What does the Bible say about tattoos and body piercings?
And what about Christian tattoos? Can’t we use those tattoos to reach people who have tattoos?
Peace be with you all!
In the Law of God, the matter of tattoos and body piercings is clear. But first, let’s clarify an important point here, because many people do an error concerning it.
It is wrong to call this Law as “the Old Testament Law”. There is nothing called “the Old Testament Law”. The Bible never calls it “the Old Testament Law”. It is very simply and clearly the Law of God, and the Law of God is for all people. And Jesus was very clear concerning the Law:
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
“For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20)
We cannot annul any of the Commandments of the Law with any kind of misunderstanding concerning their application. Our righteousness should SURPASS that of the scribes and Pharisees. That means we should LOVE the Law of God and really live according to the Will of God from all our heart. So, just as our Lord said, all men need to be born again. If our righteousness should SURPASS the external hypocrite legalistic righteousness of the Pharisees, this doesn’t mean that we will annul some Commandments to do that. The right way is to obey God in the Spirit.
So we establish the Law by faith:
“Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” (Romans 3:31)
We don’t keep the Law by works, but by faith.
So “we are not under Law” does not mean we will disobey the Law. It is true that we (whoever are in Christ by true faith) are not under Law, and that means that we are not saved by the Law, but we are under Grace, and that means we don’t serve sins, but we LOVE the Law of God.
Moreover, we are not under the Old Covenant, and this means we won’t follow the EXTERNAL ordinances of the Law that are only a shadow of Christ:
“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–
things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)
So we DO keep the substance of the Law, and that substance belongs to Christ. We don’t merely follow external ordinances. We follow their real substance, the spiritual application and meaning. So we don’t simply dismiss the Law. We establish it by faith, and thus the Law is fulfilled in us who walk according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh:
“in order that the righteous requirement of the law should be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to flesh but according to Spirit.” (Romans 8:4)
As soon as we dismiss the Law or any Commandment of the Law, we will be walking according to the flesh. Also, as soon as we try to keep the Law and its Commandments by external works, we will also be walking according to the flesh.
So we establish the Law by FAITH in CHRIST. We fulfill the Law by the SPIRIT., i.e. spiritually. We keep its substance that belongs to Christ. Christ is the substance of all what you read in the Law. And that spiritual substance cannot be understood by those who are still in the flesh:
“For they that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh; and they that are according to Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh [is] death; but the mind of the Spirit life and peace. Because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God; for neither indeed can it be: and they that are in flesh cannot please God. “ (Romans 8:5-8)
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.“ (1 Corinthians 2:14)
And, as “the Law is spiritual” (Romans 7:14) , so the natural man who is in the flesh does not and cannot accept the Law. And immature Christians also may seem like the fleshly natural man by doing and understanding things in a very immature way. So maturity in Christ is needed.
Now, as the natural man who is in the flesh is not even able to subject himself to the Law of God, and as he does not accept the things of the Spirit of God and they are foolishness to him, so don’t even expect a worldly natural man to accept what we will see now in the Law of God. If you’re still in your sins and have not experienced the new birth by the Spirit, then you will surely not understand why tattoos and piercings are bad, because you think about them in a worldly and fleshly manner that does not agree with the Will of God. You ask: “Why would a so ‘neutral’ thing like tattoos be sinful? What’s wrong with it??” Well, if you don’t have the mind of Christ, i.e. you don’t think the way He thinks, you will not be able to understand.
BY FAITH, we keep the spiritual Law concerning tattoos and body piercings, because we LOVE the Law of God:
“O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97)
So let’s see what the Law of God says about tattoos and body piercings:
“You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:28)
Now, let’s see the different spiritual meanings or the substance of this Commandment:
It is essential to understand that making cuts in your body has a meaning, and that meaning is related with the DEAD!! Imagine! That practice is done for the dead in pagan nations, and you do it and call it with adjectives like “cool” and “beautiful”, but if asked what you mean by doing them, you cannot find a true meaning. The true meaning is that they are done for the dead; simple. Life for you is death when you don’t have a true meaning for your life, so you search for a meaning in things like body piercing and tattoos, not knowing that, instead of being a true meaning for your life, they become your masters and they put you under a true slavery to your desires and pleasures. And notice that these things are related to the fact that HE IS THE LORD! Those who practice such things, they practice them because they don’t know the Lord. So these things are directly related to the Nature and Glory of God, because He created us in His image, and we corrupt that image with such practices.
1. In the Old Testament, the body piercing was a sign of slavery:
“But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.“ (Exodus 21:5-6)
In Leviticus 19:28, the Law says that you should not make that cut or piercing in your body FOR THE DEAD. We are not the people of death, but of Resurrection. If you are in Christ, then you have life in you, and therefore you don’t have in you the hopelessness of death. So you are saved from the slavery caused by the fear of death:
“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
If you are still a slave of your sins or of any human or false god, then go ahead: pierce your body as a sign for that.
