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What the Bible Says About God’s View of
Tattoos and Body Piercing

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Two Interesting Verses

The Bible’s teaching concerning this issue is complex, not because it is somehow difficult to understand, but rather because it is a “side issue” that the Bible really does not address head on. There is one passage that seems to teach against such things, Leviticus chapter 19, verse 28, which says:

    You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD.

However, only nine verses earlier in the same chapter (Leviticus 19:19) the people of Israel were also commanded to avoid mixing fibers in garments:

    Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you.

Therefore, if someone chose to consider a tattoo sinful, then they would have to toss all their cotton/polyester clothing too!

So What Do We Do?

It helps to know that God originally set aside the Jewish people as a “higher standard” among the pagan nations, through whom the Messiah would come. As a result, many of their laws were given to wean them from pagan customs, habits, and appearance.

The book of Romans (and the rest of the New Testament for that matter) emphasizes that we are no longer under that Law. Jesus paid for our sins, so people no longer have to try “cleaning themselves” to be worthy of being around a holy God. Stated another way, the Old Testament made it clear that people could NOT stay clean on their own, so God sent His Son, who could and did live a sinless, “clean” life. By accepting Christ, we benefit from His work, not ours. (See our page “Why Christ Had To Do The Job” for more information.)

For that reason, the “ceremonial cleanliness” laws were done away with once Christ provided a new way to get right with God. Still, some laws were not ceremonial or fashionable in nature (to set people apart from other nations) but rather civil and moral. Those laws are still valid and many of them were repeated often in the New Testament. If you have not read it lately, read the book of James. It is a good overview of desirable Christian behavior.

Although this is a brief treatment of this subject, you should get the idea. The bottom line is that the Bible does not clearly define tattoos and body piercing as a sin.

There is one thing to consider, though. Since people react to tattoos, short skirts, beards, motorcycles, smoking, and other things in unpredictable ways; a Christian must determine what their “audience” (Christian and non-Christian) will think about Christians (using that person as the example of their admiration or scorn) if they appear or behave in some way. That said, this issue becomes a “matter of conscience.” Romans 14:1-15.6 (chapter 14 verse 1 through chapter 15 verse 6) discusses matters of conscience and uses food as an example. Therefore, each Christian should thoughtfully examine this passage, and modify their appearance or behavior accordingly.

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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