Is it Okay for Christians to Get Tattoos?
- Emma Danzey Contributing Writer
- Updated Feb 02, 2023
As I curiously typed to see what the top answer was, I wrote, “What does the Bible say about…” to see what question people have the most online. To my surprise, the very top question was about tattoos. So, in case you are one of the many people searching on what the Bible says about tattoos, we are going to spend time looking at Scripture today.
So, what does the Bible say about tattoos?
The One Bible Verse
Whether it is because you are curious about getting one or just want to form an opinion based on Scripture, there is actually only one Bible verse with the word tattoo. Leviticus 19:28 says, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”
The Strong’s Lexicon teaches that the Hebrew word for tattoo is קַֽעֲקַ֔ע (qa·‘ă·qa‘). This means “Incision, imprintment, tattoo, mark.”
So let’s look at the context of this verse. In this chapter of Leviticus, Moses is providing various laws for the people of God to live by. Some of the laws are forever principles for not sinning, such as do not lie and honor your parents, whereas some are ritual laws for the people of God before Jesus came (i.e. how to perform certain animal sacrifices).
Rituals Laws Include:
“It shall be eaten on the day you sacrifice it or on the next day; anything left over until the third day must be burned up.” (v. 5)
“‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.” (v. 19)
“‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.” (v. 19)
“‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.” (v. 19)
“‘Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.” (v. 26)
“‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” (v.27)
It would be hypocritical to say after Jesus came that a Christian had to do these things. Just like the Ten Commandments – which I would call principle because they are sinful to disobey – you could not choose to obey some and not all. So for ritual, you would have to say if it was a sin to get a tattoo, then it was also a sin to cut your hair and trim your beard, or also a sin to wear clothing made from two different materials, or also a sin to eat meat like pork.
When we look at God’s Word, we do not pick and choose what we would like and what we would not like to include in our lives. We have to look at the context of what we are reading and who it was written to. Just like every promise is not for every believer, every command in the Old Testament is not for every child of God after Jesus’ resurrection.
Is Getting a Tattoo a Sin?
For the Israelites of this time, it would have been a sin. They were commanded by God to avoid doing anything like this, not because the Lord was squelching their fun, but because they were called to be set apart in every way as the people of God. They were to live out holy lives, and that meant sacrifices. The Israelites were to be a people who were living differently than the idol worshippers around them.
So what about you or me? What about after Jesus came? We now eat pork, we now have church on Sunday, and we cut our hair and trim our beards. So can we get tattoos? I believe there are questions that need to be asked first.
1 Corinthians 10:23 says, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say — but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ — but not everything is constructive.” This is a Biblical question that we can ask ourselves in anything we are unsure of today.
1. Is This a Sin for Me?
Each person has his or her own convictions. When it comes to a gray area like getting a tattoo, pray about it. If you do not personally have a conviction from the Holy Spirit on it, it might be ok for you. Continue to seek the Lord and don’t rush the decision because it is a permanent one. It is important to think practically about the long term as well; as your body ages, consider if you will like having it there forever.
2. Does It Honor God?
I think one of the most valuable questions to ask is, “Does what I am permanently putting on my body honor God?” If the answer is no, do not get it. We are called to honor God with our bodies, specifically sexually in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, however, this also applies to how we take care of ourselves. If what you are going to tattoo is not glorifying to the Lord, then it is not worth putting it on your body for life. Anything that you would seriously desire to be on your body, you would want it to be honoring to the Lord who made your body and gave it to you.
3. Does It Bless Others?
It is good to ask not only if this tattoo honors God, but does it bless others? We are called to love God and love people (Mark 12:30-31). If you want to put something on your body that will be hurtful to others and hinder your witness to them, it might be better not to have it tattooed at all. This is not to say that you are not free to have an opinion, but if it is on your body for all to see, it could actually take away from your approachability to others with the gospel.
4. What if I Already Have a Tattoo I Regret?
If this is the case, consider it a part of your testimony. No, you may not be able to take away your tattoo, but you also cannot take away your sins. You can use this regret as a platform of what Christ has done for you in your life. God works all things (including unwanted pre-Jesus tattoos) for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Do not live in guilt or shame over it. God can use it.
After thinking through these questions, my opinion is that a tattoo is no longer a sin for those in Christ. I believe the principle that is the same is that we are to be set apart for God. However, the cultural practice for the Israelites was directly for them in that time. Tattoos should be considered seriously and not taken lightly before getting one, but there is freedom in Christ if that is what you decide and it is not a sin for you, it honors God, and it blesses others.
More from this author
Let Isaiah 40:31 Encourage You in the Everyday Moments
What Does God Have to Say about Abortion and How Do We Love Well in It?
5 Bible Characters Who Had Major Impacts Later in Life
Related Resource! Want to know more about what the Bible does or does not say? Listen to our FREE podcast, The Bible Never Said That. All of our episodes are available at LifeAudio.com. You can listen to an episode right now by clicking the play button below:
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Aaron Amat
Emma Danzey’s mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. She is wife to Drew and mom to Graham. Emma serves alongside her husband in ministry, she focuses most of her time in the home, but loves to provide articles on the Bible, life questions, and Christian lifestyle. Her article on Interracial Marriage was the number 1 on Crosswalk in 2021. Most recently, Emma released Treasures for Tots, (Scripture memory songs) for young children. During her ministry career, Emma has released Wildflower: Blooming Through Singleness, two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, and ran the Refined Magazine. You can view her articles on her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com and check out her Instagram @Emmadanzey.