Tattoos Are Still Sinful for Christians

I was listening to Laura Ingraham this morning and she was talking about new codes in Washington, D.C., for tattoo parlors. Given that so many listen to her show, I thought I would present the Biblical truth concerning tattoos. Let me be clear, Laura was neither pro or against tattoos, but was against the D.C. city council and their nanny-state actions.

I am opposed to getting tattoos. It is sinful to get a tattoo.

Why do I say this? Because the Bible does. We have to remember that something is a sin if God says it is a sin. Leviticus 19:29 You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.

The reason being is that tattoos are marks of different gods and images on the body. The principle behind this is that when we become Christians, our bodies no longer belong to us, but belong to the LORD. He has purchased us with His blood, therefore our bodies are to remain free from such markings, which have their origins in the pagan gods.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

Some might say: “but Timothy, the Old Testament Law doesn’t apply.” Yes, it does. But not in the same way as it did to political Israel. The principle of the Laws are always applicable even though dietary restrictions have been removed (see Glenn Davies on this here). The point is that we don’t belong to ourselves, we belong to Christ. He had to go to the cross for the sin of tattoos. Therefore, we should respect His restriction on this matter given in the Old Testament because we belong to Him. In other words, He didn’t die on the cross so that we could sin against the Father in order to get a tattoo. He wants to set us apart from the world, not become the world. Surely we can die to this sin and encourage our young children to no longer get tattoos?

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8 thoughts on “Tattoos Are Still Sinful for Christians

  1. Timothy,

    A friend called this am wanting to know about tattoos and I had just read your blog so I read it to her. How precious of the LORD to have you write this at this time!!!

    Thank you.

    lucy

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  2. I don’t know, Timothy. I’m not a fan of tattoos and would love to hang them under the “sin” category, but I’m having trouble, especially with the argument you offered. In the text you quoted there are breaks — “I am the LORD.” So the one you referenced includes, “You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD” (Lev 19:26-28). If the “tattoo” item is still in force, then so is the “cuts on your body”, “round off the hair on your temples”, and not eating flesh with blood in it (rare meat). Now, modifying that text with the 1 Corinthians text, we might say that we’re only referring to sins related to the body, so maybe someone could say, “It’s okay to eat rare meat.” But, still, on what basis would you say it’s okay to round your hair or mar your beard?

    Using the 1 Corinthians text like that causes other problems. If “do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” means taking proper care of your body (many argue this way to demonstrate that smoking cigarettes, for instance, would be a sin), then what about eating Twinkies, failing to exercise regularly, or anything else we all take for granted that isn’t the best in healthy practices?

    I suppose if you’re willing to not round your hair, mar your beard, eat rare meat, or do anything not completely healthy, you won’t have a problem with any of this. It’s fully consistent. But I have a problem with it.

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    1. Stan you make some good points. It is a stretch to say that 1 Cor 6:19 validates the OT law in Lev 19:29 for NT believers. In context 1 Cor 6:19 is dealing more specifically with sexual sin and not tattoos.

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  3. I was kind of wondering the same thing that Stan mentioned. Do you think Lev 19:27 also applies to the New Testament believer? If not, on what basis can you say Lev 19:29 is a law we must keep but we don’t have to keep Lev 19:27.

    Looking forward to your response.

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  4. Yes, I have trouble with those issues as well. Both Stan and Caleb make very good points. The problem with the Twinkie argument verses the tattoo and the body is that the Law doesn’t explicitly prohibit the Twinkie, or the cigarette for that matter. It does express a command specifically for the tattoo. While the argument for eating meat has been lifted in the New Testament, the Law for the tattoo has not. I think the issue is the origins of the tattoo, what they represent, and why God prohibited Israel from getting them. Also, for me, is the issue that Jesus had to die on the cross for the breaking of that sin, along with every sin. Therefore, why rush headlong into doing something that was declared a sin and that He had to die for when there is no reason “for” getting a tattoo.

    Again, this is one of those posts that I’m trying to open up the topic, knowing that it is tougher and not cut and dry.

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    1. I should point out that a large number of Jewish and Christian commentators (including some like John Gill and Matthew Henry) understand the prohibition of tattoos in Lev 19 to be a prohibition of marking the body for the dead. The suggestion is that it is a prohibition of a particular pagan religious practice (which included cutting and marking the body) around death.

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