Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!

Should Christians Get Tattoos
Or Body Piercings?

(Are Tattoos and Body Piercings Unchristian)

by Tony Warren

Dragon Tattoo There was a time when permanent markings and drawings on the skin were only made by the primitive and pagan tribes that don't know God, or by sailors who had traveled to their countries and brought these customs back with them. Unfortunately, that time is long gone. But the question in recent years has been, "Can Christians Get Tattoos?" Let me answer that this way. There are a lot of "Frequently Asked Questions" on this site that are very popular, but I can almost guarantee you that this one will not be one of them. Tattooing has become almost as common as grass, and just as acceptable in the world. There are very few people who want to delve very deeply into whether tattooing is a God-glorifying act or not. I think this is because the answer might keep them from their heart's desire, or trouble them concerning something that they have already either done, or made up their mind to do. The fact is, the worldly mores of today's modern society have become so ingrained within Christianity, that we have (in effect) become brainwashed and blinded to the precept of a spiritual separation between us and the world. Our thoughts are no longer in terms of what practices would be pleasing to God, they are more of what would be pleasing to ourselves and how we can rationalize this spirit as one that is not carnal.

Proverbs 16:2-3
  • "All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.
  • Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established."

It is indeed a "sign of the times" that over the last few decades, all sorts of body piercings and tattoos that were reminiscent of the unregenerate pagan nations, have become very popular in the Christian camp. So much so that today it is not uncommon to find that people professing to be conscientious Christians, that are either in support of, or are defending the claim that there is nothing unchristian about these practices. You can even search the internet and find so called 'Christian Tattoo Parlors' and 'Christian Body Piercing Studios.' Indeed, the time is upon us where it is almost impossible to tell the difference between the people of the world and the people of the church, because they both love the all exact same things. Immodesty, Divorce, Tattoos, Greed, lust, sadly, very few in the church seem to care that there is now almost "literally" no discernible difference in character, lifestyles and choices between the church and the world. So when it is asked, "Can Christians get tattoos," the answer usually comes back that there is no prohibition of it in the Bible.
1st John 2:15
  • "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

Mind you, this is not to say tattooing is a bad thing "simply" because the world practices it (a genetic fallacy), it is to say that we as a church are unquestionably becoming drawn to the exact same carnal indulgences that the world has. Let's not mince words here. In general, the church today loves all the things that the world loves. As a result, it is in a malaise of degradation in almost every aspect, just as the world is morally in decline. That includes socially, physically, righteously and spiritually. Where once Christians were a people 'set apart' for the service of God where there was an earnest desire to do His will, and a distinct separation from the traditions that the world practiced, today there is no such distinction. Not in our lifestyles, speech, our indulgences, our dress, our desires, or our practices. There seems to be a race by many professing Christians to see how much like the world they can become, while still professing that they are following Christ. They have a spirit that is clearly drawn to the world's affectations, customs, gratifications, entertainments, desires, practices and traditions. The New Testament Greek word for church is [ecclesia], which literally means "called out" and separated from the world. Far too many are not only living within the world, they are actually living "of" the world. I'll grant you that the modern church has been in doctrinal degradation and decay for over fifty years, but it now appears to be in total free fall where any exhortation to orthodoxy or adherence to Biblical mores, practices or principles are considered legalistic, judgmental or even un-Christian. This degeneration from historical church beliefs and practices has been well documented by many Theologians, but very few Pastors have either the will or the inclination to preach against it. They are so affected by the disease of exegetical hypnosis and spiritual insanity that they have no ability to discern between their right hand and their left. The result of this spiritual malaise is both predictable, and in many ways inevitable.
2nd Timothy 2:19-20
  • "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
  • But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour."

We have a mixture in the postmodern church of God-glorifying Christians and self-glorifying Christians. The later are blending the holy with the unholy, the spiritual with the carnal, all in the name of Christian liberty, open-mindedness, and progressive thinking. Many professing Christians today exhibit indignation against anyone daring to make righteous judgments concerning these worldly lusts, practices and indulgences. Their rationalization or tacit support for tattooing and body piercings most often runs along the lines of allowances. As one Christian put it,

"...by not preaching against these things, we are actually helping young people that wouldn't normally be drawn, to find more things in common with Christ."

The truth is actually contrary to this as what they actually end up doing is making Christ in common with them. By unrighteous oxymorons like "Gay Christians," "Christian Divorce," "Necessary Evil," "Christian Liberty," "Christian Rock," "Carnal Christians," and yes, "Christian Tattoos," they effectively blur the line between the world and the church. So much so today that without name tags it is nearly impossible to tell where one stops and the other begins. What is wrong passes for what is right, and worldliness is spoken of charitably as Christian empathy. The question then becomes, shall those who make lukewarm what God has made hot and cold go blameless before God?

