Are Tattoos a Sin? Should a Christian Get a Tattoo?


In the last several years tattoo and body piercings have become extremely common perhaps more popular than they’ve ever been in history the movie stars have them the sports figures have them in fact a news story dated April 30th 2009 says that Barbie now has them in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Barbie doll Mattel has created a new Barbie complete with tattoos and a toy tattoo gun so that children can stamp themselves with washable tattoos the American Academy of Dermatology website references a 2004 survey with people from the ages of 18 to 50 which revealed that 24% of the people surveyed reported having a tattoo a Harris Poll dated February 12 2008 stated that 32% of those ages 25 to 29 had a tattoo and 25% of those aged 30 to 39 and because they are so popular it’s a topic that young people have to deal with and that Christians have a lot of questions about I personally have had people come to me and ask is it right for a Christian to get a tattoo or is it right to have multiple piercings in your ear what about a ring in your nose and at times it’s young people wanting to know the answers to these questions other times it’s parents who’ve been discussing it with their children and they want to know what the Bible has to say about this subject now in light of these things I think it’s appropriate that we spend some time trying to answer these questions we want to know does the Bible address these issues is this a matter of right and wrong or is it purely a matter of opinion in this study we’re going to seek to answer these questions and we want to be very fair in our approach our goal is not to shame those who have tattoos nor is it to reach unwarranted conclusions our goal is to examine this topic in light of relevant Bible passages and then to draw accurate conclusions now first I want to discuss some misconceptions that people have about what the Bible says about tattoos frequently when discussing the subject of tattoos or body piercings you’ll hear somebody say well the Bible specifically forbids that the fact is there’s no passage in the Bible that says thou shalt not get a tattoo now many times people will go to a passage in the Old Testament that they believe addresses our question specifically they will use Leviticus 19 and verse 28 where the Bible says you shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead nor print any marks upon you I am the Lord I want to suggest you that I don’t believe that’s an accurate use of that particular passage you know first we’ve got to be very careful about trying to use an Old Testament passage as a proof text for what we can or cannot do in the Christian age the law of Moses has been nailed to the cross and it’s not the standard by which we live today but I also want you to notice with me that this same chapter which forbids putting marks on your body also gives instructions concerning animal sacrifices it requires leaving certain portions of your crops unharvested it forbids sowing two types of seed in the same field it tells the Hebrews that they were not to wear a garment with two different types of fabric wool and linen mixed there are also restrictions about how a man’s hair was to be cut and ways in which he wasn’t allowed to trim his beard now I would ask why would you pick out one of these things and try to bind it and ignore the others the context of Leviticus 19:27 228 is that of keeping the people away from heathen practices and things associated with idolatry cutting the flesh is mentioned and you may remember from first Kings 18 and verse 28 that that was associated with the worship of Bale and there’s archaeological evidence that indicates that some of the Canaanites would tattoo themselves with the names or symbols of their favorite gods this appears to be what’s being forbidden not the modern practice of tattoos the idea is that the Jews were not to identify themselves with the heathen practices or the idolatrous religions that surrounded them and so Christians should be careful when making arguments from the Bible that we don’t make bad arguments because number one it hurts our credibility and the case that we’re to make and number two it really isn’t handling a right the Word of God now perhaps there is a principle in Leviticus 19 that we’re not to associate ourselves with ungodly things but that would be all that we could get from that passage and so back to my point there is no passage that says thou shalt not get a tattoo but you know just because there is no direct prohibition against tattoos that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s right to get one you know there’s no passage in the Bible that says thou shalt not inject heroin into thy veins but we understand that it’s wrong to do that because of Bible principles and so in determining if an activity is right or wrong a Christian needs to ask himself certain questions he needs to ask himself questions such as what would this do to my influence would this be a stumbling block for other people is engaging in this practice good stewardship will this have any negative effects on me as a servant of God so let’s discuss some biblical principles that have bearing on this issue of tattoos and body piercings number one I want to talk about the principle of influence I want to begin by looking at a passage of Scripture in 1st Corinthians chapter 11 there’s a rather unusual discussion there that takes place dealing with the subject of the wearing of veils in verse 5 the Apostle Paul writes but every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered that is without a veil on dishonours her head for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved for if a woman is not covered let her also be shorn but if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved let her be covered that is let her wear her veil now some have concluded that this passage applies to all women for all times I don’t believe that’s correct in fact I think