When I first became a Christian, I thought tattoos and piercings were okay to have and looked pretty cool (depending on what you get of course).
It’s a way to express yourself.
But then, I came across a lot of people who said otherwise. Many say tattoos and piercings are sinful. They even quote scripture to back up their claims.
These people assert getting tattoos and/or piercings is a form of paganism and should be avoided.
What about Christians who have tattoos and piercings though? Are they also worshipping pagans?
Let’s turn to scripture and see what it has to say about tattoos and piercings.
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What does the Bible say about tattoos?
The Bible doesn’t say too much about tattoos but there are a few passages we can turn to for direction.
Let’s dig in.
There is one particular verse in the Old Testament that speaks about tattoos.
“You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord,” (Leviticus 19:28 ESV).
At first glance, it appears this verse is telling us we can’t get tattoos. Is God really saying we can’t get tattoos? Let’s take a deeper look.
During this time period, tattoos were associated with mourning the dead, slave markings, and showing dedication to a god.
Mourning the Dead
It was common to make cuts on their bodies to mourn the dead. This was to express severe sorrow.
I’ve seen countless people get tattoos to commemorate the dead. Someone close to them passed away and they want to honor them by getting a tattoo.
In a sense, the person wants their memory to live on. It’s a way to deal with grief.
Very much like how people used to make cuts on their bodies.
During this time period, slaves also got marked.
Slaves were marked to indicate they were the owners property.
In a way, getting a tattoo is marking our bodies.
But it’s a stretch to say slave markings are an issue today. It’s uncommon to mark people’s bodies as a way to indicate they’re property.
Showing Dedication to a God
Getting a tattoo was also used to show dedication to a god.
Any god that isn’t the Lord is a pagan god. Basically, a pagan god is a false god.
“I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God,” (Isaiah 45:5 NIV).
This is where the paganism arguments come from.
That’s why some believe tattoos are sinful and prohibited. God wanted His people to be separate. He didn’t want His people marking their bodies because of its association with paganism.
The New Testament doesn’t say anything explicitly about tattoos but there are some passages that help shed light on the matter.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies,” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV).
Many quote this scripture out of context when asked about the tattoos issue. If you look at the context of the passage, you’ll see this is specifically talking about sexual immorality.
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body,” (1 Corinthians 6:18 NIV).
This is the previous verse.
However, even though this verse doesn’t directly apply to tattoos, it does indicate that our bodies are the temple of God. We should respect our bodies.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV).
This is another verse to consider. This verse tells us to do everything to the glory of God.
This also applies to tattoos. Will getting a tattoo bring glory to God?
Did Jesus have a tattoo?
There’s a Bible verse that may indicate Jesus has a tattoo. The verse in question is Revelation 19:16. Let’s take a look at the context of this passage.
“On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” (Revelation 19:16 NIV).
When taking this verse literally, it appears to say that Jesus has a tattoo. Is this the case though?
In short, no.
The book of Revelation is filled with symbolism. It’s unlikely this verse actually means Jesus has a tattoo. Just a couple of verses before it tells us Jesus has a sword coming out of his mouth.
What does the Bible say about piercings?
The Bible seems to have more to say about piercings than it does about tattoos. There are many more instances of God’s people having piercings.
Let’s dig in.
There are a few verses in the Old Testament that talk about piercings.
“When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels,” (Genesis 24:22 NIV).
If you read Genesis 24, you’ll see that Abraham sent out his servant to find a suitable girl for his son, Isaac.
His servant comes across Rebekah and offers her a nose ring and bracelets. Rebekah is a woman of the Lord and accepts these gifts from the servant – extended from Abraham.
“And I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head,” (Ezekiel 16:12 NIV).
The Lord is talking about His love for Israel in Ezekiel 16. If you read the whole chapter, you’ll see everything the Lord symbolically has given Israel, including a nose ring and earrings.
There aren’t any verses that explicitly talk about piercings in the New Testament. However, there are some verses that help shed light on the matter.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight,” (1 Peter 3:3–4 NIV).
This passage isn’t necessarily saying these things are bad – it just shouldn’t be our main focus. We should be more focused on inner beauty, rather than outer beauty.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him,” (Colossians 3:17 NIV).
Whatever you decide to do, whether it’s to get the piercing you want or not, do it to the glory of God.
Are tattoos and piercings a sin?
So, are tattoos and piercings a sin? Is it permissible for the Christian to get a tattoo or piercing?
We’ve examined what the Bible has to say about both tattoos and piercings.
Personally, I think it depends.
What’s your motive behind getting a tattoo and/or piercing?
Are you doing it to appear cool? Fit in? Stand out? Be more attractive? Be a light?
Examine your heart and seek the Lord in prayer.
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