Isaiah 5:20
  • "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"

God is not unaware that there are those who rationalize sin away as being righteous, and he is also not mocked. This article is meant for those whose conscience has not been seared and are genuinely vexed by the troubling questions, "is it a sin for Christians to get tattoos" or "should Christians get tattoos?" Most modern theologians will not answer the question directly either affirmatively or negatively. Instead they will navigate around Scripture, Christian distinctives, the history of God's people and common sense almost as easily as a politician navigates around tough issues. Nevertheless, this really isn't a gray area (as those unwilling to tackle the question honestly allege), because there are many Christian principles which would prohibit these actions. Not the least of which is that we are to live life as a new creature that is set apart as different from the world in lifestyle, faith and practice. We are to walk circumspectly and modestly, humbling ourselves--rather than look to ostentatious display wherein we look for ways to be envied or adulated, even as the world does. We are not to despise righteous instruction, but act soberly in a way that becomes Christians professing conformity to the likeness of Christ.
Proverbs 15:32-33
  • "He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.
  • The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility."
    Matthew 23:12
  • "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."

Tattooing and body piercing (in the most basic, honest, definition) is the vain marking, cutting or self-mutilation of the human body for the express purpose of pretentious display, adulation or admiration. Basically, you want others to see this portrait that you've had placed upon yourself, that you may in some way glory in it. Is that a harsh evaluation? Of course, because the truth is a harsh and often bitter pill to swallow. Nevertheless, what other reason is there for these actions except to stand out, for adulation, for rebellion or for the lust of the eyes? Along with the purpose of idolatry, these are the very same reasons that the world had for doing these things to the body even from the beginning. Are we to honestly claim that we have different reasons? As is illustrated in 1st John 2:15-16, this is the way of the world, not of those who are supposed to be "set apart" or sanctified from the world for the service of God. We don't need tattoos and body piercings to glory in, to attract converts, attention, to be prideful of, or to feel good about ourselves. We have the faith of Christ within us, the genesis of humility and selfless service. Even as verse 17 continues in this same vein:
1st John 2:16
  • For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
  • And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

Thus the question "should Christians get tattoos or body piercings" should be answered. Desiring to have body art and piercings is a classic example of the lust of the flesh or the desire of the eyes, rather than the thirst for the things from above that are of the Holy Spirit. This is something that we should not lose sight of in deceptive self-justification. It is done to draw attention to ourselves, not to Christ. Those accepting these modern trends and praxis are embracing dangerous conventions that may seem to be innocuous, but are truly about as harmless as an viper. Just because something may appear anodyne to the naive Christian, doesn't mean that it actually is. There is the spirit of the world and then there is the Spirit of Christ, and only one is righteous and God glorifying.
Proverbs 16:2-3
  • "All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.
  • Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established."

In other words, a person's ways may seem inoffensive and innocent to them, but God doesn't look on the outward appearance of things, He sees what is the inward man. The hidden obstinacy, pride, ego, vanity, agenda and motives are all wide open and weighed honestly by the LORD. Whether people do this because of peer pressure, to be like the world, to fit in, to glory in them, to rebel against something or to stroke their ego, it is not hidden from the Lord. When we rationalize getting tattoos or body piercings, we may deceive ourselves about the real reasons, but we don't deceive the Lord. Tattooing is not just a new fad or trend, it is a symptom of a much greater spiritual problem in the world, which is getting worse and worse. With people getting multiple rings in noses, distorting their ears, holes in the tongue, eyebrow, navel and other unmentionable parts of their bodies, it is amazing to me that some Christians in superficial theologies can justify these acts as acceptable before God and protest against those of us who dare to look deeper? Body marring is not a Christian activity no matter how much justification you may hear from some in the congregation. It is an abnormal, unseemly and unnatural practice for Christians. Branding ourselves with markings or tattoos is to pervert and deface the body that God has deemed "His" Holy Temple. We might go so far as saying that it is near to committing sacrilege against this Holy Temple, because these are examples of the pagan actions of the worldly unsaved people, not of God's people. As Christians, we are the visible representatives of God on earth, and thus are to walk circumspectly. Our body is not to be treated as our own or like the world's body because it is a representative Holy Temple, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, marring or disfiguring the body will not add one single thing to the glory of God or to the extension of the gospel. When God says that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, the direct inference is that we should honor it rather than disrespect, mar or desecrate it. For our body is God's living testament that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:13-14). It's strength, symmetry, endurance and inherent beauty declare how wonderful a creator our God is. What can man's tattoos, sundry metals or eye and nose jewels add to this creation but ego, unChristian ritual or paganism. We should never attempt to make any non-essential, non life-preserving permanent "improvements" to the body God created for us. For if we nobly consider this, it is clear this pagan conduct is done to be grandiose, or for reasons of show, vanity or pride. Too many in the church today have their eyes squarely on the world, and that is why they love to emulate what they see in the world. As a result, they have brought the world into the church, as illustrated by the proliferation of its views of marriage, divorce, dress, language, morality, music, entertainment and practices.