that it’s being made clear that’s not the point in verse 16 when Paul writes but if anyone seems to be contentious we have no such custom nor do the Churches of God now if the point of this passage is not that all women for all time must have their heads covered when they worship then why does Paul command the women in Corinth to do so I believe the fact is that in that particular city in that particular time it was customary for a woman to wear a veil and to not do so was to send a message that was rebellious in nature it was to reject the authority of her husband and so for a Christian woman to refuse to wear a veil she was sending a message that in that culture would be very offensive it was an association that a Christian woman would not want to have now what connection does that have with tattoos in our current society tattoos send a particular message for years tattoos have been associated with counterculture tattoos and unusual body piercings send a message that I’m a certain type of person or I’m associated with a certain type of people a former police officer told me that when he was on the police force that as more and more officers began getting tattoos the department asked that the officers only get tattoos and places that could be hidden by their uniforms and the reason they gave was they were concerned about the message that it would send to the public on the internet there are numerous news stories that discuss the problem of tattoos and body art in the workplace one article from Fox News points out that some employers are having to write very specific dress codes to address this issue that they deem as a problem many employers are requiring that their staff dress in such a way as to hide their tattoos because they don’t like the message that it sends I mentioned to you earlier about the new tattoo barbie-doll I want to read you an excerpt from an article that talks about this new doll it says parents have already rallied up against Mattel asking for the dolls to be pulled off the market one parent asked whatever will they bring out next drug addict Barbie alcoholic Barbie now why your parents rallying against Mattel to have this doll removed is because in our society tattoos have negative connotations my name is patchy cranber– and I used to be a tattoo artist I started when I was 13 years old I was a runaway at the time and it was a way for me to make ends meet and over a period of time it eventually became a better way to make ends meet and I used to own six shops in Las Vegas Nevada and I did tattoos for living for quite some time there and body piercings I started off with one tattoo as most people do you know and being on the street and everything like that it quickly grew into more and and never really thought I’d get a lot of tattoos but I my entire back is done my legs my arms my chest my stomach pretty much all of my body is tattooed having tattoos has affected me in getting jobs in getting housing in a lot of things getting a good table at a restaurant and getting a taxi cab to pick you up in asking for directions people I’ve had people run away from me and get in their car and drive off rather than an ask answer a simple question like where’s the payphone at things like that it they tend to intimidate people and it makes you unapproachable now what does all of this have to do with first Corinthians chapter 11 the point is this society’s view of a particular issue can make it sinful for a Christian if society views not wearing a veil as rebellious and overstepping one’s bounds then a Christian should not do it and in light of that if we conclude today that a Christian having tattoos or excessive piercings is viewed as rebellious or associated with sin then without a doubt a Christian should avoid it and if he does it anyway it’s going to be hurtful to the church and it’s going to be hurtful to his influence and while we’re talking about influence let me mention also that oftentimes the places that a person has to go to get tattoos can also be harmful to his influence you know there are certain places that it’s not good for Christian to go it’s not good for Christian to go to a bar even if he doesn’t drink it’s not good to go to a strip club even if he doesn’t look it’s not good to go into a casino even if he doesn’t gamble and the reason of course is is destructive to his influence now what about tattoo parlors generally speaking they have very seedy reputation oftentimes their names speak volumes for example here are some names sinful inflictions dark images red devil tattoo and piercings in fact after doing some research online I was surprised how many tattoo parlors have the word sinful in their names tattooing has always been associated with the bad-boy image bikers gang members people that have been in prison jails institutions that sort of thing a second principle that we want to consider is modesty now the point that I’m making here is not what you might be thinking I’m not referring to showing too much skin although that could be related but rather I’m referring to a word that appears in the Bible in first Timothy chapter 2 and verses 9 and 10 now I’m going to read you this passage and then we’re going to discuss it it says in like manner also that women adorn themselves in modest apparel with shamefacedness and sobriety not with broided hair or gold or pearls or costly array but which becometh women professing godliness with good works now there are four words or phrases that I want to pick out of this text the first word I want to look at is the word modest this word means orderly well arranged or decent and the idea is that she is not to adorn herself or beautify herself in a way that draws undue attention to herself now in the immediate context he’s discussing a woman overdoing it that is she’s wearing flashy clothes and lots of makeup and expensive jewelry now of course a woman could also draw undo it to herself by under doing it that is by wearing too little but I want you to consider this statement in light of