When it comes to tattoos, what does the Bible have to say?
In many parts of the world, getting a tattoo is more common than ever. The percentage of the population covered with tattoos has risen steadily during the past few decades. The only people who used to get tattoos were criminals and rebels, but now everyone can get one. Tattoos no longer have the same edge and sense of rebellion they once had.
Believers in Jesus Christ find no guidance on the topic of tattoos in the New Testament. As a result, we can’t condemn tattoos as sinful. Given the Bible’s silence on the topic, believers should pursue their convictions on the matter while yet showing respect to those who hold differing beliefs.
Here are some broad biblical teachings that might be relevant to the tattooing process:
A Christian’s priority should not be on their “outward ornamentation” but on their “inner self” (1 Peter 3:3–4). Anybody who wants a tattoo for the sake of getting noticed or admired is being selfish and vain.
Because God is all-knowing, we should always do what we do because we want to bring Him honor (1 Corinthians 10:31). The likes of “to blend in,” “to stand out,” etc., as reasons for having a tattoo, fall short of God’s glory. Even if having a tattoo isn’t inherently evil, the reasons behind it could be.
In addition to our rescued souls, God now owns each and every one of our physical bodies. When a person becomes a Christian, their body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). How much should that temple be changed? Is there a limit beyond which one must not go? Does a body covered in tattoos eventually become a sinful mutilation rather than a work of art? This is something that needs to be thought about and prayed about on an individual basis.
We carry God’s word throughout the world as ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Is the tattoo an asset or a liability when it comes to spreading the gospel and portraying Christ?
In light of Romans 14:23, which states that “anything does not come from faith is sin,” the individual receiving the tattoo must be completely convinced that doing so is God’s will.
Without mentioning the Old Testament commandment that explicitly forbade tattoos, the topic of tattoos cannot be closed. I, the LORD, have spoken (Leviticus 19:28). Although it is not explicitly stated, it is likely that tattooing was a pagan practice linked to idolatry and superstition, which is why it is forbidden in this chapter. Marking one’s skin with the name of a false god or a symbol commemorating an idol was likely prevalent among the pagans. For God’s children, being unique was a prerequisite for salvation. In the same verse, He also affirmed His divine identity, saying, “I am the LORD.” The Israelites belonged to Him; they were His craftsmanship, and they should not bear the name of a false deity on their bodies. While New Testament believers are not under the Mosaic Law, we can glean from this command the idea that, if a Christian chooses to acquire a tattoo, it should never be for superstitious reasons or to promote worldly philosophies. Ink is not a symbol of sin, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s a question of personal liberty for Christians, therefore let the Bible and love be your guides.