Of course, there are few that are willing to actually admit to their own pretentiousness or vanity, so in an attempt to obscure the real reasons for wanting tattoos, some have substituted worldly images with pictures of Christ, hearts, doves or crosses. Their conscience then cleared, they can claim that it was all done as a witness to their faith, rather than of the flesh. However, even a rudimentary examination of the motives will show these things are almost always done for self, and not for Christ. Christ is just a convenient excuse or the rationalization they need to appease their conscience. Moreover, where is that excuse for desiring lip, nose and other body piercings? Can we say we got a nose ring as a witness to Christ? Not with a straight face we can't. Yet even that is rationalized today by professing Christians, as if God could be mocked or deceived by man's vain or empty justifications.

Hebrews 4:12
  • "For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

God knows the heart of man is full of excuses, justifications and self-delusion and He is not mocked by it. This pride and lust of the flesh is not something new, even for Christians. We should be able to understand that when people want something bad enough, they can rationalize away almost anything that the Bible has to say. It's been done. Should Christians get tattoos? The truth is, tattoos and body piercings are really a witness to our worldliness, rather than to our desire to do the will of God. Christ is "not of this world," and as Christians or followers of Christ, we should also take up our cross in denying ourselves the same lusts of the flesh that the world seeks after. For Christ's sake if not for our own. The church today seem to want to have one foot in the kingdoms of this world and the other in the kingdom of God.
Titus 2:12-15
  • "Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
  • Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
  • Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
  • These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee."

Denying ourselves these worldly lusts demonstrate that we are a distinctive, peculiar, special people that are "set apart" from the world to the service of God. Children of God are to handle their sanctification with all modesty, gravity and sobriety, taking special care that they do not expose themselves or their profession (by any inappropriateness) to contempt or disapproval. We should not subject Christianity to disparagement or defamation because of actual or perceived hypocritical or carnal actions. We must not fall into attempting to justify ourselves with self-serving platitudes about what "good it could do as a pictorial witness to unsaved people." Even as one professed Christian rationalized it to me saying:

"The tattoos I have provoke conversation and questions about Christianity."

I would think that it would, but for all the wrong reasons. His problem here was that he concluded, "therefore, it was good for me to have a tattoo." Using this same logic, we could say that because a person from Iran heard of Christ in a mosque, that proves God uses mosques to provoke people to come to Christ and therefore they are a good place for Christians to witness. Again, this would be an inaccurate conclusion based on the same bad assumptions. The ends "never" justify the means. We cannot do what is both unlawful and a bad witness, in hopes that the end might justify the means. Did Lot assimilate and start emulating the practices of the unrighteous who dwelt around him, or was he "set apart" and "different" in that he was vexed and daily troubled by the degradation of his society?

2nd Peter 2:6-7
  • "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
  • And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:"

The world's conversation (conduct or behavior) vexed and troubled Lot because he was different, Spirit-filled, desiring to do the will of God rather than mimic the will of those around him. He was chosen of God and thus had a heart that was vexed by these carnal practices of the world. He had no desire to be like them or join their pagan customs and behaviors that warred against the Spirit. In the Lord's prayer we say "Thy will be done," not my will be done.

If we are honest or more noble in ourselves (as the Bereans Acts 17:11), then we will try or test ourselves by scripture to make our calling and election sure. We will seek to answer these questions honestly. Could any of us "honestly" imagine Christ putting rings through His lips because that was the worldly fad of His day? Could we imagine Christ piercing His nose and placing a big ring there because He surmised that might draw young people to Him? Could we imagine Christ having a cross, the temple, olive trees, or grapevines tattooed on His arms and body as a witnessing tool? Of course we know the answer is that we couldn't. There is a reason we couldn't. Knowing Christ (which true Christians do), the mere suggestion seems outright unimaginable. Aren't we supposed to seek to be Christ-like? As Christians, we should inherently know that this is not a Godly practice, but a vain and selfish one. It's only of the flesh that professing Christians feign that it is not an unbiblical thing to do. And it is both disappointing and disheartening to see professing Christians intentionally stain, mar, deface and deform the body that the Lord made so perfectly, in order to follow the fads of the world. God specifically instituted laws to make the children of God different and separate from the heathen nations and their worldly traditions to emphasize how special we are to Him. From not mingling two different kinds of seed in a field to not mixing different livestock, these were all Old Covenant laws and types to "signify" that God's people were to be different and separated from the unbelieving lifestyles of the people of the world around them. They were not to mingle with the unbelieving just as God said one seed was not to be mingled with another. That included embracing the traditions of markings in their flesh for the dead, which characterized the practices of the ungodly nations around them.

Leviticus 19:28
  • "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD."

