Stories

Can Christians Get Inked?

Mark Lutz | September 12, 2019

Leviticus 19:28 says, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”

From this scripture the question has been raised, “Can a Christian get a tattoo?” Well, the obvious answer is yes because lots of Christ-followers have gotten tattoos in recent years, including me.

The real question is this: “Is it wrong for a Christian to get a tattoo?”

What’s very clear is that it’s disobedient for a practicing Jewish person to get a tattoo. Leviticus is the record of the laws God gave Israel.

The covenant God had with Israel was: Obey my laws and you’ll be blessed. Disobey my laws and there will be guilt and punishment. But because God knows human nature, even in that covenant God made provision for our poor ability to follow direction. He instituted a system of sacrifices to cover the disobedience of the people.

Christians live by a new covenant: acknowledge Jesus as God’s son, accept him as the sacrifice for your sins, and you can have forgiveness. Live with Jesus as king of your life and you can have friendship with God.

The first covenant was about rules. The new covenant is about relationship. However, relationship does not mean there aren’t sill commitments. If I forget my anniversary I’m still married to my wife. But there won’t be much closeness until I’ve made up with my her.

So the question of Christians and tattoos, if not indicative of whether one is IN or OUT, is still relevant in terms of what God desires in our relationship with Him.

The larger context of the Leviticus passage is this…

Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it. Do not practice divination or seek omens. Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord. Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness. Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the Lord. Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.

God was making a people for himself, calling them out from the pagan practices of idolatry. Cutting their bodies and putting marks on themselves was associated with worship of something other than God.

Today, for the Christian, God also calls us not to participate in practices of worship toward anything other than Him. That hurts our relationship with Him.

This would include paganistic practices such as consulting spiritualists, mediums, the dead, orgies or prostitution. Each of these is addressed in the New Testament (Galatians 5:19-22). Neither tattooing nor cutting the side of the beard are currently associated with pagan worship and neither are mentioned in the New Testament.

To reassert Old Testament law as the means of pleasing God may put us at risk of doing what the Apostle Paul warns against.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. Romans 3:21-22

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6

I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Galatians 3:2-3

From these scriptures many Christians have concluded that there is no conflict between getting a tattoo and their faithfulness to God. Many, in fact, use their tattoos as a means of expressing their love and devotion to Him.

In the end each person should decide what God is telling them on the matter. The apostle Paul wrote this about eating meat sacrificed to idols,

"So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin." Romans 14:22-23

So if you don’t have a peace about it then perhaps it’s better that you not get a tattoo. But it may be best to stop short of judging your inked brother or sister remembering the rest of what Paul had to say about the topic:

"The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand." Romans 14:3-4