“You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:28); “All things are lawful but not all things are profitable; all things are lawful, but not all things edify.” (1 Cor. 10:23)
Tattoos are a growing “art collection” for over 45 million people — even the 50 year old “Totally Stylin” Barbie comes complete with attachable tattoos. One out of every three adults under 35 has one, and over 75 percent of people would get one if it was the right art. Body piercings are even higher.
So why is God against them — or is He? Here are three considerations to take before hanging a picture on your body:
First, tattoos are lawful — as long as they don’t represent a participation in idolatry, which is the context of the Leviticus passage. Cutting the body, rounding off the beard (vs. 27), and tattoos were pagan rites and rituals that sought to appease the gods on the departure of loved ones. Few, if any, today get a tattoo for those reasons. But if there’s an idol attached, consider it scratched.
Second, tattoos must be profitable — and this doesn’t mean making money as a tattoo artist. Think before you ink. Will my tattoo, even a “Christian” one, glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31) or am I simply getting one to look cool around others — or worse, getting the “tramp stamp” to be sexy? Will this help or hinder my modest appearance (1 Tim. 2:9)? Anyone can say they’ve prayed about it, but being profitable means you can show a return on being an ambassador for Christ with the body God has given you (Matt. 25:20-21; Rom. 14:23).
Third, they must be edifying. Will my tattoo cause a weaker brother/sister to follow my course of action for which they have no faith (1 Cor. 8:10-12)? While no man is our master when it comes to tattoos (1 Cor. 7:23), every man is our mission when it comes to service (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Neglect that principle and you’re disqualified from the race (1 Cor. 9:26).
Advice? Don’t get one if you haven’t, and don’t fret if you have. While tattoos, in my opinion, close more doors for the gospel than they open, they also can become a helpful reminder to others of what not to do. You’re called to be holy — embrace the separation (2 Cor. 6:14-18; 1 Pet. 2:9). After all, if anyone asks, tell them you already have a “tattoo” — “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads” (Rev. 14:1).
– Mark Lacour