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Is it wrong for a Christian to get a tattoo?
By: Pastor Bill Nesbitt
Friday, August 25, 2017 - 01:13 PM

Movie star John Depp once said, “My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.”   The son of one of our good friends, who spent two tours of duty in Afghanistan, had a sleeve of tattoos on one arm.  He explained how different symbols represented friends who had died in battle next to him.


Tattoos are hip.  Many people have them.   In the past, only those who were bikers and armed service vets seemed to sport them, but now anyone, including Christians, might have a tattoo for a variety of reasons.


So the question we want to attempt to answer is, “Are tattoos prohibited in the Scriptures?”   The passage that comes into question is Leviticus 19:28:


“You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves;   I am the Lord.”


It used to be that if a man had a tattoo people would say he was wild and if a woman had one they called it a tramp stamp.  


Research says:



  1. Adults with tattoos are more sexually active.

  2. They are more likely to be involved in high risk behaviors.


Dangers can include infections or the spread of infectious disease.  As for the reason someone might get a tattoo:  peer pressure, media influence (watching shows like Miami Ink) or just a way to express oneself.


But is it wrong Biblically?  First, let’s try to answer this question by looking at another Old Testament passage.  Does Deuteronomy 22:5 which says, “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord God”.  Does this verse apply to today?  That prohibition is not repeated in the NT but as Grudem says, “it seems to uphold the order and distinction of God’s creation”.   So, men need to dress and act like men and the same is true for women.  Bestiality is not repeated in the NT but no one is going to argue that that perversion is not in force.  So, is the command not to get tattoos still God’s will?


No, it is not.  That’s because this passage was restricted to the people of Israel.  God was instructing the Jews as they left Egypt, not to mark themselves as their task masters did to appease their gods.   He was telling them not to practice the superstitions of the Egyptians.


My point is:  the prohibition not to have a tattoo is not in force today and no one should be judged based on having a tattoo.  You cannot say someone is more or less holy because they have a cross tattooed on their chest or a Bible verse on their arm.  God doesn’t look at the outside but at the heart (2 Samuel 16:7).  Let’s quit judging people because they don’t fit into our lists of dos and don’ts.  That is legalism.  Judge righteously based on the Word of God.  John 7:24 says, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”


When God looks at your life, He is looking at your heart.


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