tattoos and body piercing can a woman or a man for that matter draw undue attention to himself or herself with tattoos or with a nose ring or by having their navel pierced you know an honest person would have to answer yes to this question now the second word that we want to consider in this passage is the word shamefacedly the word shamefacedly closer to our modern word modest than the other one the Greek word for shamefacedness means a sense of shame or modesty now the third word is the word sobriety oftentimes when we think of sobriety we think of alcohol sobriety relates to being sober one who hasn’t had their senses or their judgment dulled by alcohol well this word in the original language carries with it the idea of soundness of mind and self-control it speaks of a person who is exercising good judgment now the fourth phrase is from verse 10 it says which become with women professing godliness in other words in a manner that says to the world I’m a servant of God my most important concern is to be godly now let’s pull all of this together and see what we have Christians are to adorn or decorate themselves in a way that does not draw undue attention to themselves they should have a sense of shame and modesty about them they should exercise good judgment they should dress and adorn themselves so as to communicate that they are godly now let’s ask the question is that what tattoos communicate is that what having a stud and your tongue communicates does it show a sense of shame and good judgment is that what people are going to conclude when they look at you you know there’s a particular type of tattoo that’s been very popular in recent years it’s typically one gotten by women and it’s placed at the base of their back so that when their shirt raises up it draws attention of the eyes to that part of the back I learned recently that that particular style of tattoo is commonly referred to as a tramp stamp now in light of what we’ve just read in first Timothy 2 a person would have to admit that such a tattoo does not mesh with godly principles years ago when I was in the tattooing industry the trend seemed to have been a lot of girls of getting tattoos on their lower back which has become deemed the tramp stamp and when I was in the industry we were designing tattoos specifically for that area in different shapes to accentuate that part of the woman’s body depending on what her shape was and it was mostly just to draw attention to that area of the body the third Bible principle that I want you to think about is stewardship now we’re going to talk about stewardship of our bodies and then we’re going to talk about stewardship of our money now somebody might think well you know stewardship that’s that’s a weak argument but before you outright reject it please take just a minute and consider the risk associated with this and think about the stewardship of your body in this light the Mayo Clinic website states that tattoo inks are classified as cosmetics so they aren’t even regulated they aren’t approved by the FDA the pigments and dyes used in tattoo inks aren’t approved for injection under the skin long-term effects of these the site says are unknown the site also lists some specific risk associated with getting a tattoo the first risk they mentioned is blood-borne diseases to include hepatitis C hepatitis B tetanus tuberculosis and HIV now in continuing the list of risk of tattoos they also mention skin disorders skin infections allergic reactions and on rare occasions they can even cause problems when a person gets an MRI and the tattooing industry when you do it professionally part of your test is is knowing that you’re exposed to 750 different bacterias and viruses that our airborne bacteria is when you start tattooing somebody and those are just viruses and bacterias that are floating around in the air and the danger comes in when you open up the skin and you start bleeding that the viruses and bacterias have a greater opportunity of entering into the body the biggest problem nowadays mostly is hepatitis C you could contract the disease and they not show itself for 15 years and in most cases hepatitis C is a death sentence I personally know of 2600 cases of hepatitis C virus being spread from one piercing gun in New York City someone might say but I go to a clean upscale tattoo parlor the people there are professionals certainly the risk that you’ve just described aren’t going to apply to me what they do you got to remember that the people that are doing these procedures on you are not medical doctors and they’re not really concerned with your health all they’re concerned with is getting the money that you’ve paid them to permanently disfigure your body and over time tattoos stretch and they fade and they can look really bad and then – there’s the regret factor you know for various reasons a lot of people look back years later or maybe even soon afterwards and they regret that they got this marking on themselves that will be there for the rest of their lives the tattoo is going to move with your skin if your skin wrinkles your tattoo is going to wrinkle if you get put on a lot of weight your tattoos going to stretch if you lose a lot of weight your tattoos going to shrink if you get cut and get a scar there you’ve just destroyed your tattoo that you probably quit paid minimum of 150 200 dollars for and like I said in most cases your idea of what you thought was cool when you were in your 20s isn’t so cool when you’re 50 a lot of the regret that came from getting tattoos was people coming in wanting to get the of their girlfriend or their wife tattooed on them husband boyfriend things of that nature we would always try and talk them out of it because we knew that we’d be covering it up later they always it’s almost an omen if you get someone’s name tattooed on you unless it’s your child or your parent you’re going to wind up splitting up with that person so we we used to we made it a rule that we would put the name on them but we’d do it in red ink