be glorified by an individual’s tattoo? And that question must be answered by the one receiving the tattoo. It is between them and God.
Grayson, dear, why do you copy what others say? It is not a good argument. Have you read the very next verse, to where we are commanded not to put our daughters into prostitution? Not applilcable for today? Only to Israel? Since where does it Glorify God to go against his own written word? It does not Glorify him, much like using graffiti to glorify your name on the side of your house! God Cannot, will not, and does not change! And he will never go against his word, that would make him break scripture, and thus make him a liar!
I haven’t copied anyone’s saying. But the fact of the matter is that you have to make a large leap to assume that verse could be talking about tattoos. Verses 1 and 2 plainly state who that chapter was addressed to. The fact that prostitution was mentioned is obviously because the culture didn’t frown on certain behaviors that God was against. And the verse in question clearly states that it was a “cutting in your flesh for the dead.”
Now, you may choose to believe anything you like, but to make a Biblical doctrine that there is no plain scriptural basis to support is at best legalistic, and at worst heretical.
God says my name is written in the palm of His hand so I can’t easily find a good reason why a tattoo that glorifies God would be counter to His word. Although having no tattoos of my own, I have witnessed many occasions in which the tattoos of others witnessed to the lost – testifying to God’s amazing, transforming grace. Thank God these people received, through ink on skin, The Message they could not see through ink on paper.
One of the arguments that I use against getting a tattoo is in something Paul said. I believe it was in 2 corintians (so it was talking to gentiles — that’s us). He said that our bodies are not our own. They are the temple of God and were bought with a price. If it is OK for a Christian to get a tattoo, then was it OK for someone to put marks (graffiti) and temple of the old testament? If you can show me a passage that said marking up the OT temple was OK and that God was pleased with it, then we have an argument for getting a tattoo. Otherwise, we should be treating our bodies with as much reverence as the Jews treated the OT temple.
I don’t have tattoos, and really don’t care for them. However, you don’t actually give a Scriptural argument against tattoos for Christians. You quote a lot of Scripture and then use your own reasoning and opinions to try to stretch that to apply to tattoos. If we carry your exegesis to the logical end, believers may not pierce ears, wear makeup, lift weights, have reconstructive surgery to correct birth defects, wear high heels….the list will be long. If your conscience tells you not to get a tattoo, by all means don’t. Just understand that you’re the weaker brother that Paul refers to. The only mentions in Scripture of marking the body included in sections telling God’s people not to mourn as pagans do. We should definitely obey that. And you’re right…it’s the heart that God is interested in. That’s why I leave this decision for every believer to make after searching their own heart and asking God to help them see the heart attitude that is causing them to desire a tattoo.
Hi, Leigh: “If we carry your exegesis to the logical end, believers may not pierce ears, wear makeup, lift weights, have reconstructive surgery to correct birth defects, wear high heels….the list will be long. ” Well, exactly. How many preachers’ wives haven’t pierced their ears? instead, Godly Christian women might just do it confidently and then move on, it really being no one else’s business.
Personally, I think having a tattoo, as long as it isn’t depicting sinful behavior or encouraging such things is perfectly fine. If I got Jesus’ own name tattooed to my wrist as a reminder of His love, and as a visual testimony of my faith to others, why should that be bad? I think tattoos are only bad in certain contexts and just fine in others. I don’t have any tattoos, but I keep considering it. I’ve often used sharpies to draw crosses on my skin or write Jesus’ name. As others were saying, I think this is a lot of scriptural stretching to fit your narrative. Context does indeed matter. Who was being talked to, when and why are very important.
If I ever get a tat, I won’t be ashamed of it. Because it will be promoting God’s glory. Just because I do something that many use to promote sin does not mean that I am sinning by doing it as long as my intentions are pure. Jesus drank wine. Does that mean he was imperfect because other people drink excessively and for bad reasons? No. I think the same applies here.
Hi, Natalie. Your sentence “If I ever get a tat, I won’t be ashamed of it. Because it will be promoting God’s glory” reminded me of Romans 14 where Paul speaks of Christian liberty. A lot of Christians get faith based / Scripture verse tattoos which are proven effective in witness conversations. If with a Godward perpective you become (or have already become) a confidently tattooed Christian woman without regrets, then frankly it’s no one else’s business. I’m not saying get a tattoo, but I talked with a young woman with the whole of John 3.16 tattooed on her wrist area; it was her favorite Bible verse and mine also, and without doubt it has led her, as a confidently tattooed woman, to have other conversations with ppl about matters which we presumably really do want ppl to talk about. If you do it, you would have a lot of company; there was a piece a while ago from someone in the Bible Belt who said that she could think of very few church women aged under 30 who didn’t have a tattoo. This is not an argument in itself to get one also; but it there are indeed many confidently tattooed Christian women who seem to have had it done it without regrets. Over the years, customs and preferences do develop; many years ago some ppl might have argued that that ‘nice Christian girls don’t get tattoos’; whereas today a faith based tattoo not unusually is exactly what a lot of homeschooling moms, preachers’ daughters going to college, etc. might indeed be quite likely either to consider or actually to get, confidently.
Hi Grayson Massey: I have talked with a number of young ppl with Scripture verses tattooed; they all seem to have had them done for evangelistic purposes.
“‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”
Re. the comment: “I don’t have any tattoos, but I keep considering it. …If I ever get a tat, I won’t be ashamed of it. Because it will be promoting God’s glory. ” As this comment from Natalie suggests, with something like getting a faith based tattoo, it’s has to be Natalie’s decision before the Lord, and not for anyone else to foist upon her, as regards the motive for having it done. There are things in Leviticus which would be hard to expect the church to practise, especially since the immediate context is Israel under the law in the land. Hebrews 7.12 says that the law was changed; and what we now have is better than the law; Hebrews 7:19. It’s no concern of mine whether Natalie gets inked up or not, but it really is Natalie’s business.
PS: What I meant about Leviticus was, Are bushy beards – or exactly whatever – now obligatory and enforceable? because if they are not, then how can we give a young Christian with a Bible verse tattoo a hard time?