Christians And Tattoos
Over the last couple of decades there has been an explosion of body decoration such as tattoos, piercings and much more.
With so many people getting tattoos, the question arises of whether tattoos are acceptable for christians.
The short answer is that it is complicated. Personally I think christians shouldn't get tattoos for reasons I will go into below but there is no clear Biblical ban on tattooing. For that reason, I am not going to condemn anybody with a tattoo, but I think we need to exercise caution.
There is also a distinction between a man who gets tattoos of the names of children that he in not allowed to see, and someone covered in demonic representations. Many grey areas exist.
Scriptures About Tattoos
Leviticus 19:28 says this: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord.” That seems pretty definitive.
If you look at the previous verse, it says: “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.” That means that to be consistent, christian men who are opposed to tattoos should not shave.
I believe that Leviticus 19:28 relates to practices in some of the cultures around Israel in which cutting the flesh and inking the skin were part of the worship of their false gods. In that sense it is a cultural issue rather than a spiritual issue.
Apart from this single verse in Leviticus there is no single verse prohibiting tattoos, so let us look at some principles.
Occultic Context of Tattoos
There is a strong connection between tattoos and the occult. If you look at the tattoos carried by many people or the catalogues of tattoo artists, you will find many representations of satan or demons. The culture is to say the least “dark,” if not demonic.
Even some of the seemingly innocent or even “pretty” pictures can carry a demonic message.
Take the harmless image below:
We are told that it is a symbol of the strong, independent woman. The graphic is meant to represent the female reproductive organs.
It is called a succubus, which in medieval theology represented a demon that sought sexual relationships with men to corrupt and captivate them into spiritual bondage. Here is what a web-site dedicated to tattoo culture says:
A popular design among women, the meaning behind a succubus tattoo is to embrace the dark and misunderstood parts of oneself.
Their power comes from their demonic and erotic nature, and usually in most tales they were either portrayed as female demons who sucked the life out of men or angels who tempted mortals with beauty so they could destroy them by distracting them from their faith.
Other examples of succubus tattoos are:
Why would any christian, a child of God, want a representation of demons on their body?
Drawing Attention To Self
For many people, the intention of getting tattoos is to draw attention to themselves. While individuals may deny that this is their intention, the reality is that they want to be noticed. A person might say “I just like the way it looks,” but this is just begging the question of why they want it on their skin. Why not just print it and hang it on their wall?
In an era when many people feel insignificant and lost in the crowd of anonymity in the city, a tattoo might make a person feel different or unique. We want people to notice us because their attention gives us some significance, no matter how fleeting.
As christians, we are not supposed to draw attention to ourselves. Our lives are supposed to be about honouring Jesus, not seeking honour for ourselves.
While tattoos were not an issue for the early church, how people adorned themselves, particularly women, was an issue. The cultural drive to be accepted and noticed was there as much as it is now.
In 1 Peter 3:3-5 we read:
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewellery, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands.
The application of this passage is that God wants us all, men and women, to be focused on letting the inner beauty of our spirit be what people see rather than the outward appearance. We make ourselves beautiful by surrendering to God, trusting in him and relating to our spouse and other family members in a way that glorifies the Lord.
Wise Stewardship of Money
A small tattoo typically costs $300 while a sleeve might cost up to $6000, according to a web site that compares prices in different cities in Australia.
We live in a wealthy society, and for many people these are not big costs. Why not indulge ourselves?
Christians are not owners of money, they are stewards or managers of God’s money. The cost of that small tattoo might have sponsored a Compassion child for half a year, helped to feed a homeless person or met some other worthy need.
When Jesus said “You will always have the poor among you,” he did not say, “so go and use that money on a cool tatt.” He concluded the statement with “but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11).
Our responsibility is to ensure that our limited resources are to be used to glorify Jesus.
This does not mean that God does not want us to spend money on fun or frivolous things. We need to remember that whatever we own is not just for us to use as we want.
There is no condemnation for christians who have tattoos, and there should be no judgement either.
There is no black and white answer to the question “Should I get a tattoo?”
Because there is a measure of freedom in this area, christians should pray sincerely seeking the will of the Lord before they make any decisions. They should ask the Holy Spirit to search their hearts, and be very discerning about the spiritual dimensions of marking their bodies with potentially demonic images.