or blue ink so we could cover it up easier and stewardship of our bodies it’s not the only issue to consider a second issue that we need to think about is stewardship of our money now somebody might argue it’s my money I can buy whatever I want to with it but you know that’s not really true all of our money belongs to the Lord and we’re just stewards of it now someone else might say well you know it’s not wrong to purchase things we enjoy you may spend your money on going to the movies or buying an iPod I choose to spend mine on getting a tattoo we agree that it’s not wrong to spend money on recreation and pleasurable activities but when you do that we always have to consider the stewardship principle depending on my personal financial situation and my bills and the amount of money that I should be giving to the Lord it may be that buying an iPod is something that I shouldn’t be doing it may be that buying a new car right now might be poor stewardship and so the stewardship principle is one that each of us needs to consider we need to weigh it and we need to draw appropriate conclusions and the fact is tattoos can be very expensive I need to ask myself is this a wise use of my money well the Lord be pleased if I spend my money this way according to Bill Johnson the executive office director of the Alliance of Professional tattooist most tattoo artists charge an hourly rate that varies from about $75 to a hundred and fifty dollars per hour and the length of time to do a tattoo can take from one hour to many hours depending on the size and the complexity of the tattoo now in addition some tattoo artists charge 10 and to 25% extra if the tattoo is on a more difficult part of the body such as the lower back and if you regret getting the tattoo having it removed is even more expensive than getting it it can take anywhere from 5 to 20 sessions to have a tattoo removed at a cost of 200 to $500 per session if you calculate that out you could be looking at as much as $10,000 and it can be very painful to have it removed laser tattoo removal has been compared to being splattered with hot grease and so some choose to have a local anesthetic which further ups the cost now let’s deal with some miscellaneous questions number one somebody might ask what if I only want to get a tattoo that is something simple and innocent and I’m just going to get one maybe a butterfly something like that you know there are several factors that would influence the effects of having a tattoo factors like wear on your body the tattoo is located how many tattoos you have what it is a tattoo of all of these things are going to affect how people look at you for example a tattoo of a butterfly isn’t going to be viewed the same as a skull and crossbones or say a tattoo of a black widow but still there are certain negative connotations associated with tattoos first Timothy 5:14 speaks about not giving occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully still you’re going to have to go into a tattoo parlor to get one still you’re running a risk for infection and disease from bad needles still you’ve got to deal with the principles of modesty and good judgment that we discussed in 1st Timothy chapter 2 now someone might ask this second question what about getting a religious tattoo perhaps even a cross or something to profess your faith you know I would suggest that there are a lot of very ungodly people who have tattoos of crosses and so having a cross is not necessarily going to set you apart in fact having a tattoo is going to make you more like them you know if professing your faith is what you’re trying to do tattoos are not the way to do it try teaching the gospel dressing modestly and living a godly life these things are far more effective than a tattoo would be and they’re biblical now here’s a third question someone might ask what if I already have a tattoo you know we are aware of the fact that someone who already has a tattoo to them a discussion like this might make them feel very self-conscious but embarrassing people is not what we’re trying to do we’re trying to get people to examine Christian principles and then to make decisions that are the most in line with the Bible if you have excessive body piercings you can change that if you have a ring in your nose you can take it out but if you already have a tattoo short of spending a great deal of money to have it removed there’s not much you can do about it it’s like I heard one Christian man say he said when I became a Christian baptism washed away my sins but it couldn’t wash off my tattoo and that’s right but you know that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a faithful Christian I prefer to wear a suit and a tie now because it hides the mistakes that I made in my past and getting tattooed I’m not that person anymore I’m a preacher of the gospel and I love my Lord and I think that for me to walk around showing all my tattoos like I used to is putting out a mixed message I’m a part of the church and I’m a part of the body of Christ and part of that responsibility of being a part of the body is respecting that body of Christ and I don’t think the tattoos is any way to show that respect tattoos and excessive body piercings can hurt your influence they can violate principles of modesty they can pose risk to your health they may result in poor stewardship but if you already have them it’s not too late they can’t stop you from serving the Lord and from being a faithful Christian you know each one of us should have the attitude that the Apostle Paul did in Galatians 2 and 20 he said I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live yet not i but Christ liveth and me now why did he say that because Jesus said if any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me I live for the Lord I want to look like I live for the Lord and as first Timothy 5:14 says I don’t want to give any occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully you

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