The objection by some Christians concerning this passage is that it was the stipulation of piercings or cuttings in the flesh "for the dead." It is true that this was forbidden, because that practice was a heathen or pagan custom that God didn't want in Israel. However, are we to think that God forbade this part of the heathen custom, while allowing the rest of the custom permissible? This idea would have us believe that God permits them to make any cuttings or marks in their flesh as the heathen do, so long as it was not done for the dead. It should be perfectly clear from the context that God is forbidding Israel from mimicking these practices that were done by the Godless nations around them, not merely those customs if the concerned the dead. There is a whole list of things in that context that the heathen did that God forbade His children to do in those verses. So He was specifically instructing His People not to mimic their practices of tattooing, or dong any of these carnal things as a way of "separating" them from that larger outside culture. God's purpose for instituting these laws was to warn His people not to follow any of these ungodly and vain indulgences or practices of the heathen nations that they were living among. God says, "nor print any marks upon you." That means in addition to cutting for the dead, because they were to be a "separated" people, a "called out" people, a "particular" people. That is the point that so many Christians today don't seem to comprehend in their rush to assimilate into worldly society.
1st Peter 2:9
  • "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:"

As God's chosen people, we are a peculiar (acquired) people specifically to be set apart from those around us. That's why the whole motif and theme of Leviticus was to have His children live a lifestyle of holiness that honors God, rather than live like the world in honoring themselves. As Israel, we are a people purchased of God, a peculiar people who have been called out of the world of darkness, into the God-glorifying light. Shall we who have been called out of the darkness of the world continue our desire to live carnally as the world does? God forbid! For we are a people who serve the true God, having been translated from the world's kingdom into a totally different kingdom. We are not to be content to lust after the old ways, as Lot's wife who spiritually looked back to the behavior of a city that she had been taken out of.

Of course those objecting to what Leviticus teaches are quick to point out that chapter 19 also forbids cutting your hair off around the sides, rounding the beards and mixing different seeds. However, far from supporting their contention, it "confirms" that these were separation precepts and not simply a precept against doing it for the dead:

Leviticus 19:26-28
  • "Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.
  • Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
  • Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD."

Note how they often leave out God's precept of "not eating blood, not using enchantments and observing times." Why would that be except they understand that they should continue to keep these ordinances? We can't point out these other precepts as if they stand alone, all these things were forbidden. In their zeal to justify themselves, they neglect to see that all these laws were clearly written to keep the children of God from emulating the heathen customs of the Godless people around them. Customs like eating blood-soaked meats, using enchantments, heathen customs of cutting their hair to leave a plot on top, or cutting the corners of beards and branding themselves with what we today call tattoos. They all represented things that God's people were not to do because these ungodly nations around them did them and they were set apart to be a different people. These laws were not to prohibit a specific type of hair cutting for the dead, they were given to prohibit Israel from becoming just like the world. They were given that they would remain a people set apart from the other nations, and sanctified for the service of God. This caveat actually starts in the preceding chapter 18, where God said Israel must not be like the world that He brought them out of, which was Egypt. They must not be as the land that they were going into (Canaan) whom He judged, but were to honor His judgments and keep His ordinances. It was a illustration that they were to be a different people and He is their God. Unquestionably God is instructing His children not to act, mimic or adorn themselves like the unsaved world. So how can these Scriptures in Leviticus be used today in support of God's people doing the exact same things as the world around them, which they clearly teach against? Are we to go after the same ungodly practices and conventions of those "outside of the camp" of God's people? How can these Scriptures be used to support doing exactly as the world does in tattooing and the cutting and piercing the body? Far from proving their point that it was based on cultural norms and doesn't apply today, these Scriptures are another strong prohibition to God's people against following after these traditions of the ungodly, such as tattooing and diverse piercings. The ungodly Gentile world is exactly where these practices came from, not from the Lord's congregation. They didn't come from an earnest desire to Godliness, they didn't come from a Christ-centered outlook, they came from a world-centered outlook. This law stands today that we (as the Israel of God) are not to become enamoured with the same things the unbelievers around us do. We are not to take on their customs of tattooing, cutting our flesh or putting rings in our noses and eyebrows. It is indeed a telling indictment of man when he can reject the cutting around the corners of the hair as for today, and yet not reject the other prohibitions such as forbidding eating blood, using enchantments and cutting for the dead and marking the body found in that exact same context. If one is still forbidden, then they all are still forbidden. And for the same reason. But Christians want to have it both ways where they can pick and choose which laws in the very same passages they should keep, depending upon what is their desire of the latest style, custom or fad. The classic case of "situation ethics," or obedience dependant upon the convention, practices, or times in which we live.
Malachi 3:6
  • "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."

