There is one verse in the Bible which seems to refer to the issue of tattoos. It can be found in Leviticus 19:28, where it says “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”
The Bible does not really say anything about tattoos
However, when you read this verse in context, you will find that it does not refer to what we now call tattoos. Cutting and putting marks on the skin was what pagan nations did to honor their gods or to get a favour from them. The people of God were supposed to be a holy nation, that did only follow the Lord, and had nothing to do with the idols of the nations around. I am the Lord is added to make clear that such an act would deny the Lordship of the God of Israel.
What’s the reason you want a tattoo?
So, if the Bible does not speak clearly on this issue, how can we know if it is good or bad? Fortunately, God has given us common sense, and we can come a long way with that. Our first question is why you would want a tattoo. Do you want to belong to a certain social group, where others have a tattoo as well? Do you feel insecure about who you are, and do you hope a tattoo will make you feel fashionable or cool? Do you want to rebel a bit against your parents or other authorities? Do you want to express your individuality? Do you like body art?
Belonging is not a good reason for a tattoo
If it is belonging you seek, I would advice against a tattoo. Social groups are not permanent, but tattoos pretty much are. Maybe in a year or two you may find another group to belong to, where tattoos are not cool at all. Also, as Christians we find our deepest belonging in our Lord and in the family of believers worldwide. You do not have to be desperate to belong to a group that will only accept you if you look like them.
God engraved us in His hands
The same goes for if you feel insecure about the way you look. It is natural for people to feel insecure about their looks, especially in our social media crazy world. But be encouraged. You are God’s good creation. Beauty standards in the world keep changing but God’s love for you will not. The Bible says of God’s people in Isaiah 49:16: “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Talking about tattoos! Seek your confidence in God’s approval and the love of your friends. That is healthier for your heart than getting a tattoo!
Weigh the costs and avoid confrontation
Rebellion against authorities and a wish to express your individuality is often a part of growing up. But be careful. If your parents would be hurt by you getting a tattoo, it is not worth it. Sometimes you will have to make choices your parents disagree with, as you grow up and seek your own way in life. But even where we disagree, we should always try to respect our parents and not seek confrontation over things that are not important, like a tattoo.
Taste can change, but tattoos can’t
If it is expressing individuality you want, consider if there is a less permanent way in which you can express your individuality. Dye your hair. Change your fashion. Get some funky accessories. All these things you can change again as you change. And remember, your preferences and sense of fashion will change as you develop! If you look at pictures of your parents’ fashion and hair styles 20 years ago and think about how weird they look, remember that is how you may feel about your tattoo, except you are stuck with it!
Tattoos don’t stay beautiful over the years
Maybe you just like body art. Again, can you opt for non-permanent versions? Try Henna tattoos for example! Remember when considering a permanent tattoo, that your skin will change, stretch and sag as you age, and what looks beautiful now, may not look so pretty once you are past 40.
We are free to honor God
You may have reasons I have not mentioned above. Whatever your motivation, you have freedom in Christ to make wise choices. Use the sense God has given you, keeping in mind that your body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, so honor God with your body! (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)