Of course, for the child of God, what the Bible says about this slavery is enough; he believes what God says. But a worldly man may want to see if the worldly people really used tattoos as a sign of slavery… Well, check this article: Definition of Tattoo.
It is interesting that the antichrist will oblige people to receive a tattoo or a mark of his name or his number (see Revelation 13:16-17).
So always remember: Signs have a meaning. Nothing you do in your life with anything, including your body, is without meaning. Your body must belong to the Holy Spirit as a temple, so don’t do with it something that injures it or makes it show slavery. The same principle applies also to tattoos just as it applies to body piercings.
2. Another sign of spiritual death — diseases:
If Adam didn’t fall in sin, we would not have diseases today. With sin, death entered the world, and the signs of death began to appear on our bodies. As children of Life, we know how to bear the sufferings of diseases with hope, the hope of resurrection, just as we know how to look even to death with hope, as we are the people of Resurrection; our hope is in Christ.
Now, you can’t even imagine a child of Life and hope considering suicide. That’s bad; that’s a sin; that’s murder. In a similar way, you can’t imagine a Christian despising his body and doing things to it that will make it sick.
And here, remember that tattoos may cause very serious skin diseases! Did you know this? Just read this medical article carefully to see how serious these diseases can be. Here is also a more detailed article about that. The Bible is the Word of God, and God wants you to respect your body as it is a gift from God. People really do not understand the difference between the body and the flesh which is the old sinful nature of man. The body in itself is not a sin. On the contrary, originally God made our body pure for His Glory. Your body is precious, and you should not despise it and think badly about it or use it as a means of sin. What you need to do is to present your body a living and holy sacrifice to God:
“Do ye not know that your body is [the] temple of the Holy Spirit which [is] in you, which ye have of God; and ye are not your own? for ye have been bought with a price: glorify now then God in your body.“ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.“ (Romans 12:1)
Would you present your body to God with a sign of death on it??
3. Another sign of spiritual death — immodesty:
When you make a tattoo or a body piercing, even if it is not a real tattoo but just an outwardly drawn picture on your body, you do that to draw attention to your body. And that’s immodest. A Christian does not use his body as a means for lust. And immodesty is one of the signs of spiritual death. That’s why the Bible clearly tells us that nakedness is shameful:
“I counsel thee to buy of me gold purified by fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white garments, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness may not be made manifest; and eye-salve to anoint thine eyes, that thou mayest see.“ (Revelation 3:18)
And the Bible specifically advises the Christian woman to be modest:
“Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments” (1 Timothy 2:9)
Just think how much a tattoo or a piercing is modest and discreet…
Actually, the tattoos and the body piercings are made in order to draw attention to the outward appearance, while the Bible advises the exact opposite:
“whose adorning let it not be that outward one of tressing of hair, and wearing gold, or putting on apparel; but the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible [ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price.“ (1 Peter 3:3-4)
What a worldly woman looks for is to attract people with the fashion of her hair, with gold jewelry, with what she wears, and so with all what appears on the outside. While a woman whose hope is in God does not do that. The same applies to the Christian man, of course in a different way than how it applies to women, but with the same principle. What should appear on any Christian is his love to the Lord and his walk in holiness. The following passage of Scripture is very deep and important; let’s all read it carefully:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;
and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Therefore do not be partakers with them;
for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light
(for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),
trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Ephesians 5:1-11)
In this very important passage, the Apostle explains what it means to be imitators of God. It means to walk in the same love with which Christ gave Himself up for us. It means that immorality or any kind of impurity should not even be named among us, as all immorality and impurity and immodesty are not proper among saints! We are sanctified to God in Christ, so we are saints, we are children of Light. So we walk in light.
And tattoos and body piercings are works of death and of darkness, as we have seen.
So, as a final note concerning the question whether a Christian may use tattoos for witnessing: as a Christian, you can’t use such signs of slavery to witness about the freedom in Christ. Do you murder in order to make people understand that murder is a sin?? Witnessing to slaves doesn’t mean to become slaves like them to do that. Jesus and His Apostles didn’t do like the sinners to teach them the truth. Paul said he became everything to everyone to lead them to Salvation (see 1 Corinthians 9:19-23), and that means that he knew how to understand their background. But this doesn’t mean that he ever has put himself under the Law or under sin in order to do that. In fact, he says it himself:
“to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.” (1 Corinthians 9:21)
So as Christians, we don’t act like slaves to sin and death, and we don’t injure our bodies and we don’t behave immodestly.
That was, in brief, what we can say about the biblical truth concerning tattoos and body piercings AND all similar practices.
All Glory to God our Father in Christ Jesus our Lord!
In Christ’s Love,
Disciple of Jesus Christ