The Lord God is immutable so that just as He didn't want His Old Covenant congregation Israel mingling with the world to follow after their customs and mimic their lifestyles, so He doesn't want His New Covenant congregation Israel mingling with the world and following after their customs. For such indulgences will inevitably adulterate the congregation mixing one seed with another. When we face the facts honorably, tattoos and body piercings are not in any way a good testimony for Christians. When even an unbeliever will tell you it appears unseemly, seems strange or out of place for a Christian to have tattoos, then we should inherently know that something is not right. Certainly we are not to appear gaudy or tawdry in ways that attract attention to our body or dress, nor walk after the flesh. The Scriptures command us to present a modest appearance and to walk after the Spirit in meekness that we not be conformed to the likeness of this world. Tattoos do not fit that command of God in any sense. We are to live as far from the way that the world lives as we can, not see how close to the world we can live. When you're walking along a precipice or steep cliff, if you have wisdom you don't see how close you can get to the edge without falling off. On the contrary, you stay as far away from the edge as safely possible. Likewise, we are at enmity with the ways of the world. We are two 'distinct' kingdoms that should retain their distinctiveness. Carnal Christians, Christian Rock and Roll, Biblical Divorce, Christian Tattoos, White Lies, Christian Body Piercings, etc., these are all oxymorons. These are not things that should go together, they are things diametrically opposed to each other. The laws God instituted in Leviticus were designed "specifically" to keep the children of God and the children of the world separate in their customs, traditions, desires, patterns, deeds, practices, gods and appearances. Unfortunately, this unadulterated truth is conveniently forgotten in our modern day lust to be just like the world. To dress like them, to covet like them, to talk like them, to tattoo like them and to even live like them. Pride, arrogance, rebellion and vanity are the hallmark of those who mark, cut and pierce their bodies. Are we not spiritual adulterers when we abandon Godly virtues in fleshly lust after the things of the world? In attempting to be like the world, are we not yet carnal? For it is written, friendship with the world is enmity with God.
James 4:3-6
  • "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
  • Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
  • Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
  • But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble."

Humility is the opposite of pretentiousness, rebellion and arrogance. Don't kid yourself, people do not get tattoos for Christ's sake. No one does, no matter how much they've convinced themselves or how vociferously they protest this truth.. We all know that Christians preached the word of God very effectively without tattoos for the last 2000 years. This "line" that some people are using that it is "their witness" to Christ is without any merit. It is an excuse rather than a Biblical reason, argument or warrant. People get tattoos and body piercings for their own glory, not for the glory of God. In doing so, they are not walking in the Spirit, but in the flesh.
Romans 8:4-7
  • "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
  • For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
  • For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
  • Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."

If you have the mind of the Spirit, you know it isn't telling you to go to a parlor and get a tattoo, it is the flesh that is telling you that. Nevertheless, a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. If we are neither hot nor cold, then we are lukewarm and thus under warning of God to repent of this confusion. God rejects lukewarm because He is a jealous God. We are not to care about the things of the world, but set our hearts on the things from above. When we are 'born from above' we are a new creation in Christ where our desire is no longer to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. It is to surrender to the will of God, in the spirit. Having been made a different creation from the children of the flesh, we walk circumspectly according to the Kingdom, rather than the world's traditions. These ungodly markings on the Temple of God have no redeeming value. True Christianity is different because it is a state of mind, a personal relationship and a new way of life. It is not merely a label that we call ourselves so that we may feel justified in doing our own will.
Philippians 3:15-20
  • "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
  • Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
  • Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
  • (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
  • Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
  • For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:"

Our conversation, citizenship or place of our communing together, is in the Spirit. We should understand His will based upon a careful scholarship of the Word of God, without imposing our own personal opinions upon it. Our citizenship is in heaven, not communing with those who are of the flesh, earthy. The most curious thing about these unnatural practices is that most professing Christian don't even try to defend them "Biblically," rather their defense is in humanistic reasoning that we are not actually hurting the body, therefore there is no harm in doing it. I would submit that the harm is to the body of Christ. When we are disobedient and prideful to go our own way in refusal to take heed to God's perfect will of separation, honor, and being of the Spirit and not the flesh, we do harm to the body of Christ. Moreover, our bodies are the Temple of the Lord, and we should no more consciously mark or disfigure them as we would paint graffiti on the stones of our church buildings. What conscientious Christian would do that? Are not our bodies of greater important a witness than a church building? For our builder and maker is God.
1st Corinthians 6:19-20
  • "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
  • For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

We should honestly ask ourselves, "is tattooing ourselves and placing body piercings all over our body, glorifying to God?" If not, then why are we doing it? We are not our own (having been bought by Christ) and so we simply do not have the right to do anything we want with our life, our spirit or our body. It all belongs to God who purchased it. That is what many professing Christians (consciously or unconsciously) neglect. We are Christ's building. Would we paint graffiti on someone else's building? It is interesting that in man's justification of this behavior (his weakness) many professing Christians say that they should have the free will, or the catch all "Christian liberty," to do whatever they chose with their own body. Indeed this sounds perilously close to the justifications of those who support the so-called "right to choose" in the abortion rights issue. I'm not saying that people who want tattoos and body piercings are akin to abortionists, but I am saying that the carnal self-serving mindset is the same. It is one of narcissism where they desire what is their will, rather than have the love of God to desire what He wills for us. It is truly a lack of surrendering ourselves and our will fully to the will of God. We are living in the "Me Generation" where there is a marked and growing disdain for Godly selflessness, sacrifice and denial. As long as they can do whatever they want, they will joy in being Christlike. However, if there are any restrictions, then they want no part of that kind of Christianity. This is so because all law is by nature judgmental, and that's considered a violation of so-called Christian liberty or freedom. Yet there truly is no such Christian liberty that excuses Christians to do such things. It is a Christian myth that has been perpetrated upon the church for years.
1st Corinthians 3:3
  • "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"

If you are yet carnal, then you are walking as men, not as Spirit led Christians. You may go to church, read your bible, say a prayer, but the carnal mind is enmity against God.

