Can Christians get tattoos?
Find out if it's ok to get a tattoo if you're a Christian.
Tattoos are a popular way for people to express themselves. Many teens and young people want to get a tattoo as a way to stand out or share something important to them.
But many of an older generation object to tattoos – and sometimes their objection is religious in nature. This can cause great rifts between people who disagree on the issue.
So, who is right? Is there a problem with tattoos for Christians? Let’s find out!
The source of the controversy
There’s a verse in Leviticus 19:28 that is often used as proof for that having a tattoo is sinful. This verse says,
Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves.
At first read, yep, that’s pretty clear! No tattoos for Christians.
But the context of this verse is very important to understand. This command comes in a long list of commands designed to discipline and set apart Israel – God’s chosen people in the Old Testament – from the rest of the world.
In this time, many of those who followed other gods and religions used tattoos and other marks on their bodies as part of their pagan worship. For example, in Egypt, women tattooed the parts of their bodies associated with fertility as it was thought to bring them good luck when giving birth. In Canaan, people would slash their bodies as part of rituals to honour the dead. Neither action was appropriate for Israelites following God.
Many of these commands are strange and specific, and we don’t follow them anymore. For example, the previous command is “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your heads or clip off the edges of your beard”! We can leave commands like these ones aside because of what Jesus did for us on the cross – we are no longer bound by the law for salvation, instead we receive salvation through His death and resurrection.
So tattoos are OK now?
Well, there is no biblical command against tattoos that applies to us, this side of the cross. So Christians can definitely consider getting a tattoo. But as with all big decisions you make, it’s important to ensure that you’re going to honour God.
There are some crucial factors to consider before you get a tattoo:
Is it legal?
In most places, you have to be 18 to get a tattoo without your parents’ permission, and even with permission some places won’t tattoo you until you’re legally allowed to make the decision yourself.
As Christians, we are called to respect the laws of the land, so that means no fake ID or forged letter from your parents. If you want a tattoo, you need to wait until it’s legal where you live.
Are your parents OK with it?
Even if you are legally old enough to get a tattoo, it’s worth considering what your parents think of the idea if you still live at home. If you’re still living with your parents, you still need to respect their leadership and guidance.
What’s the tattoo?
What the tattoo actually is is really important to think about! Many tattoos have a demonic theme, and even cool patterns and pictures may have a hidden meaning you might not be aware of. If you’re considering a tattoo, think hard about what it may mean.
How will it affect others?
As Christians, we don’t think only about ourselves. The needs and concerns of others should also matter to us. So if your tattoo is going to outrage your church, freak out your grandparents or anger your mum, that’s definitely worth considering.
You also ought to consider how having a tattoo may affect how you relate to others in the future. Depending on its size, placement and content, a tattoo could rule you out of certain jobs, or even certain ministries. For example, a giant tattoo of a Bible verse on your arm might be a cool way to reach out to your friends now, but it could rule you out of mission work in a country that doesn’t like Christianity.
Tattoos are permanent
Remember: getting a tattoo is a permanent choice. Yes there are ways to remove them, but they are expensive and don’t always work very well. So before you get a tattoo, make sure you’re absolutely certain that you want it, and that you’ll still want it in 50 years!