What does the Bible say about tattoos?

Many people use Revelation 19:16 and conclude that Jesus had a tattoo therefore it’s okay to have tattoos today. But there’s more to take into consideration when using this verse as a reference point:

  1. This verse is coming from a vision John had. He saw Jesus riding from Heaven on a white horse and the passage includes a very detailed description of how Jesus looks including “On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Because it was seen in a vision, does that make it 100% accurate? Does that mean that will be exactly, to the “t” what happens in real life or is it a metaphorical vision to help people understand what is happening or going to happen? Revelation is full of symbolism which is used to paint a picture.
  2. Jesus is Jewish. The Jewish Law states “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:28. Jesus was obedient to the Mosaic Law and as Matthew 5:17 says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.”

If you look at this selection of text though, the entire chapter is about differentiating God’s chosen people, the Israelites, from those around them with their pagan rituals and sorcery and not necessarily giving them specific laws for their lives.

Look at verses 26 & 27 for example. “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.” How many Christians do you know that shave their heads and beards?

I know many tattooed people who say we are no longer under Old Testament law as seen in the following verses:

Romans 10:4 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Galatians 3:23-25 “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.”

As seen above, this is true. But if it was important enough in their time to make it a law once before, it is definitely something to cause someone to take a second look at in their own life.

I, personally, have nothing against tattoos. I know many people who find them offensive or ask the question “why?” I ask that question too when I see something random like a random cartoon character, a leopard print pattern, or a tribal neck tattoo, but sometimes I think tattoos can be tasteful. I think it needs to be of something that is super important to you though because you will have it embedded in your skin for the rest of your life.

With that in mind, 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

So if the ink you are permanently injecting into your skin brings glory to God, and you wouldn’t be ashamed for your pastor to see it during church one Sunday, go for it.

When thinking of getting a tattoo, ask yourself these questions:

What are my motives for wanting a tattoo? Am I seeking to glorify God or draw attention to myself? Will my tattoo be a source of contention for my loved ones? Will getting a tattoo cause me to disobey my parents? Will my tattoo cause someone who is weak in the faith to stumble?

Instead of asking, “Is it okay for a Christian to get a tattoo,” perhaps a better question might be, “Is it okay for ME to get a tattoo?”

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