Others attempt to justify these practices by introducing "straw men" arguments or giving various scenarios about surgery on the body. One person quipped, "isn't someone who has had an arm amputated defaming the Temple of God in cutting his flesh to save his life?" Of course this is a half-sarcastic question, but the answer is no. For he isn't following after the practices of the in cutting off his arm. He is not cutting off his arm to be pretentious or to deliberately mar the building that is the Temple of God, his mindset is actually to preserve what he can of it that it not be totally lost. By contrast, if someone were to say that "I'm going to cut off my arm,brand myself with ink, or cut a hole in my ear the size of a silver dollar because I think it makes me look cool," then yes, that would be sin. We can't righteously equate someone needing an amputation in order to live, to someone putting rings in their nose to glorify themselves. This is a pitiful defense for indulging in these worldly customs. They are not becoming like the world for their own glory and so this is an example of the proverbial "mixing apples and oranges." It seems people have their eyes so trained on themselves, that they aren't even addressing the fundamental questions. Our body is the 'perfect' creation of God, and so why would we mar that because we desire to be familial or tribal on the side of the world? Shall we carve a hole into God's temple for our own fleshly eyesore, or draw caricatures upon it that we might improve its appearance in man's eyes? The passage of 1st Corinthians 6:19-20 declares that we are merely tenants of God's house, we don't own the building. That truth is not getting through to many Christians because it's contrary to their own carnal desires. It's contrary to their own will. Yet by Biblical fiat, our body is not ours to simply do with it as we will, we have been bought with a price and should not forget that we are to be faithful conscientious Christians. Thus in our vain and egotistical rantings about how "it belonging to us," we forget that we should also be concerned about the impression that we give to other people by these piercings and tattoos. For even an unbeliever knows something is amiss and will give a double take when he sees a person full of tattoos or piercings who claims to be a Christian. He can discern that it is out of place (and so do we all) because Christians are 'supposed' to be different from the world. Our body is part of our witness, a living testimony to how we live our lives set apart from the world.

1st Thessalonians 5:21-22
  • "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
  • Abstain from all appearance of evil."

Another verse that is often quoted is Genesis chapter 24 where some surmise that since God didn't immediately address this issue, it must be permissible:
Genesis 24:52-53
  • "And it came to pass, that, when Abraham's servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.
  • And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things."

Some have surmised that it wasn't a sin or a temptation to immodesty for the servant to give Rebekah fine clothing or expensive jewelry, and therefore this negates New Testament scriptures that say women should dress modestly. Likewise, they use Ezekiel 10:13:
Ezekiel 16:10-13
  • "I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.
  • I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.
  • And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.
  • Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom."

They use such verses such as these to "seemingly" contradict New Testament passages so that they can conclude that it prove that these acts were not sin, but Christian liberty. But while I totally agree that the whole of Scripture is the inspired word of God and should be examined in light of all other Scriptures, I also understand that one Scripture cannot contradict another. In other words, there is no contradiction between the two passages. We must read both to understand how they harmonize. Clearly we know that these things they point to were not at all normative for the children of Israel, and there is not one word about God's blessing or approval of these actions. Just because God didn't strike someone down dead in their tracks when they sin doesn't mean that God approves of what is going on. If we use that logic, we would have to say that God approves of incestuous relationships because Lot's daughters slept with Him and we don't read God condemned them. We know that is not a proper way to exegete Scripture. The Bible is full of cultural and sinful examples that faithful Christians are not to emulate. There are plenty of recorded sins in the Bible, none of which are presented to be examples that we should follow. Again, King David murdered a man. Or right here Sarah gives Hagar to her husband Abraham to have children with, should we follow suit? Rachel sinfully stole Laban's household gods, is that proof that we can steal? And then we have the episode of Rebekah having a pierced nose. None of these things are proof that God condones them. On the contrary, each of these represents portraits of the interplay of Godly faith and the sin in worldly culture, and in each of these examples the actions were not evidence that God condoned them. It is unjustified to attempt to use these verses to defend body piercings or any of these actions. So many professing Christians simply choose to ignore the pertinent Scriptures that have a bearing on the subject in order to continue doing whatever "they want" in all areas of their life. They have not really made Christ their "Lord" or Ruler by surrendering their "life" to Him--their will to His. Instead, they are fighting to hold on to their worldly life and to do their own will, and that should be a scary thought for the child of God. Why would we even do something that even "might" give the appearance of evil just to make our body a billboard? For example, would I live with a woman without being married, even though there was no physical immorality going on? The answer is no, I would not do that because I understand that it would "still be sin" by my giving the appearance of evil. We are commanded not to even give the appearance of evil, so we should not act in any way that would lead people to conclude that we were involved in something unbecoming a Christian. Even if we were too stubborn and prideful to see the truth and realize the inherent sin of the act, we should still not do it for the sake of others. Give no appearance of evil by following after every new trend or flavor of the month that the world will come up with. We should be constant, a lighthouse always shining with the same light, always grounded, not blown about with every new gust of wind. The child of God shouldn't get caught up in trends, fads or traditions of the world for the simple reason that they are not part of it. Christians should think upon what God would want him to do rather than upon what's going to make him feel good about himself, or what's going to look good 'to the world.' Rather than seek a tattoo or piercing to glorify ourselves, we should seek how we can glorify God by making our bodies a living sacrifice. We do that by denial of ourselves, in taking up our own personal cross, in giving our body in service to the Lord and not as a billboard for pagan traditions. And the word of God gives us sound Biblical principles that should be applied.
1st Corinthians 10:31
  • "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."

