I have a tattoo and I’m a Christian. In fact, I was a Christian when I got the tattoo. I’ve been told a tattoo is sinful because it’s marking the body. Did I commit a sin and is my tattoo sinful?
Your question has two parts. Is getting a tattoo a sin and is your tattoo a sin? There are many faithful Christians with tattoos, and there are a lot of Christians with strong feelings, pro and con, about tattoos.
Let’s address both questions and see what we can discern from the Bible.
Is Getting a Tattoo a Sin?
Some say that getting a tattoo is a sin because in Leviticus the Bible forbids placing any type of mark on the body.
Leviticus 19:28 You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD.
With a simple reading of this verse, it appears that tattoos are clearly forbidden in the Bible. However, while it’s true that tattoos were forbidden under Levitical law, we must remember that these laws were given to the Nation of Israel, not the Body of Christ. As Christians, not all of the laws given to Israel apply to us. In the Old Testament, God gave moral, civil and ceremonial laws.
Moral, Civil, and Ceremonial Laws
For Christians, the moral Law (The Ten Commandments) remains in effect to direct our moral judgment and to command us to obey God. While the Law has no power to save us, it certainly has the power to direct our lives by guiding us to make godly choices to avoid sin and to live in a way that honors God. The Ten Commandments reflect the very nature of God–His perfection and His righteousness. We can never attain the perfection God’s Law commands, but we can live our lives moving in that direction. Jesus magnified the Ten Commandments, the moral Law, during His earthly ministry and Paul confirmed this Law for the Church. God does not change, nor does His moral Law change. Therefore, we are called to obey the Ten Commandments.
The ceremonial and civil laws were given to the Nation of Israel. As a whole, these laws are not binding on Christians, although many of them are good for our instruction and our sanctification. We find many repeated in the New Testament as directives for Christian living (e.g. restitution for wrongdoing). The ceremonial and civil laws were given to Israel to instruct them how to live in relationship with God and to keep them separate from the nations and holy unto God. Many of these laws have no relevance for Christian living (e.g. the prohibition of mixed fibers and shellfish).
So, What About Tattoos?
The prohibition for tattoos in Leviticus 19 falls under the ceremonial laws given to the Nation of Israel. The body markings, tattoos, during that time were symbols of pagan worship or identification with other gods and nations. Israel was clearly told to avoid such markings of their flesh, but there is no such prohibition given to Christians.
So, Is It a Sin to Get a Tattoo?
The simple answer is…it depends. It depends on the motivation behind the decision to get a tattoo, the image of the tatoo, and what it might “say” to others. So the answer is really not very simple at all. This is a question that requires personal discernment using biblical instruction. A Christian knows that they have liberty in Christ Jesus (Galatians 5:1), but with this liberty comes great responsibility.
Discerning the Tattoo
Tattoos are adding a mark to one’s skin, therefore they alter the appearance of one’s body to some extent and make a statement. In many ways, they are similar to make-up, hair color, tanning, piercings, clothing, etc, that alters one’s appearance. Such things affect the way in which we present ourselves and the way in which others perceive us. However, unlike makeup, hair color, etc, tattoos are permanent. Therefore, anyone considering getting a tattoo should carefully and prayerfully consider what the tattoo will look like, and what it will “say,” both today and in years to come.
If getting a tattoo is not sinfully motivated (e.g. by rebellion against authority, to adorn, elevate or call attention to oneself in a prideful way, to make a statement for evil, etc) and, if the image and the message of the tattoo is not sinful, then getting a tattoo is not likely a sin. There are many tattoos that honor God (crosses, verses, etc.). There are also many that are innocuous (hearts, flowers, anchors, eagles, etc). But sadly, there are also those which are definitely sinful because of the artwork or messages that dishonor God (you know what I’m talking about). When the image and/or message of a tattoo is sinful, most often the intent and reasons for getting the tattoo were also sinful.
New Testament teachings support that as long as the intentions and motivations are not dishonoring God, and the actual art is not dishonoring in any way, then getting a tattoo is not a sin and the tattoo is not sinful….HOWEVER…
Paul said, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23) Paul emphatically stated (1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23) that while something might be lawful (not against the Law), it might not be helpful or instructive for improvement. Therefore, marking one’s body is not forbidden for Christians, but Christians must determine if getting a tattoo is beneficial for them and they must be certain the tattoo is God-honoring.
Carefully and prayerfully consider getting a tattoo and evaluate whether it will be “helpful” and will “edify.” Be certain that the artwork is God-honoring. Take time to examine your heart fully before getting a tattoo to discern your motivation. Determine if your reasons for wanting a tattoo are God-honoring or self-serving. If you have any questions, do not get a tattoo… remember, tattoos are permanent.
There is much said about the health risks involved in getting a tattoo and the high cost of removing a no-longer-wanted tattoo. In addition, there’s pain involved in getting or removing a tattoo. These are concerns that must be considered. Never get a tattoo without careful thought and prayerful discernment.
