Let’s start off with a disclaimer, especially for any parents that may be reading this – regardless of our viewpoint on this topic, tattoos are a big decision that lasts for the rest of your life. If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, you should definitely have the approval of your parents regardless of what we say here!
The topic of tattoos is one that has been debated for years and many of you have either expressed your thoughts on them or have asked us for our thoughts. So let’s do it!
With things like this, it’s always a good practice to see what the Bible has to say on it. Tattoos are only mentioned once in the Old Testament. Leviticus 19 says, “You are not to make gashes on your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves; I am Yahweh” (v. 28). When you first read that, it sounds pretty clear. However, we need to do a little more research before we can determine how to best apply that to our lives today. For starters, the word tattoo used here isn’t the type of tattoo that you are thinking of. It wasn’t an artistic picture or inspirational quote or anything like that. It was actually in the Old Testament because it was a practice of the pagans to mark themselves as a way to mourn the dead. If you are unfamiliar with what a pagan is, it was someone in Bible times who didn’t worship God but instead worshipped multiple gods that were created by their culture. The author of Leviticus told Christians to not engage in this practice, because he wanted people who lived for the Lord to be set apart from people who practiced pagan worship. So while this was a very real command for people back then, we would apply this command differently in our context. Another example of this can actually be found in the verse above it that says, “You are not to cut off the hair on the sides of your head or mar the edge of your beard” (v. 27). If we applied these verses in the same way that the original audience needed to apply them, then we would all have hair down to our feet and guys would have really unappealing beards. But I would be willing to bet that everyone reading this has probably had a haircut at some point in their lives! In the Old Testament, the people of God tried to obey the law because they were to honor God by being different from the world. Ultimately, they failed again and again and needed to offer sacrifices because of their failure. But here’s the best news – Jesus came and became THE sacrifice for us. He knew that we were sinners and were incapable of obeying all of the commands, so God sent His son to die in our place so that Jesus’ righteousness could be given to us and we could live. What a sweet truth that is! We have the freedom to struggle with sin and to fail at keeping the commands because we know that when we repent, we are covered in grace. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have to strive to uphold the commands, but when we fail, Jesus provides grace and forgiveness for us. This is all because God decided to allow for Christ to fulfill the covenant for us. All of the Bible is true and is breathed by an unchanging God, but it is important to understand the context, both cultural and otherwise, of the verses that we read!
If you know the e22 staff, you know that both Ryan Spencer and I have tattoos, and I don’t believe that any part of them are unbiblical. I actually have two tattoos! I have a ship with the verse Hebrews 6:19 which says, “We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure” (HCSB). I also have another one that says “be thou my vision” that is written in my little sister’s handwriting. If getting a tattoo is something that you are thinking about, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do you have your parents approval?
So while I don’t believe that the Bible speaks against tattoos, I do think that it is something that requires A LOT of thought and approval by the authorities that God has placed in your lives. Both of my tattoos were something that I thought about for over a year before actually getting, and it was something that my parents approved of. Since getting them, I have been thankful for them as they have been great conversation starters and have segued into the gospel on multiple occasions. Even though I am confident in my decision to get these two tattoos, I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t have my parents’ full approval as they are authorities that God has placed in my life to watch over me.
Are you glorifying God and furthering the Kingdom?
The Bible says that we are to do everything for the glory of God. So if tattoos are something that you are thinking through, I would urge you to truly think about whether or not it is something that could be used to bring honor to Jesus. If it’s something that doesn’t have a significant meaning, try to think through whether or not it is truly beneficial for furthering the Kingdom of God here on this earth.
Is it actually cool?
Ryan Spencer says, “If it’s not dope, don’t get it.” From a more practical standpoint, it’s also important to remember that this is a decision that you will live with for the rest of your life. Even though something seems cool right now, you have to think about its cool factor 40 years from now. It’s also important to consider circumstances like future careers. While I currently have a boss that approves of me having tattoos, that hasn’t always been the case. I have had jobs before where my direct supervisor has asked me to cover them up when in a professional setting, and as an authority in my life, that is something that I needed to submit to.
Overall, I don’t believe that tattoos are inherently sinful or dishonoring to God. But I do think that it is a topic that requires a lot of processing, prayer, conversations with parents and other authorities in life, and confidence in that decision. If you have any questions on this, let us know. Until then, we would love to hear some of your thoughts! What do you think about tattoos? Have you had any conversations with people where you have disagreed on the topic?