Should we adopt styles and fads that will cause offense to other Christians who understand these practices 'clearly' identify with carnality, unseemly behaviors, heathen practices, not to mention unregenerate morals and rebellious attitudes? I find it hard to believe that Christian would think that He is piercing his tongue, lips, nose, or putting markings on his skin, all to the glory of God. Likewise, I find it hard to believe that any believer truly thinks that he can glorify God in his body by cuttings in the flesh or by placing pictures in his skin. When God said that our body is not our own, "For ye are bought with a price," and therefore we are to glorify God in our body and spirit, which is God's (1st Corinthians 6:19-20), you can be sure God is not saying we should feel free to draw pictures in our skin or cut holes in our tongues and lips. He's not saying go mark up your body and pretend you're doing it for me, as this thinking is the delusion of those who have taken their eyes off the prize and placed them on themselves. Christian liberty (contrary to popular teaching) does not mean that we can go back into the carnal bondage of the world thinking that Grace means nothing is forbidden. Grace means that we are under God's unmerited favor, free of condemnation for sin. It doesn't mean we can become caught up in the world of sin, rather that with our new freedom comes the Spirit to hold fast the commandments of God.
Galatians 5:1
  • "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."

It means that our sins are forgiven, evidenced by the Spirit wherein we are no longer enslaved by Satan to the ways of the world. There is a big difference between freedom to sin because grace is bountiful (Romans 6:1-2), and freedom from sin because Grace is bountiful. We are free from that bondage wherein Satan once ruled us to act in the same manner as the ungodly around us. The modern day encroachment of the carnality of tattooing and body piercings into the church is yet another test of our Biblical resolve. Will the church patiently keep the faith, or will God's people again turn away from the faith to the pleasures of unrighteousness in the way of the world? The Christian mind should not even be on the flesh, but upon things that are of good report, where there is virtue and praise of God. Our thoughts should be on the gospel, on evangelism, on the brethren and on walking in the Spirit rather than in the flesh.
Philippians 4:8
  • "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Does tattooing and body piercing conform to this command? Every man and woman looking deep into themselves must answer this question in Christ. The willful and unfaithful will always desire to do what is pleasing to the flesh, and they will feign lack of knowledge that these things are against God's wishes. Just as they imagine they cannot discern God's clear word on divorce, remarriage, modesty, fornication, morality, obedience, adulterating the body or even the appearance the Christian should always present. Yet God is not mocked. If we can discern that God hates divorce, Christ paid for our sins, we were raised up with Christ's resurrection, or that when the wind blows from the south, heat will follow--and yet somehow cannot discern that God means 'exactly' what He says, then there is something Spiritually wrong.
Luke 12:56-57
  • "Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
  • Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?"

A very good question. The point is, why can't we (even of ourselves) judge what is right and what is wrong? The very thought of mutilating, disfiguring or marking up our bodies should be against the very nature of a new creation in Christ. Christ is our example, and just the thought (whoever would honestly even bother to think) of Christ wearing pierced nose rings or having images or writings permanently inked in His flesh, of the Spirit 'should' be enough to settle the issue. People who have never even read Scripture know inherently that it's wrong to kill. Even as Christ asked, "Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?" Again, particularly for conscientious Christians, it is a very good question.

We have seen that when most people attempt to justify Christian tattoos, they usually embark on a lesson in their Christian liberty, the irrelevant cultural periods of old, the sociology of today or the secular history of Israel. However, the correct approach is to allow the Scriptures themselves and allow them to address whether it is God glorifying or not. Rather than presuming to know God's motives, we should open our hearts to receive the Spirit of His authoritative word. Let Him tell us whether He would approve of our markings, indulgences and piercings. Many insist that "pierced noses and tattoos open doors," and that "this is the best way to reach young people in our modern culture." They say this "as if" we must become just like the world in order to get people out of the world. Misapplying Paul's, "I become a Roman to win the Romans," they are truly deluding themselves. Paul didn't imply marking up the body because the heathen around us do it. This passage is taken totally out of context in relation to this question. Did Solomon bring the wicked to God by marrying women who worshipped false gods, or rather were they a problem to his faithfulness? So it is clear that this rationale and logic is as unsound as the thinking that tattoos will win souls. Our path is not in the way of the world, but in showing them there is another way that is "different" from the path they are taking. Tattoos are the physical equivalence of outwardly adorning ourselves, showing a spirit of exaltation. It is the spirit of the unbeliever, not of the believer. If God warns about outward adorning in temporal dress, how much more about permanent tattoos, nose rings and other disfigurements.

