Can A Christian Get a Tattoo?

My Tattoo

This week someone asked me this question and my answer was, “I hope so, coz I have one!” 🙂

But seriously, this is a question many Christians wrestle with, and is an issue 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.” How much clearer can that be?

It’s always 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, and so the focus here is prohibiting idolatrous, pagan worship and sorcery which imitates the surrounding nations.

It’s interesting to observe verse 27, “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.” (Men, that means “MOvember” year round – although I clearly don’t have to worry too much about the beard issue!) Of course, most Christian men break this rule everyday, but the key is the context: 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 debatable, and should be treated as a Romans 14 issue.

If you are considering, “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?

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?” Based on Romans 14, here are a few questions that 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 others who do have 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?
  • 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.

If my son, Will, asked me if he could get a tattoo, I would probably say, “Not until you’re 18, and if then he still wants one and has something in mind, I would advise him to wait a year, and if it is still something he is passionate about getting, then go for it!”

I actually love my tattoo, and what it says to me every time I see it.

Check out this video below from Lifechurch.tv which explains the whole issue probably better than I could…

Thanks to About.com for this helpful summary.
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8 Comments on “Can A Christian Get a Tattoo?

  1. Very similar to the debates around homosexuality. In my eyes, the context around it is exactly the same as the question of tattoos. At the time of writing, the act itself was associated with pagan rituals… but now that’s changed, I think the whole “Homosexuality is categorically a sin” thing needs to be re-examined (and turfed).

  2. Pingback: Why I Got Another Tattoo « tom.basson

  3. I saw your post on facebook then just had to see why! 🙂 The tattoo thing is sometimes a debate in our household – usually involving my brother-in-law teasing my mom and threatening to get one, and my mom’s soured expression is a sight to behold and just eggs him on further. Thanks for the level-headed comments and scriptures.

  4. Thanks for this excellent blog post. Our daughter just got a tattoo while she was in London. She has been wanting one for ages but we have managed to dissuade her but she finally made her own decision. This blogs clarifies and explains the reasons why we were so against it based on the scripture references you make. Thanks for putting it into context for us. We’ve never heard a message preached or comments by the church about this. WAY TO GO TOM!!!

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