If you are a Christian and have a tattoo that does not honor God, do something about it. Have it removed or inked-out. You would not want the “tattoo” to “speak” for you and dishonor the Lord.
If you are a Christian who does not have a tattoo and does not approve of tattoos, be very careful in judging those who have them. The purpose of this article is to remind us that only God can discern the heart. While we can judge tattoos that dishonor God to be sinful, we must be slow to judge tattoos that are not dishonoring. This should not be a subject of division among Christians. Remember, discord among the brethren is an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 6:19)
A Very Important Moral Law
As already stated, Christians are under the moral Law for Christian living. This means that youth are subject to the Law that requires they honor father and mother (Ex 12:20). This means that youth are under their parent’s authority and getting a tattoo without their parent’s permission is most definitely a sin. Jesus declared this Law of parental authority and Paul confirmed it:
Mark 10:19 You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.
Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.
To All Youth Considering Getting a Tattoo Without Parental Permission
Even if you think your parents are unreasonable in forbidding you to get a tattoo, God commands that you submit to your parent’s authority. To act against their decision is to defy their authority and that is a sin. Honor God by honoring your parents. When you are an adult you can make this decision for yourself and that will give you time and wisdom to make a more biblically sound decision.
Remember God’s Words:
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any…I Corinthians 6:12
Beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak… I Corinthians 8:9
Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. I Corinthians 10:31
More on this subject of Tattoos:
Jesus is the Reason this Ministry Exists
Thank you to all who contributed in 2020. Your generosity is a blessing and encouragement to us. We did not meet expenses in 2020 and still need your help to continue our global outreach in 2021. Our mission is to glorify God by equipping, encouraging, and empowering YOU to understand the Bible and grow in faith. If our online resources have blessed you, we hope you will support Reasons for Hope* Jesus. Our ministry outreach has grown significantly and. . .
Please support Reasons for Hope* Jesus with a donation of $5, $10, $20, or more. A donation of any amount is needed and greatly appreciated.
CLICK TO DONATE
to Reasons for Hope*Jesus(a 501c3 Ministry)
Use a Credit Card or PayPal for safe, secure giving.
***A Hidden Message in Psalm 23?***
Hidden in the six verses of Psalm 23 are 11 names for Jesus. When you subscribe to our newsletter, we’ll send you The Names of God in Psalm 23 PDF that reveals all 11 names and Scripture verses of comfort and hope (link will be sent in your confirmation email).
The Top Ten Got Questions? in 2020
- The Meaning of NUMBERS in the Bible?
- The Meaning of COLORS in the Bible?
- Did The Wise Men Arrive 12 DAYS AFTER JESUS’ BIRTH? Or Was It Much Later?
- What is the Significance of the Wise Men's THREE GIFTS? And were they kings?
- How are the Shepherd’s Rod and Staff Different?
- What Does It Mean to TASTE & SEE That God Is Good? (Psalm 34)
- What do the 12 stones UNDER the JORDAN River mean? (Joshua 4)
- Is Leonard Cohen’s “HALLELUJAH” a Christian Song?
- How was Jesus Like a Worm? What’s the CRIMSON (OR SCARLET) WORM? Psalm 22
- Is my TATTOO a sin?
More Popular Got Questions & Articles
Was Jesus CRUCIFIED on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday?
Where did OT Saints go at death? ABRAHAM'S BOSOM?
If BAPTIZED as an Infant, Do I Need to Be Re-Baptized?
What Does it Mean to Be A CHILD OF GOD?
Which OT Book Did JESUS QUOTE Most Often?
How Did the Wise Men Know This Was the Messiah and KNOW TO FOLLOW HIS STAR?
What Did Jesus Say About HEAVEN (and HELL)?
How long did JOB SUFFER?
Three Heavens? Where is the THIRD HEAVEN?
What are the “I Will ” STATEMENTS of Satan, God, and Jesus?
SIN, INIQUITY, TRANSGRESSION? How are they different?
Should we call HIM JESUS? Or Yahweh? Or Yeshua?
Is Satan’s Real Name LUCIFER?
JESUS WEPT. Why?
Is There a Remez (HIDDEN MESSAGE ) in Revelation 7? Why is Dan Missing?
Is It a Sin to Drink ALCOHOL?
Is SUICIDE an Unforgivable Sin?
Something ALL Christians must know: IVDARR
TOP TEN Videos from Reasons for Hope* Jesus
- Memorial Day BAGPIPES TRIBUTE: Amazing Grace
- Christian Version of Leonard Cohen's HALLELUJAH
- RISE AND SHINE and Give God the Glory, Glory!
- WERE YOU THERE When They Crucified My Lord?
- PAUL HARVEY: THE BIRDCAGE
- PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: A SOLDIER'S PLEDGE
- JOHN WAYNE ~ WHY I LOVE AMERICA
- THE LEGEND OF THE CANDY CANE - A Christmas Story to Share
- TASTE AND SEE that the Lord is Good ~ Psalm 34
- Hark! the Herald Angels Sing -- CHARLIE BROWN Christmas