1st Peter 3:3-5
  • "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
  • But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
  • For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:"

Should Christians get Tattoos is a different question from do Christians have tattoos. Of course a Christian can have a tattoo, because any sins that he might have done in his life is forgiven. Should he get a tattoo is an entirely different question, whose answer is no. Why not let our adorning be a spiritual adorning, a crown which no man can take away from us. Let it be a robe of righteousness that is a far better witness than a worldly robe of ink, or trinkets and jewels hanging from our lips and ears. Our mark is the name of God spiritually written within our foreheads, where the only way people can see it is by the evidence of our lives. Our adorning is the crown that Christ has given us, which is so different from the adorning of the world that there is no earthly comparison. Let us glory in this, and not in being assimilated into the practices and customs of the world.
1st John 4:4-6
  • "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
  • They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
  • We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."

Finally brethren, this is not an article claiming that it is absolutely unbiblical to ever cut the skin. Obviously, there are many good examples of such acceptable practices, such as operations, amputations, even plastic surgery in some cases of burns and such. Tattoos and body piercings are really not the main issue here. I'm sure that there will be Christians in heaven who have gotten tattoos or had pieced ears. The issue here is arrogance, love of Christ, separation from the world, and our earnest desire to do the will of God. There is an important scriptural principle here that if it is not done of faith or if there is any room for doubt whether this action is pleasing to God (Romans 14:23), then it is incumbent upon conscientious Christians not to do this.

Rather than this being an article claiming those who cut their flesh or mark their skin are not going to heaven (God Forbid), this is an article stressing the very same precepts that God was stressing when he told Israel not to sow its fields with two different kinds of seeds, and when He commanded that they could not plow with an ox and a jackass together, or when He declared that they could not wear a garment made of two different tyes of threads like wool and linen (Deuteronomy 22:9-11). These laws of preventing different kinds from mingling together were a "vivid sign" to God's people designed to be a portrait illustrating the Israelites were to be separated and not follow the worldly practices. They were not to be unequally yoked together with the heathen nations around them. Unequal "because" they were not to be the same. These laws were tokens designed to keep them as a Holy and separate people. The same reason that we are not to tattoo and cut ourselves as the world around us does. Christians are to be a sanctified, distinct, set apart holy people.

1st Corinthians 10:23-24
  • "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
  • Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth."

We should not seek to find our own pretentious, ostentatious or grandiose glory, let us seek for the exaltation and glory of others. All things are possible where there is grace, but not all things are advantageous and beneficial to the church. Should Christians get tattoos? The answer in this Christian's opinion is absolutely not. As I've said, it's not that the tattoo itself is the real problem, rather it is what is in the heart of a professing Christian that moves him/her to want something like that on their bodies. It is "not" done seeking another's glory, or seeking another's edification, or because it is an example of them loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. The Law of God prohibited cutting oneself for the dead, and printing drawing in our flesh (tattoos) for a reason. The context of Leviticus 19 is clearly one of warning God's people not to go after the pagan practices, idolatries and conventions, and these are the same gaudy behaviors that we see today in our society. It is all part and parcel of the "natural" narcissism to worship ourselves, to glorify ourselves, to joy in carnality instead of in the Spirit of God. This may be contrary to the prevailing "Christian Liberty," and "Self-Rule" philosophies of modernistic Christians who want tattoos and body piercings, but our earnest desire should be to do God's will, rather than our own. That is to say, if we are the Lord's faithful stewards and servants. Truly, what could you place in your skin that would give you more beauty, witness or self-worth than the body God has provided? So let the true Christian be content in his own skin, with his God given appearance.

  May the Gracious Lord, who is rich in mercy, by the gift of His Holy Spirit, guide us all into the truth of His most blessed word concerning this issue.


printer Print Page


Copyright ©2001 Tony Warren
For other studies free for the Receiving, Visit our web Site
The Mountain Retreat! http://www.mountainretreatorg.net
Feel free to duplicate, display or distribute this publication to anyone so long as the above copyright notice remains intact and there are no changes made to the article. This publication can be distributed only in its original form, unedited, and without cost.

Created 11/21/01 / Last Modified 08/14/14
The Mountain Retreat / twarren10@aol.com

[ Top | Eschatology | Bible Studies | Classics | Articles | Other Articles | Sermons | Apologetics | F.A.Q. | Forum ]